Building Trust with Your Chickens: 11 Essential Tips
As prey animals, chickens can be flighty, so building trust with them is an important part of your role as their caretaker. And while earning their trust can take a while, being calm and consistent will go a long way in winning them over.
While chickens are mostly raised for their eggs and meat, they are increasingly being kept as pets too. But having a pet that won’t tolerate being petted or runs away every time you approach it can put a damper on the experience of raising pet chickens.
Nurturing a safe and calm environment for your chickens will increase their comfort level and trust and contribute to their well-being and healthy development.
If you’re new to raising chickens or your chickens are extremely skittish, you can trust that the strategies on how to build trust with your chickens that I discuss below will have their results.
Preparation for Building Trust
Building trust with baby chickens that you’ve hand-raised is a far easier endeavor than building trust with adult chickens that you’ve just taken home. But being able to handle your chickens means you’re also able to closely monitor their health status.
So, how can you tame your chickens, so they don’t view you as a threat but their friendly caretaker instead?
In preparation to building trust with your flock of chickens, first you need to learn a few things about them. And that you can easily do by spending some time observing their behaviors and reactions.
– Establishing a Bond with your Chickens
To establish a bond with your chickens you will need to spend enough time with them. This time should be spent so that your chickens become familiar with your presence and the idea that you’re harmless to them.
You should also take this time to observe their reactions and whether they’re slowly becoming more accustomed with your presence or with you handling them.
Bonding with your chickens can take many forms including hand-feeding them treats, petting them if they’re willing to be petted, and so on.
The key here is for your chickens to see that you mean no harm to them and they’re safe in your presence.
– Learning your Chicken’s Body Language
Observing how you chickens react when you approach them or when you enter their enclosure can clue you in to whether they’re comfortable with your presence or not.
If your flock runs away in terror every time you go into the backyard it means they’re afraid of you. If they run to you or simply go about their business means they trust you and no longer view you as a threat.
One little trick that has often worked for me with skittish chickens was to simply announce my presence by talking to them as I was on my way to the backyard or before opening the latch to the gate.
Moving slowly and calmly and using a soft voice can also go a long way in calming your chickens.
– Creating a Safe Environment for your Chickens
When moved to a completely new environment, chickens tend to look like deer in the headlights. They might also huddle together in fear on one side of the yard.
It’s important to create a safe environment for them, so they can feel at ease. But what does a safe environment entail?
Make sure that no predators can get into their enclosure. Make sure that dogs and other large pets and animals are also kept away from them.
Even if your pets mean no harm to them, your chickens will still be terrified of them, especially if they haven’t been introduced to other animals.
Same goes for loud noises, which can stress out chickens. Make sure you keep them in a quiet area.
– Knowing the Common Behaviors of Chickens
Knowing more about the common behaviors of your chickens will help you create a better environment for them.
From creating perches for them to roost on to managing the hen to rooster ratio in your flock as well as understanding mating feeding, mating behaviors, and their social structures, you’ll be better equipped to build trust with them.
Chickens also have ways to show their affection towards other chickens, but also towards humans. Preening in your presence or preening you, perching on you, or laying down next to you are all signs of trust and affection.
Ways to Build Trust with Your Chickens
If your goal is to have tame chickens that don’t mind being handled and enjoy spending time in your presence, you can rely on the following techniques that will help you build trust with your chickens:
– Respect your Chickens’ Space and Territory
Once you’ve managed to create a safe space for your chickens, make sure to respect their boundaries and territory.
Don’t allow dogs, cats, or other pets to their space, unless you’ve familiarized them with each other, and your chickens feel comfortable with their presence.
Don’t chase your chickens or allow your kids to chase them around either. When entering their enclosure, let them come to you. You can entice them with food or wearing sparkly objects like a ring or bracelet.
– Spend time with your chickens on a regular basis
Allocate time to spend with your chickens daily, so your presence becomes second nature to them. You can sit on the ground, so that you’re at their eye level, which will make them feel even more at ease.
The more time you spend with them, the likelier that they’ll get used to you, and become comfortable with having you around.
– Provide treats as rewards for good behavior
Making chickens associate you with tasty treats or food will go a long way in making them trust you. Hand-feeding chickens treats will help them bond with you.
Use high value treats to reward positive behaviors. Don’t punish your chickens for bad behaviors, however. Punishing them can undo all the trust you’ve worked to build with them.
Some treats that chickens enjoy include bugs, grubs, leafy vegetables, herbs, cracked corn, oatmeal, fruits, green garden waste, flaxseed, etc.
Treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily diet, so make sure you account for that when offering treats to your chickens.
– Speak softly and calmly to them
Chickens are weary of sudden movements or loud noises, moving calmly and slowly, and speaking to them in a soft voice is another way to build trust with them.
Shouting at your chickens or making loud noises will only scare them, and you might undermine the results of all your other trust-building exercises.
Trust Exercises for Your Chickens
Trust exercises can be a great way to spend quality time with your chickens and build trust in the process. These exercises strengthen the bond with your chickens and lets them know you are a friend and not a foe.
– Hand Feeding your Chickens Treats
Hand-feeding chickens will determine them to approach you on their own terms and shows them that you are a harmless presence in their life.
Getting this close to your chickens serves other purposes too – it allows you to do a quick health check-up and notice anything that may be wrong with them (e.g., pale comb, injury, etc.).
Once your chickens are comfortable with eating out of your hand, you can try to pet them, and even handle them. Being able to handle your chicken is also an important part of monitoring their health status.
– Giving them Access to Areas they Weren’t Allowed Before
Offering your chickens positive experiences like allowing them free-range time in a different enclosure or allowing them to graze on a pasture will lead to them associating you with positive experiences.
– Allowing them to Perch on You
Chickens that feel comfortable with you and trust you might try to perch on you or jump into your lap. This is another way in which they’ll show their trust but also their affection towards you.
If you want to encourage these types of bonding behaviors, make sure to reward their behavior with a treat.
Benefits of Building Trust with Your Chickens
So, why should you go out of your way to build trust with your chickens? Does having a trust relationship with your chickens necessary?
Turns out that there are benefits to having a good relationship with your flock:
– Improved Overall Health and Well-being of your Chickens
Chickens that feel safe in their environment will have a better quality of life and their health will be improved.
Feeling safe in the presence of their caretaker and allowing their caretaker to handle them will also allow the early detection of certain diseases, leading to better health outcomes and an increased lifespan.
– Decreased Stress Levels in your Chickens
Stress can be a major disease factor in chickens, so having chickens trust you and feel comfortable in their environment is an important aspect that will contribute to their well-being and long-term quality of life.
– Increased Enjoyment of Spending Time with your Flock
When you bond with the chickens in your flock, you’re also happier as a result. Overcoming trust issues can strengthen the bond with them and lead to mutually beneficial results.
Mistakes to Avoid When Building Trust with Your Flock
If your goal is to strengthen the bond with your chickens and have them trust you, there are several mistakes you should avoid:
- Moving too quickly and not spending enough time with your chickens to get used to you.
- Not allocating enough time for your chickens to feel comfortable with your presence.
- Being too loud or having their enclosure in space with loud noises.
- Not taking the time to understand their body language and making them feel threatened.
- Not providing them enough space for them to move around and feel safe.
- Not having a cover or coop where they can be protected by rain, mud, snow, frost, etc.
As prey animals, chickens aren’t comfortable with a lot of things, especially sudden movements, loud noises, presence of other animals, etc.
If you want your chickens to thrive and feel safe in your company, I encourage you to give these trust-building tips and tricks a try.
But make sure you understand that it can take a while for chickens to warm up to you and begin to trust you, so don’t give up your efforts too soon!
And don’t forget that each chicken has its own personality – some will be easier to tame, others will not budge and will prefer to keep their distance from you. And that’s all right too.