Keeping chickens as pets has become increasingly popular over the years among urban and suburban residents. And on farms and smaller rural properties many folks keep chickens for their eggs and for their fertilizing capabilities. With the growing interest in all-natural pest control alternatives too, many gardeners are now keeping chickens to rid their property of unwanted insects and larvae.
Our three-month old Cochin/Phoenix mix chicks pose pretty for the camera.
We all know that some keepers, especially those with children, want to tame their chickens as they are often kept as pets. Many times chicks are snuggable from the get-go but what about those times they are not?
Some chicken lovers rescue chickens or re-home them when situations on a farm change. Chickens, especially chicks can be tamed by hand- feeding and by being handled gently and regularly.
We all know that many people want to tame their chickens but the actual step-by-step “how to” information isn’t as readily available.
From my experience, taming chickens when they are babies is best. By the time they are adults and unless they have been handled on regular babies it can be very hard. They may be friendly and accessible, but not approachable enough to be considered truly tame.
Yours may gain trust in you over time with persistence and treats. Just call them and throw the food near to them and keep tossing it closer to you each time. Eventually they may eat it out of your hand. However I am doubtful that already grown chickens will ever let you pick them up and snuggle them tight like a dog does.
Working on the taming process. Momma Clover will now eat out of my hand.
But what about when you rescue or re-home a chicken that has not already been tamed?
The Small House Homestead Chick Taming Method:
3 1/2-4 months ago I rescued a momma hen and her five babies that were at that time, approximately two weeks old. They came to me pretty wild having not been touched or spent much time around their people who worked all day.
I gave them a couple of months to settle in and really acclimate to their new home with us on the homestead. Then I started very slowly using cracked corn and dried meal worms; first siting on the ground near them and then feeding meal worms from my hands (not touching them yet.)
Just this week (almost four months into the process) I started putting the dried mealworms on my knees, while sitting on the ground on a mat. The babies have JUST begun to jump up on my knee for the worms.
I have also started to very gently and lightly touch them on their wings. Most give the “danger” trill and run away but one is “allowing” a gentle touch of one or two fingers on her wings. The moral of the story is that it’s a slow and gradual process and to keep at it. I’ve read that guineas are even more wild than chickens.
My latest trick has been to teach them to jump up on the stump for treats and a photo session!
My Step-by-Step Taming Method:
- Talk to them very early on and often. Each time I approach the coop I speak softly and sweetly and telling them a good morning and ask how they are doing. I also talk about what I am doing and I am happy to see them. It isn’t so much what I am saying but that I am consistent in talking to them so they learn my voice. My babies now talk back to me in their soft “I’m happy to see you to,” peeps even before they see me.
- Always move slowly.
- I am generous with their favorite foods. They have begun to associate me as the food provider and begin to come closer to me when I come into view. Momma Clover will actually cluck at me, as if she is asking for food.
- I started by sitting with them on the ground in their run as early as possible. I sit quietly, calmly and don’t reach for them yet. I do this almost everyday and sometime twice a day.
- I place some cracked corn or meal worms on the ground near my legs. I gradually let them get use to pecking and eating near me until they are comfortable doing this. I am still not touching them.
- I always say “chick, chick, chick” when I am their putting food out so they associate the food, me and the call. This will pay off later on when I want to call them out or back into the coop.
- After a couple of weeks of this technique of moving the food closer and closer to my body, my patience is paying off.
- After another week or two of this technique I now place the food higher up on my leg. Pretty soon they will be reaching up onto my body to get the food they want.
- Once they get use to eating off of my body, jumping up onto my legs I am ready to test eating out of my hand. I start by grabbing a small handful of treats to lure them in close. I keep my hand open and low to the ground and I don’t move. They will soon peck the food out of my hand and eventually will take a dried mealworm from inbetween my two fingers.
- I keep at this everyday once or twice a day.
- After a month or two of this, i now begin slowly reach out and touch their feathers with a finger or two, always moving slowly and softly. They may give squeal and run, or give the “stranger/danger” trill but eventually one or two of them will sit still, watching me carefully and allowing me to touch them on the chest or the wing.
If you want to tame your chicks spend time a lot of time with them and it will pay off with touchable and cuddly chickens.
Small House Homesteader and Chicken Keeper, Donna