Raising Chicks

How Do You Tame Chicks?

A vast majority of the members in the chicken community raise chickens to have a constant supply of fresh eggs and poultry and mainly consider chickens as just another farm animal. There is still a small percentage that raises them for pets. Sometimes, even if you weren’t intending for it to happen, some chickens may become pets for you throughout time, especially if you’re a dedicated keeper and provide them with lots of yummy treats.

There’s an even smaller percentage out there that purposely breed and tame chicks in order to sell them to the public as pets. It’s actually more lucrative than you might think! For those that don’t know, chickens actually make great pets. They’re somewhat trainable and can provide you with tons of entertainment and laughs – just like a cat or dog – but they’re way more self-sufficient since they will inevitably be out in your backyard foraging for bugs and worms to eat.

To raise good quality pet chickens you have to first learn how to tame chicks the right way. It is imperative that you start with them as a baby. Starting when they are young helps to ensure that they haven’t learned any bad habits yet and that you will be able to start with a “clean slate”. To guarantee the best results you should also do your research on chicken breeds as some are easier to tame – like a Silkie, pretty much any Bantam, and Orpingtons – than others.

Also, something to consider, if you have other chickens already, domesticated or not, you might want to tame a few chicks at the same time so they are able to form their own little flock and stick together. Remember chickens are social animals and you’re not always going to be there, so it’s good for them to have a couple peer peepers to hang out with.

Ok, I Got My Chicks. Now What?

1. Handle With Care

It’s pretty simple to tame chicks, especially if you’re starting with a brand new, just hatched one. The key is to handle it as much as possible. They’re just like real human babies. You will want to hold them gently and frequently, socialize with them, chit-chat with them, snuggle them, etc. Whenever you go to pick a chick up make sure that you move slowly so they learn quickly that you’re not a threat, otherwise they’ll continually run away and scatter.

2. Hand Deliver Food

This is going to be one of the quickest ways to tame chicks as they will soon relate you with delicious food. By providing yummy treats at every visit they will soon create a correlation that will have them running up to you chirping for food any time they’re hungry and see you. Think of how a dog reacts upon hearing you scooping the food out of its container.

3. Exploration

A good pet chicken should be able to roam freely around your yard and sometimes even in your home. In order to tame your chick you will want to give it a safe space to walk around in inside your home. You should lay down an old sheet or some newspaper to catch any droppings and make cleanup easier. You ought to sit with your chicks, treats in hand, and allow it to explore the area. Depending on how curious it is it may even jump up on you and walk around in your lap. As far as taming chicks goes, this is a good thing.

4. Free Fuss and Attention

After you have earned the trust from them and they no longer scatter when you arrive you can try offering it treats from your hand. When they approach and start pecking at the food, try giving them a soft scratch around their head, chest, and neck. Once you have reached the point where they come up to you and raise their little heads for a pet, you can reduce the number of treats.

How Much Time Do You Have?

Depending on how much time you have to spend with your chicks and how much you get to handle them, taming chicks should take about two to three months. After that you should have a nice flock of chickens that come to you whenever they want a good head scratching or a treat.

Remember as they get older they will inevitably become less dependent on you and more curious. They will want to wander off to explore other areas without you. This newfound independence is normal and should be allowed. Just keep in mind that if you want to continue taming them you should take every opportunity to hold, pet, talk to, and hand feed them. This will help to reinforce the bond between you

How Tame Do You Want Them?

It’s important to remember that baby chicks turn into full-fledged chickens in no time. Also, they can revert back into “wild” chickens if you don’t continue practicing your taming techniques. As they age you won’t have to handle them as much, but the occasional pat and treat can work wonders in maintaining a docile and tame chicken and flock. Make sure to set aside some flock bonding time with them every couple of days.

Can You Tame Older Chickens?

Absolutely! There is nothing cuter than an older tamed chicken. They don’t cuddle as much as they will when they’re baby chicks, but they’re still adorable in their own right.

This method should take up about 20-30 minutes of your time daily. It simply involves you sitting still in a seat with some feed and treats spread out on the floor around you and some extra in a cup on your lap. Don’t make any sudden movements, just sit there and wait for the older chickens to come and start pecking at the food.

Late afternoon, right before they’re due to head to the coop for the night, is generally the best time of day to do this as they should already be relatively calm. If you try this early in the morning the chickens will be too preoccupied with trying to go out and forage, take a dust bath, and/or socialize with their other feathered friends.

Once a fair few have gathered around you can start to softly speak to them. You don’t want to start reaching out to pet or pick them up just yet. You will need to wait until they’re completely at ease. You should begin trying to offer them some reserved special treats, like raisins and freeze-dried mealworms, by hand. Lower it to their height; don’t try to bring them up to it. After you have a few eating from your hand you can begin stroking their backs, head, and neck softly. You should still be talking calmly, too. After a few days their edginess will dissipate and they should grow accustomed to you petting them. That’s when you can attempt to gently pick one up.

You will want to start slowly with this. Sit in your chair and then pull one up on your lap. Make sure that you’re grabbing them correctly. You should place a hand on either side of the chicken with your thumbs on the top of their wings. If you’ve successfully pulled one up on your lap without too many ruffled feathers make sure to reward the chicken with a treat.

Are You Sure You Want To Tame Those Chicks?

Now that you know the basics of how to tame chicks, the real question should be, do you really want to?

The pros and cons of taming and domesticating chicks are widely discussed on many different chicken forums on the internet. Some say that the chicks may develop too much dependency on you and end up “not fitting in” with the other not-so-tame chickens in the flock. They may also commit to following you around at all times demanding attention and treats that you might not be able to give them at that exact moment, which could stress the chick and you.

Luckily, if you find yourself in need of having to alleviate yourself from the duty of tending to the chickens you can always defer the task to the rooster or one of the head hens of the flock. They should be able to easily take over for you. If you decide to go this route, whether it’s out of necessity or just a personal choice, make sure that you keep an eye on the young ones to ensure that they’re integrating well with the rest of the flock.

Possibly having to pass them on to another member of the flock is another reason why you should opt to tame a small batch of hatchlings at the same time rather than just one at a time. If anything they can band together and create their own little chick-posse and still be fine.

It’s definitely acceptable to maintain an in-between relationship with your chicks. You can have a docile chick or two that look to you for tasty treats and an occasional rub while still not having to hold, carry, and coddle them at all times. That’s the way most backyard chicken raisers do it, unless they are taming the chicks to sell as pets and need to raise them to not only tolerate being scooped up, but actually enjoy it.