Wednesday, May 30, 2012
How to Train Your Chicken
Things I do when I'm bored.
So, you all know my background as a dog trainer, right? Well, if you didn't, I was a professional dog trainer for several years before I became a published author. My Australian Shepherd, Dodger, was my partner, and probably knows all the tricks in the book. These days, he's taking his retirement seriously.
So today I was feeding treats to my chickies, watching them jump up and snatch it from my fingers, and got to thinking, "I wonder if chickens are trainable?"
Then I thought, "I wonder if I can train a chicken?"
And so, here we are with The Great Chicken Experiment.
What I am going to attempt (and you may point and laugh if you want) is to teach one of my chickens to jump through a hoop. I don't know how long it will take, or if it is even possible, but I plan to document our progress or lack thereof, and eventually, if I do accomplish such a feat, I will film it and put it up for everyone to see.
So, let's meet the subject of this experiment.
After interacting with the flock and discerning personalities, I think this girl here has the most potential. She's not the friendliest of the five (that honor goes to the chicken who constantly wants to be on my shoulder), but she is the second most friendly and also one of the more active. She's the smallest of the flock, but she loves food and treats, which is essential to this experiment. (Also, the really friendly chicken seems to be the laziest of the group. When I put a treat on a stump, everyone but her leaped up to grab it. She'd rather I just hand her the food in person.)
Yes, those are dead mealworms. And the chickens LOVE them. Like, they go crazy for them. So yes, I will be holding a handful of dried worms while doing a training session. You didn't think the chickens would go for Pupperoni, did you? (Actually, they probably would)
The secret weapon.
I do all my training with clickers, which is just a small noisemaker that produces a sharp, distinct click when pressed. The basic idea is that when the animal hears the sound, they know they've done something right, and they will be rewarded for the action they were doing at the time of the click. I've trained hundreds of dogs, a parrot, and even a cat using the clicker. Now we'll see if it can successfully train a chicken, too.
It begins. Wish me luck. (And try not to laugh TOO hard.)