Learning how to pet a chicken can be a rewarding and fun experience, but you must be careful when approaching the bird. It’s very easy to scare chickens as they’re skittish, so your goal is to make them feel comfortable and safe before you attempt to reach out and pet them.
We want you to safely approach these birds and form a bond of trust, so we’ll highlight everything you need to know. Whether you’re new to owning chickens or have had them for years, these guidelines can help ensure you have enjoyable and positive experiences each time you approach your chickens.
What Do You Have to Understand About Chickens?
Chickens are flightless domesticated birds, and there are over 150 different breeds to choose from that come in a range of pretty patterns, colors, and sizes. Many people believe that today’s chickens are descendants of the Southeast Asian Red Junglefowl.
These birds do best when kept in a flock, and they have a community approach to raising their young and incubating eggs. Individual chickens in the flock will attempt to dominate others, and the most dominant birds get top priority for nesting locations and food. Removing roosters or hens from the flock will cause a temporary disruption until they form a new hierarchy.
Do Chickens Form Social Structures?
Yes, all chicken flocks have what is known as a pecking order, and this is a hierarchy of power. If you’ve ever heard someone declare, “I rule the roost,” this is where the saying comes from. Your chickens will start to work out the flock’s social structure when they’re very young, and every chicken knows exactly where they rank in the order. Additionally, your chickens can recognize other birds in the flock on sight.
Another thing to consider is that a chicken’s position in the hierarchy will define its personality, just like with people. The hens on the top of this social structure are usually loud and fearless, and the ones near the bottom are much more reserved and shy. If one of the lower-ranked birds tries to feed before the more dominant ones, the dominant ones may peck them to teach them a lesson.
Why is it Important to Understand Chicken Behavior Before Petting Them?
Chickens can be aggressive, and they’re not afraid to scratch or peck you if they get scared or startled when you try to pick them up. So, understanding the social hierarchy and watching which chickens are more reserved and quiet is a great way to figure out which ones to approach to pet while reducing your risks of any injuries.
Additionally, the breeds you keep will play a huge role in how successful you are at petting them because some are much more tolerant of being picked up and petted. Below, you’ll find a short table highlighting a few popular breeds and whether or not they’d be good for your flock if you intend to pet and handle them routinely. [Top 8 Friendliest Chicken Breeds]
|Ameraucana||4 to 5 pounds||Mostly calm and non-aggressive|
|Ancona||4 to 6 pounds||Nervous and restless – avoids contact|
|Andalusian||5.5 to 7 pounds||Noisy, flighty, avoids contact|
|Appenzeller||4 to 5.5 pounds||Active, flighty, skittish|
|Araucana||4.5 to 5 pounds||Non-aggressive, calm|
|Aseel||5 to 5.75 pounds||Docile and easily handled|
|Australorp||6.5 to 8.5 pounds||Calm, docile, and easily handled|
|Barnevelder||5.5 to 7.7 pounds||Docile, calm, and well adaptable|
|Belgian D’Anver||1.3 to 2 pounds||Hens are calm – roosters are aggressive|
|Brahma||9.5 to 12 pounds||Gentle and easily handled|
|Campine||4 to 6 pounds||Curious and tolerant|
|Delaware||6.5 to 8.5 pounds||Docile and calm|
|Holland||6.5 to 8.5 pounds||Good tempered and calm|
|Jersey Giant||10 to 13 pounds||Easily handled, gentle, and calm|
|Leghorn||4.5 to 6 pounds||Nervous, noisy, avoids contact|
How Do You Prepare To Pet A Chicken?
Before petting a chicken, you must be aware that they are carrier of diseases like salmonella. This infection can cause fever, diarrhea, and cramping, and more severe causes can cause hospitalization, even though most people recover on their own. So, preparing correctly before you pet any chickens is vital, and you should use the following tips to stay safe.
One of the biggest things you can do is to wash anything that comes into contact with the birds or their pens thoroughly before and after petting them. Don’t hold the birds near your face or kiss them, and keep them outside in their pens. You may want to put on old clothing that you can take back off and wash when you finish petting them to prevent contaminants from entering your home.
How Do You Pet a Chicken? Step-by-Step Guide
Before petting a chicken, you must learn how to approach them. You want to approach them quietly so you don’t startle them, as this could make them run away. Try to approach from the chicken’s rear by walking slowly up to them, making a small amount of noise so they know you’re coming.
If you make any sudden movements, this can cause the chicken to get up and run away because they’ll think you’re a predator. Once you get close enough, move your hand slowly toward the chicken, trying to pet their backs first. Be aware that the chicken may run away when you first make contact, and you’ll have to start the approach process all over.
Remember, if you have a more skittish breed of chicken, you may have to try to approach it or lure it to you several times before you get close enough to touch it. So be patient and give the chicken time to decide to come to you on its own.
What Are Proper Handling Techniques To Avoid Hurting The Chicken?
Gently grab the chicken’s body using both hands, using one movement to put your hands around both sides of your chicken’s body. You want to position your hands so your fingers are under the belly and your palms are holding their wings down so they can’t flap around. Make sure you don’t hold the chicken too tightly, or you’ll hurt it.
Next, move the chicken so it’s under one of your arms and allow it to settle. When you feel like you have a good hold and the chicken is calm, you can slowly transfer it so you’re holding it in the crook of your arm. Next, wrap your arm around the chicken so it’s under the belly, but the legs are dangling.
Tips to Make Your Chickens Comfortable With Petting
One of the biggest things you can do to make your chickens comfortable enough to pet them is to spend quality time with them, starting when they’re young. Pick the chicks up and talk to them, and bring something to sit on and relax where the older chickens roam around. Don’t make loud noises or fast movements, or you’ll scare them.
You can bring treats to get your chickens to associate treats with your visits so they start to come up to you when you approach them. But first, figure out your chicken’s personalities, which ones like you to pet them, and which ones would rather sit quietly to the side. Once you do, you can coax the more friendly ones to your lap or pick them up.
What are the Benefits of Petting Chickens?
Petting your chickens and interacting with them helps build a bond of trust. Your chickens will start to be more comfortable with you around, and they may even come up to you on their own. Chickens are also a great way to make your community bonds stronger, especially if you sell eggs to your neighbors.
Along with making you active in your community, many people like taking their chickens to local, regional, or national show competitions. The judges compare the birds to the breed standards for a chance to win The American Standard of Perfection based on their feather quality, coloring, and body confirmation. In addition, these shows are a great chance to meet other chicken owners and learn tips to keep your flock healthy.
Chickens can also have good benefits for your mental and physical health. For example, if you have chickens, you must go out daily and care for them, which makes you work. Forming bonds with your birds can improve your mental health, too, by causing your brain to release oxytocin. This is the feel-good chemical in your brain.
Owning chickens, which are beautiful pets, can be an educational experience for the whole family. They can teach adults and kids where some of their food comes from, teach responsibility, and help connect to nature. As the chicken’s personalities shine, they can also entertain you with their antics.
Learning how to pet a chicken can be a very rewarding and fun experience. You can build trust and enjoy owning these fun birds by carefully approaching the birds slowly and quietly. Remember to be patient, take your time, and prioritize your chickens’ well-being when you pet them. This will ensure a memorable experience.
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.