When I moved to a homestead of my own, I inherited a semi-blind chicken: a rooster named Cockeye Pete. My chicken could see some shadows, which made him jumpy, but other than that, he was quite blind and utterly helpless, and the other chickens didn’t want much to do with him.
I took pity on Pete and started calling him when I fed the chickens. Within a day or two, he learned to recognize the sound of my voice. By the end of the first week, he had learned to come up to my feet, and when I bent over, he would climb onto my extended hand so I could carry him away from the other chickens (since they bullied him) and feed him on his own.
Seeing how Pete learned, I wondered if I could train Pete to do chicken tricks. Curious, I began researching and discovered that chickens could indeed be taught many different tricks and skills. Here’s what I found.
Can chickens do tricks? Chickens can be trained to do simple tricks to far more complex tasks when given positive reinforcement, such as a food reward. They can learn to come when called, lay in a nesting box, swim, walk on a leash, stay off a porch, and even talk. But training a chicken takes patience, consistency, and practice. After all, they’re brilliant birds, even considering how tiny their brains are in proportion to their body.
If you’re still new to chicken farming, it’s great to learn how chickens can be taught a lot of things if you put your mind to it. So, are you ready to begin? Let’s start!
11 Chicken Tricks You Can Teach Your Chickens
There are many tricks chickens can learn to do, whether you want them to walk, talk, swim, or even hug you. Although there are various factors to consider before teaching your chickens some tricks, you can do it with the right amount of time and patience. Which of these chicken tricks do you want to teach your flock?
1. Chickens Can Walk In A Harness And Lead
You can train your chickens to walk in a harness and lead, but you must ensure that it’s first comfortable with you. Walking a chicken on a harness is a particularly helpful trick. It helps to take your chicken to new places without bundling and wrapping them as you would a “wild” chicken.
To train them, you need to get your chicken comfortable with you. You can sit next to them, hold them, and apply gentle pressure to their body. Next, choose an appropriately-sized chicken harness. The worst thing you can do is choose an ill-fitting harness.
Moreover, make sure to fit the harness as gently as you can without the lead. Give your chicken some time to adjust. Keep an eye on them, and don’t let them hook on anything that may hurt them. Once your chicken is happier with the harness on, call them, offer special feed, and pet them.
You can remove the harness, feed it again, and repeat it for a few days. Take note that your chicken needs to be happy to see the harness (and the food) before you even think of attaching the lead.
When you ask them to walk forward by gently tugging the lead, you need to reward them with food as soon as they take even one step. The whole process takes time, so don’t rush. If your chicken panics, go back a few steps in training and try again. Soon, your chicken will naturally follow next to you on their harness.
Can Chickens Wear Dog Harness?
Chickens can wear a dog harness, but it won’t fit them comfortably. Instead, it’s better to use a chicken harness to walk your chicken. Chicken harnesses are shaped for chickens and will be more ergonomically correct for long-term wear and use. If you use a dog harness, try it on your chicken before purchasing so you can get the best fit possible.
Check out my favorite chicken harness on Amazon. It fits nicely and is adjustable for different sizes of chickens.
2. Chickens Can Swim With Their Owners
Chickens don’t naturally swim, but there are times when owners can get them to swim with them. In fact, the idea of having them swim is rare enough since a wet chicken is usually a dead chicken—especially when they can’t get out of the water on their own. But, it’s a pretty cool chicken trick to show off the intelligence of your favorite rooster or hen. Wet chickens usually die due to cold temperatures. Ironically though, many uploaded YouTube videos show chickens who love swimming with their owners.
All it takes is a trusting chicken, the right weather, and a very calm attitude. To prevent your chickens from panicking, keep them near your body in the water so they know they’re safe with you. Praise and pet them regularly, and if they become panicked, hold them for a moment until they’re calm before you help them out of the water.
3. Chickens Can Talk to People By Imitating Sounds
Chickens can talk to people by imitating the sounds they usually hear in their surroundings. Unlike parrots, though, chickens can’t speak like humans because of the shape of their beaks. They can only imitate vowel sounds like ‘A’, ‘E’, ‘I’, ‘O’, ‘U’, but it may require a lot of patience and time before they can get to produce these sounds.
You can make your chicken learn how to talk by talking to them in the first place. Chicken owners can also play music and produce other sounds, like clapping or whistling.
4. Chickens Can Recognize Up to 100 Faces
Surprisingly, chickens can recognize up to 100 faces of different people. Chickens are far more intelligent than imagined because their memories are so on-point that they can identify whether you’ve been a good person to them or not. Most likely, they will get closer to people who treat them well than others who don’t.
If you want your chicken to recognize your face, allow him to get near you. Owners can pick them up and spend time with them one-on-one, so chickens can see their faces and recognize their voices.
5. Chickens Can Learn Simple Math Using Smaller Numbers
Chickens are absolutely intelligent and can do simple math if you train them enough. Of course, they can’t solve the big arithmetic problems, but researchers in Italy at the universities of Padova and Trento found out that chicks can actually add and subtract using numbers smaller than five.
In the study, they reportedly used plastic containers from Kinder eggs for the mini math tests. Screens are also put in to monitor the movements of the chicks.
6. Chickens Can Learn Their Names or Other Chickens’ Names
Impressively, chickens can learn their names or other chickens’ names, especially if the owner calls them every day. Usually, chickens react to their names by tilting their heads whenever they look at you, or they respond by making sounds. This is also the reason why some chickens don’t go to a person, especially if they don’t hear their names being called out.
To teach a chicken its name provide names to each individual chicken. Once done, always call your chickens by their names to improve their memory and response. In this way, they will also identify the names of other chickens that you might be training as well.
7. Chickens Can Willingly Walk Inside Your House
Chickens can be surprisingly brave and love exploring, even inside their owner’s home. Once your chicken is tame and comes when you call, you can start taking them on adventures, such as inside your property. However, ensure they’re safe and will have a peaceful time with you. If you need to, train your chickens to walk on a harness before introducing them to your home.
I remember my vet friend always laughs about her rooster and his hens, which seem to enjoy waltzing into her home. When a new hen arrives, the rooster will lead the hen into the house, show her around, and then back out again.
8. Chickens Can Watch TV And Find it Interesting
Most animals, including chickens, enjoy watching TV. While they may not necessarily understand what they see, they find the moving images and sounds interesting. When your chicken is happy in your house, you can chill with them on the sofa and watch some Netflix or National Geographic on your tablet or phone.
Keep the device close enough for the chicken to focus on. While they do have good eyesight, they can’t always focus on something more than arm’s length away.
9. Chickens Can Play Games Like Hide-And-Seek
One of my favorite games with Pete, my semi-blind chicken, is hide-and-seek. I’ll call him from behind one of the shrubs in the chicken run, then wait till he comes running. He’ll poke around, looking for me, and I’ll hide until he finds me. His reward is a tasty morsel and a good petting session.
Other fun things to teach your chickens to do is to jump, peck at shapes, and even roll treat balls around. The more creative you get, the more your chickens will love spending time with you.
10. Chickens Can Bond With Other Animals
While chickens aren’t exactly at the top of the food chain, and many predators would happily gobble up a juicy meal, chickens can be trained to accept other animals. Predators, like dogs, can become familiar with your chicken and even become great friends.
However, when socializing your chicken with other animals, the first step is to start with other livestock animals like cows, horses, sheep, and goats.
One of the hens on my property has made friends with my gelding, and she insists on laying her eggs in his hay rack. Every morning, she waits next to him when it’s time to turn the horses out, ready to stretch her legs. Come evening, she’s right back in there with him, and he’s chomping hay all around her without disturbing her precious eggs.
11. Chickens Can Hug Their Owners By Pressing Their Bodies
Chickens love to snuggle up at night, and hugging a warm human body isn’t much of a stretch. Oddly enough, chickens often pick (or is it peck?) their favorite person, who they’ll run to and lavish with hugs.
If your chicken loves pressing their bodies against yours, it’ll quickly learn to hug on command. Simply wait till the next hug happens, then say the word “hug” and reward by petting your chicken in its favorite way.
Chicken Tricks FAQs
Can Chickens Learn Tricks?
All animals can learn tricks, even a chicken. I can safely make this statement because an animal that doesn’t learn will not survive long in nature. Yet some can learn faster and do more complex things than others, indicating a higher level of intelligence.
When your chickens figure out how to open the feed bin that’s supposedly chicken-proof, you’ll quickly believe they’re little feathered Einsteins. But what can chickens learn to do?
What Cool Things Can Chickens Do?
Chickens can do cool things such as walking in a harness, swimming with their owners, talking in specific sounds, or even hugging their owners. To train a chicken to do these, you must make sure they’re comfortable with you, and have all the patience you can before training. Give treats and any reward for all the chickens’ successful tricks.
While Pete and I won’t be winning any awards for the Guinness Book of Records, we certainly enjoy each other’s company and the cute little tricks he’s learning. Pete has also learned to use a litter box, and next up, we’re working on teaching Pete to ride on the horses.
Being able to train Pete has given him a sense of purpose after being left out by other chickens. If you have a single chicken as a pet, training them is valuable and helps them feel they belong in your little flock.
Train your chicken with respect for their abilities, keep them safe and cared for, and you’ll have a friend for life. Happy training-doodle-doo! For more on helping a chicken that’s got a disability like Pete, read our guide on limping chickens.
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