Most people don’t realize how smart chickens are. I’ve enjoyed training my chickens to do fun tricks and show off their talents.
Like most animals, chickens respond to a food reward when being trained. They can also work off a clicker, just like a dog. Just think of when you call out as you approach with their food, and your chickens come running to you—they have begun to associate the sound of your voice with food. Here are the basic steps of training your chicken to do anything:
1. Decide On Your Training Chicken End Goal
Knowing what you want to teach is essential. Do you want to train a chicken to walk next to you, to carry a doll on its back, or to jump onto your hand? Whatever you want to teach them, it starts with your vision for them.
When it seems your chicken isn’t learning, slow down. Chickens are clever, but they are slow learners too. Don’t rush, as you’ll just frustrate your chicken (and yourself).
2. Break Down And Question if the Chicken Trick is Possible
The next step is to break the trick down to the most simple movements or components. If you want to have your chicken jump into your hand, teach them first to accept your touch, then to enjoy your hand petting their chest. Finally, train them to allow you to cradle their belly. Do this by touching their legs, placing your hand below their body, and they would hop onto your hand.
So even a simple trick like letting you pick them up requires several pre-trick steps. Chickens are smart, but they learn best a step at a time.
Next, question whether your chicken is physically able to perform the trick you want them to do. Although I adore the video of the chicken carrying the sleeping puppy on their back, this trick depends on the chicken’s size, physical strength, and the weight of the puppy.
There’s no point in asking for the impossible. My little Bantam chicken isn’t going to be able to carry a Labrador puppy on his back, no matter how much I train him. Always do what’s fair to your chicken.
3. Know Your Chicken’s Wants And Needs Like Rewards or Toys
No two chickens are the same, so you must know their wants and needs to easily train a chicken. Some love the sound of your voice, while others will enjoy it when you gently stroke their comb. When you know your chicken, you’ll identify what will work as a great reward for them.
Chickens naturally do certain things, like following food or grooming each other. Even stretching up is normal for them, and young chicks will often play “who’s the tallest.” If you capitalize on the things they naturally do, you can teach your chicken to jump on command, follow you, turn in circles, and more.
It’s basic psychology for learning new things—we move from the known to the unknown, and chickens do the same.
4. Plan Stages of Chicken Training And Start on Simplest Step
When you’re ready, and if your chicken is already comfortable with your touch, you can start breaking the trick down. Start with the simplest step. Then reward, praise, and repeat. You can move to the next step when this stage is easy for your chicken.
Once you learned how to tie your shoes, your parents didn’t insist you do it a million times more, right? So when your chicken has done something right, don’t repeat it until they’re bored stiff. Rather end on a good note and move on to something new and interesting.
When your chicken loses focus, it’s time to move on.
5. When Things Go Wrong, Back Up From Your Chicken
It’s not always smooth sailing when you trick-train any animal, and it’s as big as a challenge with a chicken. Perhaps you ask them to walk on the harness, and instead, your chicken attacks you or runs off. Now what?
All you can do is back up and reaffirm some of the previous steps in your trick. Perhaps the chicken was still scared of seeing the lead of the harness hanging above them, or you may have taken way too big a step forward. Find what they’re struggling with, train it, reward good behavior, and then progress to the next step until your chicken finally learns it.
While training, practice some healthy common sense too. You may love your chicken and probably believe they’d never harm you, but they are still wild animals. If you train and push your chicken too hard, they can become frustrated and feel the need to defend themselves. Don’t be surprised if they lash out, peck, or jump up and kick at you.
Keep your eyes and soft spots well out of reach to ensure if your chicken gets upset, it can’t harm you.
Chicken Training FAQs
Chicken training is definitely worth the effort. Despite what people may think, chickens are warm and affectionate animals with surprising intelligence. When you start teaching your chicken, you may feel frustrated, but don’t give up.
Can Chickens Learn?
All animals can learn, 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.
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.
Can You Clicker Train A Chicken?
A chicken clicker is a great tool to have when training your chickens. The sound it produces can be quite natural for chickens. However, you can also use your voice and clucking sounds to motivate them and get their attention. Whether or not to use a chicken clicker depends on your personal preference.
Training my chickens have been fun. I’ve been able to delight my neighbors and friends with the tricks they can do. As you spend time training your chickens, you’ll bond stronger and gain greater joy out of your flock.
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