Taming a pet chicken | Living the Country Life

Taming a pet chicken

Be patient and gentle, and you might just have a new feathered friend
Photo courtesy of Melissa Caughey

My daughter Michaela just adores chickens. She also loves to hold them – if she can catch them. Unfortunately most of the birds do not like her.

Melissa Caughey raises pet chickens in Massachusetts. She says some breeds are naturally more interested in humans than others. The Buff Orpington is one breed that’s very friendly. She calls them the “golden retriever” of the chicken world.

Chickens can be tamed at any age, but it’s the easiest to do when they’re little chicks. Caughey recommends frequent, gentle handling each day, and getting them used to your hands. She starts out with the two-finger rule.

"You would use your pointer finger and your middle finger, and just gently stroke the chick’s head and the back, and just let them get used to what it feels like to be touched and held," says Caughey. "Sometimes it only begins for a couple minutes each day, and you slowly build up the time that the chicks will want to spend with you. You know, just like people, some people like to spend more time with others, and some like to just be chickens."

Like a lot of people, the way to a chicken’s heart is through its stomach. Keep fostering your birds’ relationship with small treats. Mealworms, sunflower seeds, and even raisins will eventually have them eating out of your hand.

If your chickens are already adults and you’d like to try forming a bond, Caughey says to spend time with them. Go into the coop and pull up a chair.

"Toss them treats by your feet and just sit there. Watch them and talk to them. I certainly wouldn’t try to grab one or put them up on your lap because they’re going to be skittish. But shortly after, you can have them begin to eat out of your hand," says Caughey. "And once they trust your hand as you’re giving them treats, take your other hand and start touching them, getting them used to what it feels like. Eventually you’ll be able to put a little treat on your knee, and one will hop up, and so it goes."

Find more tips for making friends with your flock

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