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Socializing your chicks: or, OUCH! stop pecking my freckles!

Posts: 12
Location: Indiana
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Hi all,

We just got 25 new baby hens at my work/farm, and we're being diligent in trying to socialize them well so that they're friendly. These chickens will be around many children (field trips) and elderly Sisters (convent), so this is a pretty important goal. We've been following the methodology found here: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-to-socialize-baby-chickens, and even though they're only about 4 days into it, they're responding well.

Except for one. Every time I put my hand down into the brooder with feed, there is one chick who comes and persistently pecks at my freckles. Now, a lot of the chicks do this occasionally, and they quickly figure out "hey, not food, move on" so there's no problem. But one of them is *persistent*. She managed to break skin today, just out of repeated pecking and bloody-mindedness.

I'm not sure the best way to deal with this. Like I said, most of the others quickly get hip to the whole "that's not food" thing, so I'm content to let them peck a few times and then move on. I don't necessarily want to "shoo" this one off, as I'm trying to socialize them to like people and not be afraid. But I'm worried this one is taking all the wrong messages here. Advice?

Posts: 11799
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Keep an eye on her, she may be too aggressive and eventually start picking on the other chickens, in which case she has to go. Definitely never let her break the skin. Gentle shooing is ok in this case.

Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I had a bully chick in my flock and eventually she pecked the rear end out of a couple flockmates. She ended up taking early retirement in the compost pile. since then.... no issues. Every so often you get a "bad egg". It's best to nip it in the bud before the other birds get a taste for blood. Luckily my injured hens survived and recovered. From my limited experience, hens seem to keep the "personality" that they are born with. They can have a lot of experience with people and may get used to it. Some will run and hide, some will be stand-offish, others may be aggressive. Best of luck
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Location: PNW Oregon
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Like most animals they are not offended to be put in their proper place, it's the 'way' of nature. They will still come around and be social, but not think you under them in ranking. This birds pecking is hen pecking and has nothing to do with being tame or not. She's just putting you in your place.

So put your hand on her back and push her to the ground, tap a few times on her head (hen pecking) after a few seconds mess up her feathers as you release. This means your the top chick and she needs to respect the human - No Pecking. You will want to teach the children not to be bullied by any chicken too. Every now and then a chicken can get pushy or demand food through pecking, jumping on the children or jumping at them (fake) with feet out. Have the kids pick them up boldly, tuck them under an arm and carry them around for a bit (dominating can be fun). Then set them down and shoo them away. This cools them off real fast and is usually enough for most chickens. The more a chicken makes challenge the more you need to meet and address that challenge. With some birds this takes a bit more dominating - simply make the punishment match the crime, be immediate and not wimpy. Note how they treat each other..... They will still be friendly, love you and look to you for food following you around the yard. After all they all have a pecking order in their group, so consider yourself accepted in the flock - you've been pecked.

All the best!
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