People with bad chicken experiences as youngsters often suffered the attentions of birds in a large, untamed, flock. A pack of feral dogs would similarly intimidate – they have no manners and don’t know who is boss (or rather they don’t know that you think you should be). A small flock of backyard hens, on the other hand, is more akin to the family dog – curious, friendly, and not likely to attack humans if properly socialized.
Getting hens as chicks and handling them often helps train docility and obedience. Chickens are Not That Bright, but they understand social hierarchy – they know that the ‘pecking order’ is real, and can be painful.
Our first two sets of chicks we raised in a box (or the fireplace) in the living room. Tremendous cuteness and handling access many times per day.
This recent set of chicks is being raised by Calamity Jane. It has been fascinating to watch her Mother the chicks; the instincts they have towards their mom and vice versa. I daresay they will be smarter for being able to interact with ‘the real world’ from Day 1, but it seems likely they will be more wild.
And so we spend time with them, we hold them. We bring them treats and try to get them to eat out of our hand. They are starting to associate us with food (which is the only way to a chicken’s heart). Interestingly, training them on food has been indirect, because they learn about food from Momma. New offerings are ignored until Momma tries it and calls them over, then she gives them the food. I just hope they will start to generalize and accept more directly from us. And, hey, suggestions welcome!