Mean Mama Chicken

by Jenny
(Chester, VA)


Mean Mama Chicken: I work at a living history site that keeps a small flock of Bantam chickens, which we let range free around the site.

Recently, my hens have been hatching small clutches of chicks. My older hens will let me pick up the chicks without any problem.

My younger hens peck and bite me when I try to change the water and give them food - so forget about trying to pick up the chicks!

Is there anything I can do to help my hens trust me? The protective mothers have been good at keeping the snakes at bay - but I still need to be able to take care of them without getting pecked alive!

You have some good hens there and I love the idea of the set up for them!

I’m trying to resist the humorous aspect of this as I know of no human deaths, or near deaths, by bantams.

(LOL and hope you are laughing with me). But seriously: I would suggest offering food treats, by hand.

You may have to put up with a little pecking and pinching, but if these protective hens start to recognize your hands as suppliers of goodies, they may be less likely to think your hands are the enemy.

When entering their space to change water and feed you might distract them with some treats they can share with their chicks, dropping some on the ground and remaining to offer some out of your hand.

It is
a good idea to handle chicks. If you start by picking them up briefly and returning them to the safety of their mother’s side, they will judge the action as a very good thing.

As they get used to this and know no harm will come to them, they might enjoy being held longer and offered a treat.

The last thing a hen wants to do is leave her chicks, so picking her up, especially when her chicks are small will cause some panic.

I’ve been pecked by a few hens, usually when collecting eggs, but it’s never drawn blood or really hurt much. With most animals food is the best bonding aspect of the relationship.

Using a specific call to alert them to the presence of a new treat helps make you part of the flock.

This is what a hen does to call her chicks, and roosters do to call the hens to something good they’ve found to eat.

I just call: “Chick, chick, chick” and mine all come a running.

This protective instinct is a very good thing, so hopefully you can forgive their concerns and earn their trust.

One thing about them pecking you: If they peck and you back off, they are more likely to peck again.

But if you can withstand a few pecks and don’t back off, they might just give up trying, since that tactic doesn’t work on you.

All the best to your and you lovely little flock!

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