How to raise friendly chickens

When I first started raising chickens I raised the friendliest flock you could ever dream of meeting. They absolutely loved being around us and came running as soon as we walked out of the house! The entire flock would hang around me waiting for treats and even the shy ones would beg for treats by sneaking up behind me and pulling on my clothes! I could pet and pick up each hen and they would jump up on my lap the second I sat down.

Even the roosters were super friendly.

Teenage boy with friendly white chicken perched on his head

Honestly, sometimes it was too much! Especially if we tried to eat outside because of the constant begging. If we had people over that didn't happen to like birds (I didn't know that was a thing till it happened!) they would be freaked out by the chickens walking up to them.

In contrast the first set of chicks that I let a hen raise were flighty and scared of us. They ran if we tried to pick them up and would fuss if I pet them when on the roost at night. So, what happened?

We simply didn't give them enough attention! It's the key to raising friendly chickens. Obviously it works best if you start with chicks, but the attention method can be used at any age.

How to raise friendly chickens

The easiest way to raise a friendly flock is to start with chicks and give them a ton of attention. Every day, several times a day. Frequent short visits are better than 1 long visit. Interacting with them every single day is better than just spending time on the weekends. 

This is really easy to do if you raise them in a brooder in the house. Simply stop by and visit them all the time. I like to talk to them a lot even if I'm not reaching into the brooder. This gets them used to my voice.

Get the chicks attention before reaching for them. 

Whether your giving them treats, picking them up or cleaning the brooder out, make sure the chicks know in advance that you're there. Start talking to them when you enter the room or get near the brooder. They will associate your voice with you and expect to see you.

If you walk up to the brooder quietly and suddenly reach in you'll startle them. 

If you're giving them treats, set the treats in the palm of your hand and let the chicks eat out of your hand. Some chicks like to be pet gently on their backs or chest. Just spend time with them and they will get used to you being around...and bringing treats!

I cannot emphasize enough how food motivated chickens are! You can even train your chickens to come when called by using food. 

It's important to handle them all daily. It doesn't have to be the same person, several people can get in on it. Even the kids.

Actually, the more people that chip in and help care for the chickens the better! That way they grow up to be friendly towards all different people, not just one favorite person.

Treats for training baby chicks

If you are going to feed treats to your chicks they will need some grit too. Chicks don't need grit as long as they're only on chick starter, because there is some in the feed. Once treats are added to their diet I add a small bowl of sand to their brooder to add extra grit to their diet. 

Baby chicks that free range will be able to get their grit from the ground like the adult chickens do, so they won't need added grit.

Treats for chicks: chopped scrambled egg, cut pieces of fodder, small pieces of soft fruits like berries, bananas and melons, chopped lettuce, cooked rice or pieces of cooked pasta, insides of pumpkins or mealworms

Boy sitting looking at his phone with 3 baby chicks on his lap

Taming older chickens

It's easy to spend time with chicks, but once they move out of the brooder it can be a bit harder. Coops are busy places with lots of other birds and things to do. It's much more fun for the little chickens and they probably won't be as eager to hang out with people.

Well, you still need to give them attention even if they don't want it! Now this doesn't mean forcing them to be held if they'd rather not, but rather keep spending time talking to them and giving them treats. Even if they're ignoring you, and they probably will sometimes! 

A few extra treats here and there can go a long way towards winning them over to your side! Make sure to talk to them nicely and call their names as you feed them. Many chickens learn their names and respond to them. A chicken is actually as smart as a 4 year old child, though some will respond to other chickens names if they notice treats along with that name! lol

As with the baby chicks the more attention you give them, the more they seem to like the human interaction.

Hen vs brooder

When your chicks are growing up in a brooder they come to see you as a constant in their lives. You are providing food, water, cleaning and being a presence in their lives as you care for their needs. Hopefully you're talking to them...or even to other people as you're caring for them, so they get used to your voice. 

You're probably petting and picking them up several times a day and they get to know you as a friend and bringer of treats.

When a hen raises the chicks she tends to come between you and the chicks. Many times the hen will peck at the hand that tries to touch her chicks. The chicks become more fearful of people because the hen takes care of the chicks and human interaction is more limited.

Most hens don't like people messing with her babies and it shows as they grow up less friendly towards humans. Even if you bring treats! The hen will call the chicks when she sees the treats and the chicks won't associate you with the treats at all! 

This can be frustrating as it takes a lot longer to get the chicks to be friendly towards people. You just have to keep at it though and they should come around in time.

Friendly fluffy white chicken being held by blond lady

This is pretty much the same method I use for training a rooster to be friendly. I do a little more carrying the rooster around, but it's very similar. When trying to tame a rooster, the more you can visit with him and give him attention, the better results you should get.

I tend to spend a lot of time hanging out with my chickens in warmer months and not so much in winter. I found that chicks hatched in winter don't get as much attention from us, so I only add to my flocks in spring, summer or fall now.

Related reading: Did you know you can train a chicken to walk on a leash?


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  1. Good, practical, experienced advice, as usual! I like seeing a picture of you with your fancy, fluffy "Hitori"- girl!

    1. I'm glad you like them. The fluffies are my favorite! I have some new ones from last year...I'll get some more pictures as soon as the snow stops.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I got chicks last summer and sat in with them at least 4 times a day. Some got tame and some did not. I ended up with a rooster who was very tame sat on my lap and now the hormones kicked in and he jumps at me. He's so beautiful and I hate to get rid of him but my patience is running out. I have carried him in front of girls didn't work either. This is why I really did not want one they can get pretty mean.

    1. if he's going through that teenage rooster stage, he will calm down when he becomes mature. My Hei Hei was like that and I was just waiting for a warmer day to get him ready for freezer camp ...and he calmed down. If he doesn't calm down by the time he's a year old then I usually give up. Life's too short for mean roosters!
      Good luck with him!