If you have backyard chickens, I’m sure you want to pet them, feed them bits of food, and interact with them - it’s one of the most rewarding parts of owning chickens.
The problem for a lot of owners, however, is that their chickens are scared of them and won’t allow them to get up close and interact with them.
If this is the situation you have - your chickens are scared of you but you want more interaction - don’t fret, you can win them over.
It’s important to keep in mind that chickens are skeptical of humans and other animals by nature, they’re used to playing the role of prey in the wild.
That said, chickens can be highly interactive and show a lot of affection to humans when nurtured and treated in the right way.
In this article, I’ll explain why your chickens might be scared of you, how you can form stronger bonds with them, and why owning backyard chickens is so rewarding!
Why Are My Chickens Scared of Me?
If it appears like your chickens are scared of you, i.e. they run from you, won’t take food from your hands, and hide when they see you, there are a few possible reasons:
Some Breeds Are Friendlier Than Others
Some breeds of backyard chickens are friendlier, tamer, and easier to bond with than others. This doesn’t mean you can’t tame the breed you have, but it may take more work.
For example, breeds that are generally considered to be docile and friendly include most bantams, Silkies, Sussex, Wyandotte, and Plymouth Rocks to mention just a few.
On the flip side, breeds like Old English Game and other game breeds, Malays, and Sumatras chickens are generally believed to be aggressive and difficult to deal with.
A small caveat here is that chickens have their own personalities and any chicken can be aggressive.
I’ll also point out that we’re talking hens here, roosters are almost always aggressive.
You’re Approaching Too Quickly or Noisily
Chickens are skittish by nature, any loud noise or sudden movement can provoke their natural fight or flight instinct and cause them to flee.
I’m not suggesting you have to tiptoe around, but while you’re gaining the trust of your chickens you should certainly try to approach softly.
Make sure your chickens can see you approaching. It’s often a good idea to lightly shake a bowl of their feed so they associate seeing you with food, too.
They Need More Time to Get To Know You
Bonding and building trust with any pet takes time. If you’ve had your chickens from the moment they hatched and always handled them, this process is usually easier.
Either way, be prepared to build up trust over time. Stay patient, do everything right, and you’ll notice your hens warming to you over time, I’m sure.
How Are Their Environmental Conditions?
Chickens become stressed if their environmental conditions are not meeting all of their needs.
This may mean they are too cramped, are being picked on by other chickens as they’re lower in the pecking order, have a health condition like lice, or feel threatened by predators.
If your chickens are stressed, they will naturally become more skittish or withdrawn. It’ll be harder to approach them, bond with them, and they’ll act scared of you.
What Does a Chicken Do When Scared?
When chickens are scared they will run away, hide, make noise by clucking, and may even flap their wings.
You may also see your hens standing upright and being alert once they’re at a ‘safe’ distance from you.
Hens often do this so they can evaluate a threat, and figure out if they need to back up further, hide, and so on.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, chickens can move very quickly when they want to.
Despite not being great at flying, hens can also flap their way up to perches a few feet off the ground, too.
How Do You Get Your Chickens to Trust You?
One of the most rewarding things about owning backyard chickens is interacting with them.
If you want to interact with your chickens, such as petting, handling, and feeding them by hand, you need to have a good level of trust.
So, how do you build a level of trust with chickens so they’re not scared of you?
The best tips for bonding with chickens and building trust is to:
Spend time with them - When trying to gain the trust of any pet, you have to spend time with them.
This is no different with chickens. It may be cold out, but you’re going to need to spend time with them in their run or where they free range.
Don’t rush handling them - The first thing most chicken owners try to do is handle their chooks.
I understand this, it’s hard to resist. Hens are fluffy, cuddly animals, and just the right size (OK, some are a bit fat) to pick up and hold.
Handling them is something you need to be patient with though. Handling comes after you’ve gained a certain level of trust where a chicken is comfortable around you.
Talk to them - Don’t feel silly about talking to your hens, it doesn’t automatically make you a crazy chicken lady/man!
Talking to your hens will help them become more familiar with your voice, they’ll form a routine around you, associate being fed and being safe with you and your voice, and so on.
If you follow these tips, be patient, and give your chickens the 5-star treatment they deserve, I’m sure you’ll see and feel the bond and trust building between you and them.
Not to mention happy hens are healthy hens, and healthy hens produce the most delicious eggs!
If your chickens are scared of you, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to handle them, and it is often pretty normal for hens to be a little skittish at first.
There is a lot you can do to strengthen the bond with your chickens and create a good level of trust, it just takes a little time and patience!