With chicken keeping becoming an ever-popular hobby, there’s a growing revolution of owners who get chickens with a view to keep them as pets rather than just egg-laying machines.
Many people don’t realize that chickens can actually be highly interactive with humans and in some cases, can actually show signs of affection towards them.
I love spending time with my hens, from the noises they make to the way they come flapping and running as fast as they can towards you.
By bonding with chickens it is actually possible to build a relationship with them which is nice not only for the owner but because it’s useful to be able to get close to them or pick them up for health checks etc.
The best way to bond with your chickens is to start slowly to get them to trust you enough to lead up to full handling. Chickens respond well to treats, routine and interaction with people, they also interact verbally so talking to them is a good way to start the bonding process.
The bonding process is generally easier with younger chickens, but it’s actually possible to bond with older chickens (including rescue or ex-caged hens) over time.
Read on to find out more about the best ways to bond with chickens of various ages, including ex-caged hens and roosters, along with some tips on how you can get them to interact with you more.
Tips on How to Bond With Chickens
Below are my tips on how to bond with your chickens, you can see results by using these tips for young pullets to any age, depending on what stage of their lives you get them.
- Keep a good routine – get your chickens being used to seeing you and have a good routine for feeding, letting them out in the morning and a bedtime routine, this way they’ll know when you’ll be around.
- Spend time around your chickens – to get to know their behaviour and they can get to know you.
- Don’t try to pick them up too soon unless you need to – take your time because until they get to know you properly.
- Begin by stroking your chickens on the back – so they get used to you touching them.
- Talk to your chickens – this might sound crazy but watch how they react and interact as you talk to them or make sounds.
- Use a special sound to call them for food or a treat – we use a whistle and they come running as soon as they hear it.
- Don’t make any sudden movements around them – especially if they’re skittish.
- Get on the ground next to them – sitting next to them can encourage them to come close to you on their terms.
Below are some extra tips on bonding with chickens depending on their age and some information about bonding with roosters.
Bonding With Younger Chickens
Bonding with younger chickens is generally easier than bonding with an older chicken who is not used to humans.
That’s not to say you can’t bond with older chickens, it’s completely possible, it’s just a bit easier because they’re more adaptable.
Bonding with chicks
If you hatch a chick from an egg, handling from an early age will get them used to you much sooner, but it’s better not to handle them in the first week or so of their lives.
Start off by getting them used to you being around and gently placing your hand into their enclosure and let them come to you or walk over your hand without picking them up.
Once they get used to standing on your hand you can start to give them a little stroke and even try picking them up for a short while if they’ll let you.
If they run away or look frightened, don’t push things just try a little bit of contact at a time.
By handling them as they grow there’s a good chance that they’ll bond and get used to you over time, making it easier to handle them when you need to.
The exception to this rule can be some males who can become very difficult to handle once their territorial and mating instincts kick in – find out more about bonding with roosters later in this post.
Bonding with young pullets
Many people get chickens when they’re at the point of lay, which means they’re around 12-18 weeks old.
If they’ve been reared on a farm or with lots of other hens, chances are they won’t be used to being handled too much but they’ll be used to seeing a human at feeding/cleaning out time etc.
Although young chickens will probably be a bit skittish when you first get them, they will quickly get used to you and begin to bond with you if you follow the tips above.
Bonding With Ex-Caged (Battery) Hens
Adopting ex-battery hens is a rewarding experience and it’s particularly amazing how quickly they adapt to their new lives outside of a cage.
During their time on the chicken farm, the chickens will not have experienced human interaction because they’re kept on a mass scale and most processes such as feeding are automated.
When ex-caged hens are re-homed it’s only natural that they’ll be skittish and wary of human contact, so it will take time for them to trust you and to know that you don’t mean them harm.
They’re usually around 18 months old by this point and going into retirement, so in terms of their life span, they’ve spent a long time with only each other for company.
The best way to get ex-caged hens to trust you is to begin by establishing a good routine where they get used to you being around before you try and handle them. If they really don’t like you going near them then it’s best not to push things.
We keep ex-caged hens and although they’re friendly and come running up to us, they’re a little warier of humans than hens we’ve had from a young age. Because of this, we don’t handle them too much because they just don’t like it, we’re just happy to see them enjoying their new lives as free hens.
How to Bond With a Rooster
Bonding with roosters can be a little tougher than bonding with a hen, but it really does depend on the temperament of the rooster.
Some people who keep roosters are lucky enough to have a placid rooster who they can handle.
But others like us, have a rooster who is so territorial that no matter what you try you can’t stop him from going for your calves.
The best hope is to try bonding with the rooster from an early age (using the tips at the top of this page) and see how things go.
Roosters can be very single-minded, so once they go territorial their only interest is protecting hens against threat and competition and mating with them.
What if You Can’t Get a Chicken to Like You?
Just like people, all chickens have their own unique personality so there will always be the one who thinks their a human and follows you everywhere and that one who spends all their time alone and has no interest in interaction.
It also depends on the breed, there are some breeds of chickens that are more flighty than others and hate being handled.
We’ve seen this especially in white chicken breeds such as the White Star and the Leghorn, they’re great chickens to keep, but they don’t like getting too close.
So if you have chickens like this, it’s best just not to worry if they don’t want to bond with you, as long as they’re leading a happy life that’s all that counts. Chances are you’ll have another chicken who does want to be your best friend!
You Might Also Like
I this post has helped you to find out more about how to bond with chickens you might also like the following articles:
Our recommended coop
Chicken coop for different flock sizes and different weather.