Taming Chickens

Let it be known all throughout the land that I am almost the worst at making sure my chickens are friendly. I handle them periodically when they are chicks, but not enough for them to love me and want to be my BFF. I health check them nightly when they are on the roosts and easy to catch…because I’m lazy. But I think they are ok with it, they lay me awesome eggs to cook and bake with and I give them all the food, water, weeds, bugs and proper care they need and desire. Lately though, Andy has been accompanying me to do nightly chores and has taken it upon himself to become buddies with the entire flock. 

He initially decided he would like to show the rooster who’s really boss. Our rooster is just getting mature and sometimes they can become aggressive as that happens. I’ve been keeping my eye on him and he’s left me and Abram alone so far, so I figured he was good. But Andy just wanted to make real sure. So every night he picks him up and carries him around and pokes at his face and feet and wings….you know. Just the usual signs of affection.

Andy and the Rooster

Ha!

So far the rooster isn’t keen on being friends, but has accepted the fact that Andy is The Man.

Then Andy moves on to his favorite/least favorite hen whom he has kindly nick-named “Baldy.” Because she somehow sliced a bit of her comb off and looks a little goofy. He says he hates her but I think he really loves her. She actually is starting to like him and doesn’t mind the nightly ritual.

Then he moves on to all the rest. Some of them hate it but most of them are getting used to it. If these hens end up friendly it will all be credited back to Andy.

Where I lack in my ability to make friends with hens, I make up for in my ability to herd them. Herding animals in general is a skill that no everyone posses, but I like to think I’m particularly good at predicting how and when to move a flock of chickens. I have been putting them in my garden this week and to get them over there, I call them. Except the new ones don’t really know where the garden is and that it’s full of tasty treats. And the rooster is still working on convincing all the hens they really should stick to him and come when he calls. Which made things interesting the first day. Luckily Andy was there to help me. But usually he just ends up getting bossed around by me and wishing he wasn’t there.

Ha! I hear that’s how it goes when you herd cattle as a couple too…

Abram and Andy with the chickens

Anyways. I’ll give you a few of my secret weapons for herding chickens.

  1. Teach your most dominant hen to do it first by calling her with scratch grains. Then, let the rest out when she knows the drill and make sure they stay mostly together with her. They should follow where she goes.
  2. I strategically place my dogs where I’d like the chickens to not go. I have them sit or lay down and stay and that is usually more than enough motivation for the hens to stick to the designated path. Obviously you’d need obedient dogs for this that wouldn’t get distracted and/or chase the hens. {Click here if you need help with that!}. Sometimes toddlers work for this job…but sometimes they don’t 🙂 .
  3. If you are herding the chickens from behind, use your arms and subtle body movements to keep them going in the general direction you want them to move in. Erratic movements and them creates more pandemonium and ends up scattering the flock and making them jumpy. If one or two deviate from the rest, don’t stress. Just keep moving the main group and the others will follow or you can move them separately later. If you have a good leader rooster, focus on moving him and the dominant hen, the others will want to follow those two.
  4. The first time you move them somewhere, it may be easiest to catch them and carry them there. Moving them back to the coop at night will be much easier because they will be ready for bed and want to roost. After a day or two, they should get the hang of things.
  5. Be patient and don’t try to move the chickens when you’re in a hurry! I made this mistake on Monday. It wasn’t awesome. Ask Andy, ha!

Herding chickens is pretty much like herding cats, but it can be done! If you’ve wanted to try your hand at keeping chickens but don’t know where to start, check out my free email course!

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