So you just got those cute, fuzzy little chicks! You’ll also note that those tiny little feet get poop all over them! So you may not want to handle your chicks.
It’s very important to handle chicks from the time they are little. You should pick them up, touch their wings, examine their beak and vent, and hold them in different positions. The reason is very practical–if your chicken needs to be caught or handled as an adult, it will already be habituated to human touch.
Remember, chickens are a prey species, so they are skittish by nature. Careful nurture can change that.
Sometimes an injured or scared bird needs to be recaptured. Adding fear of human touch to that equation will create one freaked-out bird, and she may make things worse or injure herself by trying to escape from you!
It is also important that a bird be handled as a chick because she will respond better to human contact if you have to treat or medicate.
When handling your chicks, though, keep in mind that birds have no diaphragm. Humans have a muscle that helps the rib cage expand to breathe in. Birds do not. This means that if you compress a bird’s rib cage, it CANNOT expand its rib cage to pull in oxygenated air. If you (or your child!) hold a bird too tightly, you can suffocate it. As you handle your chicks, hold them firmly but loosely, with extra space in your hand to allow them to breathe.
Also, do not let chicks run around on the floor where people (or your children!) might be walking. They are very fast and can get underfoot quite quickly!
So remember these tips when you get your mini-flock:
- Handle chicks often, everyday if possible.
- Don’t squeeze!
- Keep them out from under foot.
You will have happy, healthy hens who aren’t afraid to be caught, picked up, examined, or petted!