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How To Train Chickens

With their ridiculous walk and all that squawking, it’s hard to picture your chickens navigating an obstacle course or riding on your handlebars. Yet there’s more happening behind those little beady eyes than you might think. Much more.


For starters, chickens are self aware. They recognize their own reflection, and perceive that others have thoughts and intentions, and that their behavior can affect actions in others. Their language is complex and distinct, much like the speech of primates, dolphins and whales. Research has also shown that chickens…

 -display self control and restraint.

 -make sophisticated forage and security decisions.

 -anticipate events and plan ahead. 

 -worry, show empathy, deceive and plot revenge.

 -perceive that objects hidden from view are still there.

 -recognize abstract ideas, concepts of physics, mathematics and gravity.

 -understand that actions that have future consequences.

 -learn by observing, and pass down cultural knowledge  - like social customs, foraging strategies, safety      habits, and dust bathing techniques - across and down generations.

 -observe and analyze your behavior, learning patterns and language.

Okay, so there might be something happening in that little bird brain after all. But how do you train one to play tic tac toe in Las Vegas? 


With food.


Connecting over food is an important social custom for chickens ( and humans) and when you  share food with them, you earn high standing with your flock and create a “draw”. Sharing treats  trains your birds to want to be with you, and even seek you out. This builds trust and reduces stress, and makes your hens easier to corral, catch, and train.


In many ways training chickens is like training dogs, yet unlike dogs, chickens can learn after only one session. Chickens think and act as individuals, and training them with treats isn’t the same as Pavlov style physical conditioning. They don’t have the same instinct to “obey the alpha” that a dog does. With chickens, training is a process of mental engagement and communication.


Start by calling to your flock in a pleasant tone of voice, using the same call every time so that they learn that you are talking specifically to them, and come to recognize the call. Once they grasp that you’re talking specifically to them, their interaction with you will quickly increase. Use treats like mealworms to build excitement and anticipation before training sessions. Try sprinkling a few treats on the ground, then shake the bag and encourage them to follow you. Remember not to make an sudden movements during training, and generously share those treats and praise when they successfully perform a task. Soon your birds will come running when called, and over time they’ll be relaxed enough in your personal space to hop up on your lap, or perch on your arm. Before you know it they’ll be day trading and playing chess. 

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    How To Train

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