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.)

The motivation.

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.) 


  1. I will try not to laugh so hard but I can't promise anything. LOL. just kidding.

    Good luck, Julie! As weird as this seems to be for me, you have my full support. Ha! Ha! ^_^

    Janus @ The Blair Book Project

  2. I bet you can! My 7 year old has already gotten one of our chicks to run over and hop up into her hand when she puts it down for her! I said "how'd you do that?!" She said, "She likes me!" and then I thought..."Wow kid! I know some high school kids I've got to let you train!" :D

  3. I seriously think that this is possible! When I was in 4H I trained my goose....yes a jump from hoop to hoop using mealworms! You can do it! I have faith in you! Good Luck!

  4. OMG, I can't even wait to see what happens! LOL
    This is going to be great! Good luck!

  5. @Bookworm320 here, I believe you and chicken can do it and I love your post title. ;)

  6. This may be my new favorite thing ever.

  7. That's hilarious. I think this is going to be one of my favorite posts ever.

  8. That is so cool and totally awesome. I can't wait to see if it works. I have total faith in you Julie! :)

  9. This screams of epicness. I can't wait to see how this works out. Best of luck, Julie. :)

  10. Wow, this actually seems like an interesting idea. Let us know how it all works out. As for the meal-worms, did you know that at the Australian Melbourne Zoo they feed monkeys those as well? Weird

  11. And my friend said I was weird when I informed her I was going to teach my pony to sit :) this is way cooler though and I wish you the best of luck! Happy chicken training and may the chickens be ever in your favor!

  12. Wow, Julie, trainIng pets, let alone chickens, takes a whole lot of talent and patience! I look forward to seeing you accomplish it! It will be another amazing thing about you that we can all add to the amazingness-of-Julie-Kagawa list! I'm cheering for you and your success!!!

  13. OMG... you're actually going to try to train your chicken :D