Since Black-capped Chickadees are wild birds, they generally choose to forage opportunistically – meaning, they will generally go for the most convenient and rewarding food available. Through experience, my husband and I found that the easiest time of year to tame chickadees is in the winter, when there is less natural food available.
Find a place where you would like to do your training – make sure there is adequate tree cover nearby; Chickadees will not spend long periods of time in open spaces, as this exposes them to an increased likelihood of predation by larger birds and animals. Chickadees will frequently return to an area where they can find decent food, so always train in the same area.
Be the best source of food in the area. Put out small piles of the nuts you will be feeding (such as plain almonds or peanuts) and let the chickadees discover them. Replenish the nuts after they have eaten them. During this time, stay away from the area. Do this for a couple days.
Once the chickadees visit your site regularly for food, you can begin to get them accustomed to your presence. Get into a comfortable position, whether it be sitting or standing, and prepare to be very still for a while. Stay at least five to ten feet away from the food sources, and give the chickadees time to approach again. At first they will be wary, and may sit high in a tree and emit high-pitched chirps. Eventually they will approach to retrieve nuts again.
After the chickadees are comfortable collecting nuts with you in the area, slowly move closer and closer to the nut piles. Stay completely still as they approach; sudden movements will scare them away. If the chickadees are uncomfortable, they may swoop back and forth a few times without getting close to the nuts; this is normal, they are just testing their limits.
Slowly move your hand closer to the area you have the nuts in, and place a few in your hand as well. Initially they will choose the nuts farthest from your hand. Gradually move all the nuts into your hand so that you are the sole source of treats. Keep your hand on the ground or directly on the area where the nuts have been placed before, and keep absolutely still.
Once the chickadees are taking food from your hand, you can start moving your hand off the ground. The chickadees will recognize the sight of nuts, and will retrieve them from basically anywhere: your hand…
or even your mouth!
* Be patient!
* Always keep nuts in your pocket – the chickadees will start to follow you around once they learn that you are the source of nuts. They may even swoop in and land on your head!