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Just got our pullets this morning.  7 different breeds.  Got 2 extras, so far all are alive and seem to be thriving.

Quick question.  What constitutes "excessive handling" for baby chicks?  Want to let the kids have fun, and get the birds used to being handled, but don't want them stressed out either.  At what age does handling no longer stress a chick?

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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Just got our pullets this morning.  7 different breeds.  Got 2 extras, so far all are alive and seem to be thriving.

Quick question.  What constitutes "excessive handling" for baby chicks?  Want to let the kids have fun, and get the birds used to being handled, but don't want them stressed out either.  At what age does handling no longer stress a chick?



Any handling of chicks before they are at least a week old is probably excessive. Baby chicks are delicate and easily injured when small. They also need time to adjust to their surroundings. If yours just arrived, they will need a few days to learn about their environment before suffering the additional stress of having someone picking them up. Besides, they are also very temperature sensitive for the first few weeks (especially if it is much colder outside the environment where they are being raised. Taking them from a 90F space to a 72F space and back again multiple times is going to be very hard on them and could make them ill). The best way to ensure your chicks receive proper socialization is to start by leaving them pretty much alone (other than the obvious times when they will need water and food or bedding changes, of course) for the first few days after they arrive. By the end of that first week, they should be comfortable enough in their environment to begin showing signs of boredom. That is when dangling your hand in the space and allowing them to approach this new "thing" in the environment will offer them much-needed stimulation but not stress. Just gently stroke them with your fingers or let them hop up onto your palm while holding it flat on the floor of the box, but don't attempt to pick them up or grab at them. Chasing them around the box with your hand will panic them, so move slowly and gently! After a couple of days, when they have become used to "the hand", you might want to start offering them bits of chick feed held on your open palm. This will teach them to trust you before you actually get to the point of picking them up. Once you do pick one up, hold it loosely and do not raise your hand more than a couple of inches from the floor of their enclosure. (They may get hurt if dropped from too great a height. You also should not remove them from the warmth of their heat lamp at any point before they are able to withstand ordinary room temperature for a few minutes at a time.) Usually, by the second or third week, they will be fine with gentle handling, but don't allow them to become stressed. Keep the handling to a few minutes per chick before putting them back in their box or you may be in danger of making the chicks frightened of, rather than comfortable with, humans.

Chicks can be so much fun to watch. Rather than risk excessive handling, you might want to let the kids enjoy watching them learn to fly and play by making small perches for them out of clean, dry twigs placed in their enclosure. It is really fun to see them hop up on a tiny branch for the first time and to watch the reaction of the other chicks when one of their number is suddenly perching above them. I always love giving them interesting "furniture" to explore around and on and changing it around every couple of days to keep up their interest.

 
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