Who said cats and dogs are the only pets you can teach new tricks?

Sure! The joy of raising chickens lies in their ability to produce tasty eggs and meat and provide companionship.

But you can make your flock more interesting, fun, and functional by teaching them several tricks. And don’t be surprised if your birds learn faster or appear smarter than your furry four-legged friends.

And the best part?

The experience of training your birds can be entertaining and rewarding, and you get to forge a stronger bond between you and your feathered mates. Plus, who doesn’t want to watch chickens perform different tricks?

Today, we will dive into the world of training chickens. From teaching them to come when called to wearing a harness, this guide covers everything you need to make your chicken fun and functional.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive in!

Are Chickens Easy to Train?

Have you ever been called a bird brain?

Well, the phrase “bird brain” implies someone is foolish or dumb.

But interestingly, chickens are neither of those. Studies show these birds can be smarter than cats and dogs.

Speaking of smartness, recent research implies chickens have impressive cognitive capabilities. Your hens and roosters can recall and learn from experiences.

If that’s not impressive, wait until you hear they can empathize with others, master math, and display self-control.

Some toddlers cannot accomplish some of these feats until the age of four. So, it’s wrong to think these birds are stupid.

Scientists say baby chicks display intelligent behaviors a few hours after hatching. Further studies show hens can navigate using the sun, and roosters can be super manipulative.

But does this imply chickens are trainable?

Absolutely yes! Considering their intelligence levels, your backyard flock can learn a selection of tricks and respond to several cues and behaviors, making it easier to manage them.

But before you can train your chickens, first understand their behavior.

Understanding Natural Behaviors of Chickens

Understanding Natural Behaviors of Chickens
Image Credit: hadafarm

For the best training result, consider understanding your flock’s natural traits. A better grasp of their instincts and tendencies allows you to develop a training plan that matches their natural behavior. It also enhances the training process.

1. Social Learning

Typically, chickens are social animals. These birds create strong social bonds and establish a pecking order within the flock.  Also, chickens learn by observing fellow flock members and even humans, something they develop when they are still chicks.

By learning from others, they can know how to perch, what to eat, where to find food, and where the chicken coop is located. This means chickens respond better to training when they feel a sense of belonging and cooperation.

If you enhance the bond between you and your chickens, you can develop a training program they can enjoy.

2. Communication

What about communication?

Your flock communicates through vocalization, visual cues, and body language. Visual or subtle cues come in handy when chickens want to communicate with flock members within an immediate distance.

As for vocalizations, chickens can crow, squawk or cluck to communicate with a group of chickens further away or from other flocks.

Body languages involve spreading feathers wide, raising the tail, or tilting the head at an angle. These signals communicate health, personal space, and even group organizations.

Understanding the various communication methods chickens use provides you with insights into their comfort level during training. This way, you can adjust your training technique accordingly.

3. Instinctual Behaviors

Besides communication, you need to understand their instinctive behaviors because they can impact the training program.

Behaviors like scratching the ground and dust bathing help chickens meet their foraging and grooming instincts.

If you incorporate these behaviors in your training program as rewards, you can increase your bird engagement and motivation.

4. Motivation and Food Drive

It’s no secret chickens are driven by their natural desire for food. Since they have a strong food drive, you can create positive reinforcement through snacks or treats during training.

When you associate desired behaviors with a reward, like a treat, you can tap into your bird’s inherent motivation. As a result, you can encourage the good behavior you want from this intelligent bird.

On account of this, let’s look at various training techniques for your chickens.

Basic Chicken Training

Basic Chicken Training
Image Credit: fluffyheadsandfeets

1. Training Chickens to Come When Called

When your chicks grow into young pullets, you can introduce them to recall training. This involves teaching the bird when to come when called using a distinct signal and adequate treats.

Below are steps to train your chickens to return home or their coop on your command:

  • Identify a unique phrase or sound you can associate with a reward or their favorite chicken feed.
  • Place the food in your hand and hold it at your chicken’s eye level and wait for her to eat it.
  • As she’s eating from your hand, repeat the phrase or make the sound consistently.
  • You can also hide the food behind or hold it high and signal your chickens. When you catch your bird’s attention, allow her to peck the food, but not all of it because she’ll get satisfied quickly.
  • Repeat these steps for several sessions to reinforce the link between the signal and coming to you.
  • After that, remove the food and try to call your birds. You will see them rushing home every time you make the signal because they are creatures of habit.

2. Teaching Chickens To lay Eggs in A Nest

Chicken keeping can prove difficult if your birds constantly lay eggs in long grass or around sheltered corners. Luckily, there’s a way you can teach your chickens to lay in their fancy nest.

Begin by moving the nest to a safe location, away from predators or hazards. Remember, chickens require a safe environment for laying. After that, place a ceramic or wooden egg in the nest. Some people use a golf ball instead to give chickens the idea that the spot is comfortable and safe.

Next, block the wrong nesting spots to convince your hens to return to their clean, soft, and comfortable nesting boxes.

Additionally, don’t forget to collect the eggs regularly (leaving the fake eggs behind). A full nest is appealing to laying pullets (older chicks) or older hens.

The days of training depend on how quickly your hens adapt to their designated nesting boxes.

3. Target Training Chickens

The target training technique involves teaching free-ranging chickens to move or touch an object, like a target trainer (a stick with a ball at the end).

This training method teaches your birds to go anywhere, whether it’s their coop or any location in your backyard. Moreover, the technique creates a base for advanced skills, like running an agility course.

Whenever the birds show interest in the target trainer, you can reward them with their regular food or favorite treats.

Consistency is the key to this training. Therefore, increase your reward criteria when the chickens move toward the target with their beaks or feet.

Continue reinforcing the chickens each time they touch the stick and ball with their beaks or feet. After that, move the trainer further and reward your chickens with bird seeds for following it.

Advanced Chicken Training

Once your flock masters basic training, it’s time to take things a notch higher. Advanced training involves challenging activities that test the agility and intelligence of your birds.

However, prepare yourself for some setbacks and challenges with these training techniques. Also, remember all chickens have varying learning paces. For this reason, adapt your training method to individual birds and their abilities.

1. Obstacle Training

Like dogs, you can train your chicken to complete an obstacle course. As long as their enough space in your backyard, you can install a tunnel and teach your chicken to go through it.

Besides tunnels, you can train your bird to go over a teeter-totter or climb stairs using bird seeds as the reward. Some poultry owners also teach their fowl to jump through a hoop.

Once you chicken masters one trick, you can combine the tricks into an obstacle course, placing food at various intervals for encouragement.

2. Teaching Chickens to Play Musical Instruments

Did you know a chicken can play the piano?

Apart from the piano, chickens learn to play other musical instruments like xylophone or keyboard. Simply find musically inclined hens or cocks, those with pecking tendencies.

Next, train the birds to play a tune by placing snacks on certain keys you want them to peck. As you start, keep it simple, and progress gradually.

With every chicken training, you must exercise patience because your birds might not remember every key. Over time, they will memorize the key and play the song without treats.

3. Training Chickens to Wear Harness

Positive reinforcement is the key to training chickens to wear a harness or leash. To achieve this, get your birds to associate the leash with their favorite treats.

You also need to identify a docile or friendly bird that will have no problem going for a walk with you or sitting in your bike basket.

Bottom  Line

In conclusion, training your chickens can be an exciting and rewarding experience. The various activities allow you to bond with these intelligent and charming birds.

But before training, familiarize yourself with your flock’s behavior. This way, you can create a training program that unlocks their full potential and abilities.

Furthermore, create a training environment that matches your birds’ instincts and use positive reinforcement for motivation.

These basic and advanced training techniques will make your chickens smart and easy to manage. So, gather your birds, and begin this fascinating chicken training journey.

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