Did you know that chickens are highly intelligent animals that can do amazing tricks? I didn’t know how intelligent chickens were until I moved to my homestead and inherited a little mixed flock of chickens. Soon I began to wonder just what I could teach my chickens to do and how.
Is chicken training possible? Chicken training is possible once you learn its needs and plan a good chicken training process. Chickens can be trained to come when called, stay inside a coop, swim, walk on a leash, stay off a porch, or even talk. Chickens can do simple tricks to far more complex tasks when given positive reinforcement, such as a food reward.
To train a chicken, understand it first. From then on, decide an end goal of what chicken trick you want it to perform. Chicken training takes patience, consistency, and practice. After all, they’re already brilliant birds, considering how tiny their brains are in proportion to their body.
If you’re still new to training chicken, read below to find out how you can teach your chickens basic tricks. Let’s start!
I inherited a semi-blind chicken: a rooster named Cockeye Pete. Dearest Pete could see shadows, which made him jumpy. 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 a chicken to do tricks. Curious, I began researching and discovered that chickens could indeed be taught many different tricks and skills. Here’s what I found.
Chicken Training: What Can I Teach My Chicken?
You can train your chicken to do just about anything— sit, come when called, or even use a litter box. Chickens can also be taught to be tamed around people, to be picked up, to willingly go in the coop at night, or to stay in the yard. Chicken training isn’t easy, but it’s possible over time.
Free Range Chicken Training
Wondering how to train free-range chickens? I asked the same thing. My chickens always wander off when they get a chance. Luckily, I found the best chicken training tips for them to stay in the yard, get inside the coop at night, and more!
How to Train Chicken to Stay in One Area
Generally, free-range chickens can’t be taught how to stay in the yard or in one area. But if you have problems with chickens wandering off, just like me, I suggest building a fence. Add mesh or wire fencing around your yard to keep chickens from having adventures. You can also buy a chicken tractor (which is a movable coop).
Having a fence isn’t just helpful for chickens to not get lost, but to protect them against predators.
Teaching Chicken Not to Fight
The easiest thing to do when chickens fight is to separate them instantly. You can start training chicken not to fight one another by keeping them entertained, giving them enough food, and not overcrowding a flock. Chickens don’t like strong smells, so you can apply herbs like rosemary near or around them to prevent a possible chicken fight.
How to Train Chicken to Come When Called
Chickens will come when called once you give treats in their coop, but at the same time, call them out. Repeat these steps every day, so the chickens will easily identify your command. Be patient when doing this chicken training because it might take a while for them to catch up. Remember, they’re not dogs!
Teaching Chicken to Be Picked Up
Picking up your chicken isn’t as simple as just grabbing them and holding them. You can do this by feeding your chicken near you, ensuring the chicken is happy to be near you. Petting your chicken when they walk past you is the next step. I like to gently rub them on their backs, making no move to grab a chicken.
Doing things slowly, I may progress to gently rubbing the sides of the chicken, familiarizing them with the sensation of being contained for a moment or two. If they accept this without running, I proceed to pick up the chicken (they will probably still scream bloody murder).
While holding the chicken, it’s important to keep them safe and comfortable. Gently fold their wings back if they flap, offer food, and don’t put the chicken down until they are calm.
Now repeat this every feeding time, offering food as incentive. You could keep special snacks such as grated cucumber or popped corn for the chicken you pick up. Only give them the treat when they allow you to pick them up, using their regular feed as incentive to get them close.
Try not to chase after the chicken as this will activate their fight-flight-freeze response.
Tips: The best way to get a chicken tame enough to pick up is to handle the chicks from a young age. You can also choose a hen that’s in a flock with a rooster, as she’ll be more used to crouching down when approached if the rooster covers her regularly.
New Chickens Won’t Go In Coop—What To Do?
To get your new chickens to stay inside the coop, confine them in the coop for at least a week. Through this, they’ll understand the coop is their new “home.” Don’t let them escape the coop. After that period, set the chickens free, and they’ll eventually go into the coop at night. Chicken training is a difficult task, and it’s harder when they’re unfamiliar with their new place.
Teaching Chicken to Go in the Coop at Night
When I realized that the local wildlife was busy thinning my flock by catching chickens that were nested underbrush and in some old farm equipment, I knew I had to train them to go into the coop at night.
But how do you train chickens to go somewhere you want them to? You start with the basics: food.
I began to feed my chickens in a central place, calling to them each time I carried their feed out twice a day. The chickens soon began running up when they heard me call, associating my voice with the food. Great, step one done!
Next, I moved the central feeding spot to an area near the large coop I wanted them to sleep in at night. I again called and fed them for a few days near the coop. Some of the more curious chickens already noticed the coop was a nice place to hang out and moved in, but a few stragglers would eat and then run off. So, partial success here.
Finally, I began feeding the chickens in the coop, but I didn’t close the door for a few days yet, wanting them to associate the coop with nice experiences. Some more birds decided to call the coop home, enjoying the nesting boxes and hidey-holes I had created in there for them.
Eventually, I set the food down, then closed the door once all the chickens were inside and happily eating. There were a few clucks of protest, but the food was there, and it was an okay place to hang out, so they happily returned the next day after I had let them out.
Now the chickens anticipate (which is the ultimate sign of learning) and wait in the coop at sunset for their evening meal to be delivered.
How to Train Chicken to Go Inside Coop at Night:
- Feed chickens in one area (not the coop) at least twice a day
- Move the feeding spot near the coop
- Give chickens food in the same area for a few days
- Begin feeding the chickens inside an open coop for a few days
- Close the coop door once all chickens are happily eating inside
- Repeat the steps until chickens enjoy being inside the coop
Chickens Can Be Trained to Bond With Other Animals
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.
Training Chicken to Live Inside Home
Chickens can also be home pets, not just in the backyard or in a farm. Find out how to train them to be one!
Chickens Can Be Potty Trained
If you’re planning on taking your chicken into your home full-time, I have some—uhm—disappointing news: chickens poop. It’s something they do naturally while walking around, so it’s not as if they potty away from their nest as dogs do with their beds.
But chickens can learn to poop in the same spot (most of the time), especially if this is their perching spot. You can place a litter box under their perches inside a type of mobile coop in your home.
Next, close the chickens in their coop when you feed them and for at least 30 minutes after, which should encourage them to poop there. As they poop, make encouraging sounds, and offer them more food.
Repeat this until they naturally poop when you make the encouraging sound. Now it’s a simple matter of frequently taking your chicken to their pooping station so they can poop there and not on your sofa.
Fact: The frequency with which your chicken poops depends on its size. Larger chickens can hold their poop for longer than smaller chickens. They also poop within about 30 minutes of being fed, so if you want cuddle time, ensure they’ve had their poop in the pooping station before you let them out into the house.
Training Chicken to be Quiet
Chickens are usually noisy, so if you have them at home– training chicken to stay quiet is a must. To eliminate a chicken noise, spray them with water when they’re being loud. Soon, the chicken will learn not to make a noise, or else they’ll be sprayed with water.
What Tricks Can You Teach a Chicken?
There are many tricks chickens can learn to do, whether you want them to walk on a harness, talk, swim, or even hug you. Which of these tricks do you want to teach your chickens?
Chickens Can Walk In A Harness And Lead
You can teach 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.
Training Chicken to Sit on Your Shoulder
Chickens love to perch. They find it most interesting to sit on you, and the higher, the better. The best way I’ve found to teach this trick is to get the flock comfortable and then sit next to them while feeding them. I may scatter some food around my body, letting them clamber over me to get at tasty morsels.
The younger chickens (especially little roosters) will naturally flap up onto my arms and shoulders to gain higher ground over the other chickens. You often see them do this in their coop as they try to show up their flock mates.
If they don’t naturally climb up on me, I’ll use the “pick up” steps above, then progress to letting the chicken place their feet on my torso, finally letting them settle on my shoulder where I will feed them extra treats while they sit there.
It’s important not to move about while they are learning to sit on your shoulder. If your chicken gets scared because you start walking around, it won’t want to sit there again. As they get braver, you’ll be able to walk around with them comfortably perched on your shoulder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Training FAQs
Is It Necessary To Use A Clicker To Train Your Chicken?
Chickens might need a clicker to easily identify tasks. Chickens also respond to a clicker, and the sound can be quite natural. However, you can also use your voice and clucking sounds to motivate them and get their attention.
Whether or not to use a clicker depends on your personal preference. Normally, clicker-trained chickens can complete obstacles, distinguish colors and shapes, or even play easy instruments.
Can I Potty Train My Chicken?
Believe it or not, chickens can be potty trained. It’ll take a lot of patience, repetition, and reward, but you can train your chicken to potty in a standard cat litter tray. It’s essential to place the tray in the same spot in your house or yard, then ensure your chicken has a nice perch to sit on when they potty.
As soon as your chicken poops in the litter tray, reward them with a treat, repeat, and reward each time they use the litter box. You can also train your chicken to associate a sound or word with the act of using the litter box.
Chickens are pretty smart, and they can learn to do complex things like perch on your shoulder, poop in one spot, and come when called. Using a simple cue-action-reward system, you can teach your chickens pretty much anything that’s within their physical ability range.
All you need is patience and repetition in chicken training.
When things get difficult or confusing for the chicken, remember to break each trick into the simplest parts so they can better understand and see the reward in doing what you ask. Remember, you are the leader of the flock.
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