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My new chicken was formerly living with my uncle before I adopted him. According to what my uncle told me, the chicken once experienced another chicken being killed with a knife. Since then this chicken has been very scared of knives. He runs away whenever he sees a knife even if I want to feed him.

How can I help him overcome this fear?

(The chicken is a plymouth rock and male)

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    Do you often wield a knife when feeding your chicken? – Tim Post Nov 8 '13 at 18:21
  • @TimPost NO. Only at times when I forget his fear of knifes. I just see him running away and then I remember. – user34 Nov 8 '13 at 18:26
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    Smart Chicken... – James Jenkins Nov 8 '13 at 19:16
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    I disagree that this question is primarily opinion-based. I think it's definitely likely to have opinion-based or just outright silly responses, but that's a problem with the answers, not the question itself – toxotes Nov 8 '13 at 21:35
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The best way to encourage your bird to relax around you is to alter the situation in how you approach him. Changing your body language, making soft clucking sounds and approaching slowly.

Keep all your movements slow and predictable. If you can maintain a predictability around the bird, it will help alleviate anxiety the bird experiences when he's is approached by humans.

When livestock are handled by people, they can become nervous and edgy around handlers, unsure of when they may be grabbed. If possible do not try and grab your chicken, take him his food and sprinkle it to him quietly on the ground between you. Over time the bird will learn to relax.

If the bird seems obviously frightened of an implement, such as a knife then do not take such things with you, when you are around your bird.

The following citation is lengthy, but very explicit in managing fear in poultry.

Fear in poultry

Domestic poultry are exposed to human contact on a daily basis during routine farm husbandry, but often display fearful behaviour when in proximity to humans. The initial fear experienced by these birds may be due to a lack of familiarity with humans, but this may develop into a specific fear of humans over time when exposed to unpredictable, sudden or aversive human contact. This fear response is a powerful emotional state that may influence the welfare and productivity of the birds.

Reducing fear

People handling stock should be taught to handle them without causing fear Source: Australian Egg Corporation Limited

Several methods for reducing fear in poultry have been proposed, such as enriching the birds’ environment, allowing them to become used to humans and genetic selection toward less fearful strains of birds. Theoretically, environmental enrichment introduces animals to novelty and allows them to learn that novelty is not harmful. When these animals are later introduced to potentially frightening stimuli, they are able to adapt better than animals in a less enriched environment.

Frequent contact with humans that is not aversive in nature will also help to reduce the fear of humans experienced by the birds. This contact does not need to be physical; visual contact of a slow and predictable nature has been found to be effective, and can be implemented by farm staff at no cost. However, a current limitation is that our understanding of the human behaviours that affect birds’ fear responses is poor.

Interestingly, when studying human slaughter practices in Australia, much of the stress involved is created from the handling of animals, as opposed directly to the slaughter process. Unduly stressed animals release chemicals which affects meat quality.


References:

Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments - CSIRO Publishing PDF

Effects of stress and injury on meat and by-product quality
Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations

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