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When you get a new puppy, you know you will have to train it to follow directions — and not to “use the bathroom” on the carpet. But what about your chicks? Do you train them, too? Owning trained chickens could come in handy, such as when you are giving out treats or if you spot a predator and want to gather your hens inside for safety.
Training chickens is fun for you and your flock. Giving out treats and spending time with them is a great way to bond and build trust. Plus, you will feel the satisfaction of teaching them a new trick and they will get lots of yummy food. If you plan on free-ranging your flock but would like to round them up at night, teaching them to make their way into the coop on command could save you a ton of frustration.
How to Do it
The first step is to choose a treat that your chickens love. After all, they want to be rewarded for their good behavior just like any other animal. If your flock already has a favorite treat, feel free to use that, or pick something new to make the training sessions special. Make sure to use a treat that can be spread around so everyone gets a snack — and not just the pushy birds. Treats that typically work well are mealworms, bird seed or even dry cereal. Popular treats like watermelon will stop the birds in their tracks until they are finished eating, which is the opposite of what you want.
Next, you need to start a routine, if you don’t already have one. Chickens – just like people — tend to stick to a fairly regular pattern. If you think how you usually go about interacting with your chickens, you might see a similar chain of events every time. As you go through this routine every day, your chickens will begin to anticipate what they are supposed to do next.
Choose Your Chicken Call
After that, you need to choose a chicken call. This is what you will use to signal to your flock that they need to go inside. Make sure that you choose something that is obviously different from your regular voice. Some people like to use a bell or other noise maker. However, most people choose to simply whistle or make a noise with their voice.
Try It Out
Now you are ready to try it all out! Start by dropping a little bit of the treat where they are standing so they know you have something delicious. Then use your chicken call. This will help them to associate the treat with the call. Once they are done eating, walk over to the coop while dropping a little bit of the treat behind you. Make sure to keep using the chicken call so they understand what is happening. Repeat this every evening or whenever you need to gather them, and soon they will come running when you call them.
If you have more than one coop or would like to keep your flocks separated, you will need to adjust your training strategy a little. Make sure to choose a different call for each coop.
Keep in mind that chickens who are used to human interaction will train easier than others, so make sure to be present with your flock a lot before beginning the training. The more you interact with your birds, the more they will trust you and do what you ask them.
You can train chickens to do a whole array of different tricks as well as behavior corrections. If your chickens are constantly pecking at your garden and you don’t want or have the room for a fence, you can train them to stay away. Sit by your garden while your chickens are grazing, and scare them away when they near the garden. Some people like to use a hose or water bottle to squirt them. This can take a while — but is worth it in the end.