Chickens have many uses, including eggs, meat, or ornamental chickens. Some chicken owners want friendly chickens that can be part of the family in a pet setting.
If you are looking for chickens that are friendly, cuddly, and will love you back, it’s important know that at the beginning. You can take steps to ensure your chicken flock is friendly and will make an ideal pet.
The best way to tame pet chickens is to start with a friendly chicken breed. Raise chickens from an egg so they imprint on you. If that’s not possible, then raise them as young as possible and spend a lot of time with the chicks daily. Treat them gently, give them treats, and hand feed them. Always be gentle and patiently talk to your flock.
The basic principles of taming a chicken work for chickens of all ages. But, there are a few steps you can take to make your chickens tamer if you start at the beginning to tame them.
1. Start With A Friendly Chicken Breed
When my son was almost 2, he was attacked by a rooster while visiting friends. The rooster attacked while he was playing outside and jumped on him with spurs out. My son ran away as fast as he could, screaming while the rooster chased him.
He was quickly rescued and sustained no injuries, although he was pretty shaken up. Not all chicken breeds make good pets, even if they lay many eggs. Some chicken breeds are territorial and aggressive.
Chicken breeds vary in temperament as much as dog breeds. Many chicken breeds are easy to care for and are suitable for families even if they are a little standoffish. But some chicken breeds are perfect for pets.
The best chicken breeds for pets are Silkie chickens, Speckled Sussex, Brahma, Buff Orpingtons, Polish, and Sebright chickens. These breeds are calm, bond quickly with people, love cuddling, and the roosters won’t attack kids. Silkies are consistently ranked as the number one friendliest chicken breed. Check out our poll of ## chicken owners here.
Start your flock with friendly chicken breeds, and you’ll have a much easier time turning them into pets. You can love a chicken to be friendlier than others of it’s breed. But you will still be limited by thousands of years of breed instincts.
Friendly breeds will make the difference between hens that run for food but stay 2 feet away and hens that run when they see you and want cuddles and to be petted.
2. Hatch Chicks From Eggs, So They Imprint on You
For any chicken breed, the number one thing you can do to raise friendly pet chickens is to raise them from when they are as young as possible. It’s even better if you can hatch chickens.
Chicks imprint on the first moving things they see when they hatch. In nature, that’s the mother hen. If a chick hatches and sees the faces of its human family, it will imprint on those faces and bond more readily to them.
Imprinting only happens during the first critical moments of a chick’s life. If a chicken sees other hatching chicks in an incubator first, it will imprint on them first, so it’s important to be present when your chicks are hatching.
Imprinting helps birds to understand their places and bond to the mamma bird. But, in a domestic setting, it bonds birds to people and helps to further domesticate them.
If you purchase already hatched chicks, it will be too late to imprint on them, but you can still do a lot to increase bonding. The younger your chicks are, the easier they will bond with you. Many hatcheries mail out day-old chicks. If you are buying from a feed store, try to buy them the day they arrive and not a week or two later.
If you want friendly chickens but don’t need a strong bond, you don’t need to imprint on your chicks. Simply raising them from a younger age will be enough to create friendlier adult birds. You can get friendly chickens by spending a few minutes with them several times daily. You don’t need to make a substantial time commitment.
3. Spend A Lot of Daily Time with Chicks
Once you have your chicks, it’s essential that you spend a lot of quality time with them. Even if you buy adult hens that you are hoping to tame, they will need a lot of quality, consistent time. Spending time every day will greatly impact the strength of your bond with your chickens.
Chicks should be held daily. Although there isn’t a set amount of time that will tame your chicks, the more time you spend with them, the better. 10-20 minutes daily isn’t enough to create a solid relationship with your chicks. But, 10-20 minutes 5 times a day is usually enough to create stronger bonds.
My kids like to keep chicks in their rooms for the first couple of months to facilitate bonding. Of course, they have to clean out the wood shavings daily, so it doesn’t stink.
Hens will take longer to create strong bonds with, but if you are consistent, you can create a stronger bond with your hens. The main issue you may face with bonding with an adult chicken is that if you leave for a week on vacation or your life is too busy to spend much time with your chickens for a few weeks, they will lose some of that bond.
Mornings and just before dusk are usually busier times as they lay eggs or gather up the last bugs to eat before bedtime. The afternoon tends to be a good time of the day to spend with your chickens.
5. Earn and Maintain Their Trust
Chickens are prey animals. That means that they are always alert for danger. You may notice that your hens often sleep with one eye open. To bond with your chickens, they will need to trust you and not fear you. If your hens fear you, they will not love you back.
Handling your chickens gently and being consistently patient with them helps them trust you. If you are rough with them, even naturally gentle chicken breeds will be aloof and become more aggressive.
Never toss pullets, hang chickens upside down by their feet, grab their feathers, or do other things that scare them. Avoid sudden movements and steer clear of their head. Heads are where chickens attack each other. You don’t want to send the wrong signal.
When they are little, spread their wings, touch and pet them, and hold them. This will help them get used to the touches you’ll need when caring for them, trimming feathers, or moving them as needed. If you have older birds that seem wary of you, take time to simply sit in their space and let them be around you. This will help them feel more comfortable with you.
Having a routine also helps your birds to feel secure. Go out around the same time each morning to feed them and gather eggs.
6. Give Chickens Food and Treats
You can build trust with your flock by hand feeding them and giving them treats. Chickens love treats. If you bring them treats, even if it’s only a few times a week, they will learn that you give them special attention.
It won’t take long before your chickens come running when they see you coming. Chickens love treats of any kind. Leftover produce scraps like watermelon rinds, apple cores, or melon seeds are treats they adore. Or, purchase mealworms which are great for ill or shy chickens. The added protein helps to boost their energy and gives extra TLC.
You can teach your chickens not to fear you by teaching them to eat out of your hand. Simply hold your hand steady and talk to them in a smooth voice. Let them venture forth on their own terms. Chicks will often come quicker than adult hens that haven’t been socialized much.
If your adult hens are still shy, put treats on the board next to them. Every other day move the treats a little closer to you. Offer treats in your hand while placed on the ground. Then slowly raise your hand until your shyest hens eat from your hand. Next, you can gently stroke your chicken’s heads and help them get used to your touch.
7. Talk to Your Chickens
Chickens are smart and can learn to recognize your voice as well as different calls. I’ve never had a chicken learn it’s own name, but they can learn to call when you call them for treats. Talk to your flock. Call them as you come so they aren’t startled when you appear.
Your chickens will begin responding when they hear your voice.
Chickens can also differentiate between different tones. Loud, sharp tones are universally understood in the animal kingdom as dangerous tones. Gentle, soft tones help to express the emotions you want them to understand.
Training Chickens Is Possible
Chickens can be trained not to poop on you when you hold them. They can be trained to stay away from an area or a porch. Or they can be trained to do simple tricks. The key is consistency, time, and offering a reward or punishment.
For a punishment example, put a chicken down every time they poop, and they will learn to leave when they have to poop and then get back up. Spray them with a water bottle every time, and they will learn to stay away from an area. Or reward them with a treat and they will jump or do other simple tricks.
Most importantly, enjoy your flocks. After all- what’s the use of having chickens if you don’t enjoy them? The level of tameness and friendliness you want in chickens will really vary on how much you enjoy them and spend time with them.
You can enjoy your chickens for their eggs and have them come running for treats even if you don’t want lap chickens.
Training a Rooster
Rooster training, like hen training, can vary greatly. If you have only one rooster with your hens, he’s likely to spend his time watching over the ladies (at least if he’s a good rooster). A good rooster will die protecting the flock.
But, that means he isn’t gong to be focused on you.
If you want a pet rooster, you may want to raise only one rooster and no other chickens. Solo roosters bond to human owners better and don’t get distracted by hens.
You don’t want to bond too greatly with the lower power rooster if you have two roosters. The beta rooster can become possessive of human owners and aggressive toward other owners. This might mean that he attacks your 1 year old if he thinks you are threatened.
Instead, I’ve chosen to raise one or two roosters and tamed them to the extent that they won’t attack my young children, but not to the point that they are pet-quality roosters. I’ve done this by helping my kids to spend time with them as cockerels. As they age, we move them from the garage (as it’s often cooler outside) into the coop area and reduce the time we spend with them.
We still take food out, give treats, and talk to the whole flock. But, we don’t spend massive amounts of time with the flock. This ensures friendly, non-aggressive to people roosters. But, they also move from handlebar roosters to friendly acquaintances.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most gentle rooster? Bantum roosters are amazing roosters to have. Because they are small, they aren’t usually as aggressive. Buff, Silkie, Polish, Cochin, and Jersey Giant roosters have some of the calmest, gentlest roosters of all the chicken breeds. For more gentle rooster breeds, check out these 13 calm chicken breeds.
What are the best chicken breeds for kids to have as pets? Bantam chickens, Buff Orpington, Silkies, and Speckled Sussex are the very best chicken breeds for kids to raise as pets. Other calm, friendly breeds include the Australorp, Polish, Cochran, and Faverolle, among other breeds. Today many new breed mixes are producing calm chickens that aren’t official breeds.
Do chickens like to be petted? Some chickens like to be petted, while others never get used to petting. The chicken’s breed will greatly impact whether it enjoys petting. The amount of human socialization it has as a pullet or cockerel affects how much adult chickens enjoy being petted.
Why does my chicken squat when I pick it up? Hens squat when roosters mate them. Hens that squat before being picked up demonstrate their submissiveness to their human owner. They are acknowledging that they are below you on the pecking order. It’s sort of like a chicken’s sign of respect.
Are chickens low maintenance? Chickens can be low-maintenance animals to raise. They have the ability to fend for themselves within the flock, hunt for bugs and seeds, and keep themselves entertained. As long as they have food, water, and housing, they will generally be happy and healthy.
What is the best chicken for eggs and pets? The best chickens that lay well and do well as pets include the Buff Orpington, Australorpe, and Speckled Sussex. These breeds lay over 200 eggs annually and are some of the friendliest chicken breeds around. The Australorpe chicken often lays over 300 eggs a year without artificial lighting.
Each chicken is different, even within a chicken breed. If you choose a naturally calm chicken breed, love and spend time with it from a young age, and continue to spend time with your hens, they will develop a strong bond with you.
Plus, many chicken breeds are very friendly and gentle with families. Meat, egg, or ornamental chickens have breeds that are great for kids. Whether you live in a cold or hot climate, a city or an urban area, a chicken breed exists that is perfect for your family.
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