Backyard poultry farmers know the joys of raising chickens and gathering eggs, but do they know training chickens can be faster than training dogs? We looked back at the article “How to Teach Old Chickens New Tricks” in The 2006 Old Farmer’s Almanac for tips on how to train your chickens.
How to Train Chickens: Training Chickens to Come When Called
This page will focus on just one trick, but perhaps the most important one: how to make your chicken come when called. Our blogger Celeste will tell you that chickens love to roam around outside, so teaching your chickens this trick might help you to keep them from straying too far.
For more tricks, refer to The 2006 Old Farmer’s Almanac. And in case you’d rather hypnotize your chicken than train it, find out how here!
Now, here’s how to make your chicken come when called:
- Use food that your chicken loves but only gets during training sessions (tiny pieces of hot dog work well).
- Hold the food in your hand or place it in a small measuring cup that you can deliver quickly.
- Start by placing the food right next to your chicken and giving her a few treats to make sure she’s hungry (You’ll know this when she immediately eats the food you put in front of her).
- Now hide the food by holding it up high or behind your back. Say your chicken’s name and immediately deliver the food so that she gets it within one second. Allow only one or two pecks, or she’ll get full too quickly. Do this twice a day; in the morning and in the afternoon, in three five-minute sessions with five-minute breaks in between.
- After several five-minute sessions, switch to saying your chicken’s name when she’s looking down or away from you, before swiftly delivering the food so that it appears in front of her, out of the blue.
- After a day or two, she’ll start to associate the sound of her name with the delivery of food. You’ll know this because she’ll automatically look towards you and the food whenever she hears her name.
Your dog might soon be jealous that you and your chicken have formed a close training bond!
- Next, increase the distance by standing several feet away, calling her name, and immediately presenting the food. Your chicken should run right over.
- Once she masters that, try adding distractions, such as practicing in new locations or scattering her regular, boring food on the ground when she knows you have treats. If you call her and she ignores you, she’s not hungry or the distraction is too intense; don’t keep calling her, or she’ll learn to ignore you. Instead, decrease the intensity of the distraction or try her later in the day when she’s hungry.
- Pretty soon, your chicken will come when called better than most dogs.
- For some even simpler directions for kids, try this article.
For more tips on raising chickens for backyards, check out our Raising Chickens blog.