While backyard poultry farmers know the joys of raising chickens and gathering tasty eggs, most would probably be surprised to learn that the seemingly simple chicken could actually be smarter than their dog. Well, sort of. It’s easy and fun to train chickens and, in many cases, faster than training a dog. All you need is a hungry chicken and chicken feed, such as pellet or scratch, or special food treats.
How to Train a Chicken to Come When It’s Called
This page will focus on just one trick, but perhaps the most important one: how to make your chicken come when it’s called. Teaching your chickens this trick might help you keep them from straying too far!
Most tricks consist of many little steps, but because chickens peck quickly and love to eat, you can get lots of practice in a short period of time, which will lead to very fast learning. Best of all, you and your friends will soon learn to appreciate your chicken for her mind as well as her eggs.
Now, here’s how to make your chicken respond to its name:
- Use food that your chicken loves but gets only during these 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 that she’s hungry. (You’ll know this when she immediately eats what 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 1 second. Allow only one to two pecks, or she’ll get full too quickly. Do this twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon, in three 5-minute sessions with 5-minute breaks in between.
- After several 5-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 toward you and the food whenever she hears her name. 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 this, try adding distractions, such as practicing in new locations or scattering her regular, boring food on the ground when she knows that 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 more tips on raising chickens for backyards, check out our Raising Chickens blog.