Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Family Bonding - Socializing Our Chickens

As homeschool parents, we have been warned time and time again about the desperate necessity of "socializing".  So, for the sake of being "well-rounded", we have gone to great lengths to ensure our daughter's social skills, etiquette, and language skills have not suffered for her lack of public education.
As a result, while her father and I (both public-schooled) could easily be labeled "antisocial" for our homebody tendencies, our daughter has made fast friends with the local librarians, shopkeepers, and neighbors. Not one vehicle drives past our house without getting a hardy wave from our very social little homeschooler. Even the gravel trucks blow their horns for her. 
So, when it came to socializing our new flock, we figured we should leave it up to the pro. 

Although we'd like to socialize all the chickens, it's tough not knowing which ones will end up in the freezer when the whole gender reveal finally takes place.  So, right now we're focusing on the Buff Orpingtons (because they are mellow and easy to catch) and the Barred Rocks (because they are still young...and easy to catch).

Here is our very precise method:
1. Pull 1 or 2 birds out at a time to be sure they get lots of 1 on 1 attention during the bonding session.
2. Hand the birds over to our daughter and let her do her thing (supervised, of course).
Here are some instructional photos:
Feeling her beak, her comb, her eyeball, each feather...

Tickling, petting, patting, and snuggling....

Trying to feed her a wood shaving she found on the floor...
So, it seems that socializing birds (according to our five year old) involves a lot picking up, putting down, chasing, holding, cooing, petting, singing, hugging, snugging, feeding, and lots more picking up and putting down.  Good times.
It is also essential (according to our five year old) that all parties participate -even the four legged ones.  This forced participation is especially important when the little Barred Rock is cold...and cheeping incessantly...at deafening decibels....and needs to be wrapped like a baby in a blanket....and snuggle.

And if your dog can tolerate the screeching baby Barred Rock in her ear....she is ready for a more intense bonding experience.....like a baby Buff jumping on her back and balancing like a circus performer.

Such thorough bonding sessions have proved to be very beneficial...
These two are now BFFs.

All kidding aside, it made a difference right away. The chickens that we "socialized" are more prone to approaching us, as the others still run for their lives every time we reach for their water dish. Without the influence of the mob-mentality (fueled by the spastic Ameraucanas), the Buffs and Barreds seemed to enjoy being handled.  It's pretty fun playing Mama hen and watching them learn to trust us.
We'll keep you posted on our progress.

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