The subject of training chickens is often brought up. “How do I do it? What can I teach them to do? How long will this take? Can you teach an old chicken new tricks?” Those are some pretty common questions. Many people teach their dog some tricks, but chickens can also be taught tricks. While some chickens can do outstanding tricks, teaching simple ones can be enjoyable to watch and not very time consuming. Most importantly, keep calm and gentle with them when you’re around them. If you want them to feel safe around you, the last thing you want to do is make a gesture they feel is frightening.
This trick is probably among the more time consuming tricks to teach your chickens. You want them to go into their coop at night by themselves, but how can this be done? Let me state that the first requirement for this is patience. It will take quite a few nights until they start to get the hang of it.
Every night, you’ll have to go out with your chickens as the sun is setting and help show them what to do. I usually start by patting my leg and calling to the chickens while I stand by their coop door. If that doesn’t work, I start to herd them in. By herd, I mean I stand behind them and start to walk towards the coop as they move forward too. This process will take many nights and have a few stray chickens associated with it, but your chickens should start to put themselves in within a couple weeks.
Laying eggs in the nesting box
In the course of my chicken-keeping years, this has not given me much trouble. Teaching chickens to lay in the nesting box takes up more of the chickens’ time than it does yours. First, put either wooden/plastic eggs or golf balls in a nesting box. These can help trick a chicken that it is an egg in there, and therefore that is where eggs belong. With my new pullets about to lay, I put them in the nesting box with an egg from one of my laying hens already in it. The new pullet stares at that egg and looks at the nesting box a bit. When she lays, I’m happy to see the small egg in the nesting box.
This is a trick more for fun than making your chicken-keeping job easier. It’s very fun to watch a chicken jump for a treat.
Start off by holding a piece of their treat (bread, peas, meat, etc.) between your fingers about 2 feet in the air. Some chickens will be so determined to get that treat that they will attempt to jump and get it. They may not get it at first, but their aim will improve. Once they have gotten it at 2 feet, move it up a few more inches. You can keep moving treats in your hand up a couple inches until you get to what you determine to be their maximum jumping height (usually about your shoulder level). You can repeat this process during other treat givings to give the chickens the idea of what to do.
I first did this trick with a young pullet who was slow to get treats if I threw them, so I held a treat above her head and she jumped! I eventually moved the treat to about 4 1/2 feet up in the air, and she continues to get the treats without a problem to this day. Family are impressed to see my jumping chicken!
This is also a trick more for fun than utility. Some chickens will do this automatically because they like you. This trick has not had the greatest success rate for me. You can put the chicken on your lap when you sit down, and some may realize they like it and continue to hop up on your lap. You may also try to lure them up by means of treats. Don’t be discouraged if some don’t pick up this trick as some chickens are just not that social.
I don’t suggest placing a chicken on your arm to perch on it because the chicken may have trouble balancing and fall, possibly hurting them-self. The only way I allow this is by my one hen, who trained me to do it. Yes, trained me to do it. I walked into the coop one night and reached my arm out to gather eggs, and she hopped right up. She picked up the habit of hopping onto my arm every night as I gather eggs. If one of your hens picks up the same habit and decides to train you to do it, be careful. Don’t move your arm too much while she’s on you and watch her to make sure she has good aim for your arm.
Getting a chicken to recognize when you call their name does take time. This trick is best started when they are a young chick; you hold them in your hands or arms and pet them while saying their name. In order for the chicken to learn this trick, you’ll have to do it at least a couple times a week for most of their life. Once the chicken has learned this trick, you may notice that the chicken sticks their head up or maybe comes to you when you call their name.
This is one thing that has always stunned me. I walk up to nearly any member of my flock and they show no resistance to being held. They don’t run away or anything. I thought it was normal for chickens until I heard here on BYC of some people who have to chase most of their chickens in order to pick them up. Then I got to thinking- what have I done with my chickens to where they’re so comfortable around me? The one thing I could think of is I’ve held them a lot since the day we got them. The chicks were just so cute and interesting that I would pick them up for a few minutes and watch them for hours. The moment that I realized maybe picking them up often is the key was when I got 5 adult hens from another chicken owner. Having not raised these new chickens, they all ran away from me (some continue to do so). My chickens are very comfortable around me and I begin to wonder if I own them or they own me.
2 | Posted: September 6, 2010
By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS
I am a Psychology student who is currently enrolled in a subject that requires animal training. I saw your video on Youtube.com on training chickens. I was wondering how many days did it take you to teach the chicken those tricks? Did you use positive reinforcement? What are the chances of students like me to train a chicken on color discrimination within 20 days? I appreciate your kind consideration and time for reading this. Thank you.
Chickens can learn tricks surprisingly fast—often even faster than dogs. That’s because training of simple tasks just involves a few things—a hungry animal in a comfortable environment and a trainer with good timing. Which brings me to the first issue. If your chicken is already comfortable around you, then the training will be quick. Is she’s afraid of humans then you’ll have to spend time getting her to associate you with good things such as food. This works best if you control her food supply. For instance, if she gets most of her meal when she’s out scratching around and then you go to train her and she’s already full, your food will have little value to her. If, however, all of her food comes during training sessions, you’ll have her ready to learn tricks really fast.
Once you have her at the point where she’ll take a treat (I use scratch or crumble or other one-peck-sized food in a measuring cup with a clicker attached) immediately upon offering and will do this for 10-20 treats in a row, she’s ready to start her regular trick training sessions and the training will go fast.
Now, the trick becomes how well you’ve thought out your plan and how well you recognize what her body language is saying about her internal emotional state. For chickens, I often train the click treat association next. That is, I hold the food cup high and then click the toy clicker while remaining stationary. Then, within a split second, I deliver the food right in front of her face. Once she takes one peck of the treat, I move the food cup back to its starting point out of her reach. By doing so repeatedly, I can teach her that the click means a treat will magically appear in front of her face. By performing this pairing randomly but frequently to keep her interested in sticking near me, I can quickly train her that, when she hears the click, she can turn to me to get her treat. In my experience, the average chicken that’s comfortable in their environment and hungry takes two to three 5-10 minutes sessions a day for about 3 days.
That is, assuming that you do not make the error of having the food come too quickly and on a regular schedule. If they just hear “Click and see treat, click and see treat” with no break between click-treat pairings they may have no need to learn that a click means a treats coming. They just learn a treat’s coming pretty soon. If, however, they have a couple of seconds in between to think, “Hmmm, how do I get more treats?” and then they hear a click and see the treat, then the sound of the click is relevant. It’s also important to remain still when clicking instead of accidentally starting to deliver the treat too soon, or they will learn that the movement of your arm means treat’s coming and they won’t learn the sound.
So, how do you know when you’re ready to move on to training a trick? When your chicken immediately turns to you to get a treat when it’s facing the other direction and hears the click, then you know he understands that the click means treat.
Now, to train him to learn to peck a specific object out of a handful of objects or a specific shade of color, you first have to train him to peck the desired thing. We’ll use shapes to start. If you have a triangle, circle, and square cut out of paper and you want him to only peck the square, first, try holding the square with a tiny bit of food taped on. You’ll need to shape the behavior of pecking the object with no food on the table. You might start with click/treating looking at the object, then pecking the hand-held object, then holding the object lower, then holding the object on the table, then pecking the object on the table with your hand far away, then moving the objects around the table. Or you might start with placing a treat on the object and gradually making the treat smaller and smaller until you no longer need a treat. In any case, because chickens love to eat and can peck really fast, you can get a lot of repetitions in just 2-3 minutes. Practice in 2-3 minutes sessions with short breaks in between and with impeccable timing and you can train discrimination in just a day!
Learning about how to train chickens is necessary, especially if you are a backyard chicken keeper. Chickens are good learners and they can be trained easily.
Chickens are very intelligent birds and they are capable of learning a variety of tricks. So training your chickens properly can help you managing the flock easily.
You can easily train your chickens by making a call your birds will recognize and also with adequate treats.
You can train your chicks to come when called, perch on your hand and even run an agility course.
Table of Contents
How to Train Chickens
Chickens have keen eyesight and they are extremely motivated by their desire to eat. Training actually works better with smaller-sized flocks (fewer than ten chickens).
And the more chickens in a flock, the harder it is to manage them. However, training the chicken is something every backyard chicken keeper can and should do.
Training actually enriches lives both of the birds and the keeper. And it also allows the birds to be healthier mentally and physically.
Training will also aid in the care of chickens and improve your relationship. Here we are describing more about how to train chickens.
Training is actually the communication between you and your chickens. You should have an expression that signals to the bird that they did something correct and you can give them a treat. This is essential, especially if you want that behavior to be presented again.
Come up with a sound that your chickens will recognize during the training session (these sounds are called bridges).
And any sound can be a bridge as long as you can make it consistently so your chickens don’t get confused.
You should use the bridge right after your chickens do something right and before you give them a treat. Soon they will start to associate the bridge with getting a reward.
Motivation is actually the driving force for the chickens to perform any specific behavior.
You must have to motivate or convince your chickens if you are going to train your birds to step up on your hand voluntarily or even run an agility course.
You should use good and special treats for training your chickens. The chickens which are given as much food as they want, still work for food during training sessions because the treats are of high value to them.
You may be used to fed your chickens with laying ration or other foods, but they should receive a range of other foods (such as fruits, grains and vegetables) during the training sessions.
You can also motivate your birds by changing the time of day you train your birds.
Your chickens will be inspired to work for their breakfast if you train them early in the morning (before they receive their bowl of scratch or forage in the yard all day).
Like many other domestic birds, the chickens generally love food. So treats are good for reinforcing the behavior you are trying to teach them.
You should always give your chickens a treat during training after they do something right.
And use treats that are different than their regular food. Fruits, bird seed, vegetable and obviously the dried mealworms are the best treats for chickens.
Always make your bridge noise while giving your chickens a treat.
Hide the treats while making the bridge noise after a few days of training and watch the reactions of your chickens after you bridge.
The training is working if the birds perk up and approach you like they are waiting for food. And you should give them the treats after they have come to attention and approached you.
But if your chickens are not associating your bridge noise with food, then you should keep training them until they do.
Sometimes it could take several weeks for all of your chickens to get there. Don’t worry and keep training them!
Be Consistent with your training. Chickens are very smart creatures, but you will need to reinforce their good behaviors daily if you want your training to stick. You should make an effort to work with your chickens at least once a day. The faster your chickens will learn, the more often you train them. Good luck!
I know many people have accomplished these things with their chickens, so this is mainly for the people who are relatively new to chickens. I have completed all these levels myself with at least one chicken.
How to Train Your Chicks
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have chickens coming when you call them, instead of running away at the sound of your footsteps? It isn’t as difficult as it sounds – training a hen to respond to certain words with actions. In fact, many chicken owners train their hens ‘accidentally’ – calling “chook chook” each evening as they dish out grain and scraps. This is just a basic example, though; chickens will react to sentences and longer phrases as well.
Where do I Start?
The first thing I want to address here is that chickens are not stupid! They all have their own personalities and will respond in different ways to different things. Some will learn easily, while others completely ignore you or simply run for the hills. If you want the chickens to become familiar with you, it’s best to start while they are very young, from day-old chicks to two-weeks old. The younger the chicks, the more likely that they’ll regard you as a mother. If they do, they will be probably be more cooperative when you train them.
Training Chicks – Starting Up
In order to train effectively, you need to train the chicks separately (with one exception, see Training Levels, below).
Before you try any basic commands, the chick must be familiar with you and calm in your presence. Always move slowly when around young chicks (and adult hens, for that matter) and speak quietly to them. If the chick runs away when it sees you or hears your voice, it is NOT familiar with you. Take it slowly. When we bought chicks for the first time, they were treated kindly and gently and within the day, they were sleeping quietly in my lap! Later on I was given another chick, and the other hens did not accept it into the flock. As a result it spent a lot of time away from them and regarded me as a ‘mother’ (she also thought she was a rabbit, but that’s another story).
Level 1: Recognition of phrase and/or voice, e.g. “chook chook” accompanied by food. Multiple chickens. Chicks/hens.
This is applicable to hens and chicks alike. You can use any sound you like – from your own voice to rattling a can full of coins or uncooked rice. It’s very easy to do; in fact you are probably already doing it with your chickens. Every time I even click my tongue, the hens run out to see what treats I have for them.
Level 2: Response to name and phrase, e.g. ‘Blackie, come here!’. Single chicken. Chicks.
For a chick to be familiar with any given name, it needs to hear that name often. Spend a few minutes with it at least twice a day, calling it by its name and offering it food. After about two days, my chick, whom I named ‘Charity’, came running whenever she heard “Charity, come here!”. This is where I made a mistake. Soon Charity became tired of running to me when she was not given any food as a reward. I had to start all over again, giving her a bit of food every single time. The only way to a chicken’s heart is through food, as I soon learned! Eventually, however, the name and command became so embedded in Charity’s brain that she came without expecting food. Use the chick’s name whenever you get the opportunity. Now Charity is a full-grown laying hen, and all I have to do is say “Charity…” and she comes bolting out of the coop.
Level 3: Responding to phrase with jumping action, e.g. “Jump”, “Jump, Blackie!”. Single chicken. Chicks/hens.
If you want this to work, you need to use a treat that the chicken really likes. If you just use regular commercial feed for training, the chicken is more likely to lose interest and you will have wasted your time. Hold a treat (e.g. a mealworm) between your fingers, making sure the chicken will have to jump in order to reach it. Tell it to jump and it will. Of course, with any luck, your chicken will complete ‘Level 3’ without you even trying.
Level 4: Responding to phrase with halting action, e.g. “Stop, Blackie!”. Single chicken. Hens.
The reason this level is better for hens is because hens are mature and ready to mate. Therefore, often when you approach them from behind they will squat down, as if you were a rooster. You can use this to your advantage. If a hen is running away from you, call “Stop!” before reaching down and quickly grabbing her. Do this whenever she runs away from you. Eventually she will realise what the word ‘Stop’ preludes. I trained one of my hens and now if I call “Stop!” from about 4 metres away, she will squat down and let me walk over and pick her up.
Level 5: Responding to phrase with more complex jumping action, e.g. “Up, Blackie!”. Single chicken. Chicks/hens.
In order for this level to work, the bird needs to be familiar and comfortable with you. Sit on the ground and call your chicken. If you have completed Level 2, she should come to you. Make sure you have a favourite treat and hold it in your lap. Say, “Up, (insert name here)!” as the chicken tries to get at the treat. Move the treat away from her slightly as she reaches for it. Before long, she will have to climb onto your lap in order to reach the treat. Praise her and try it again. It will take longer than the other levels but it does work. Charity climbs into my lap on command, treat or no treat, and likes to settle down for a cuddle.
Don’t forget that the tone of voice you use will affect the results you get. If you say, “Up, Blackie!” angrily, your chicken might get a little confused. Use a happier tone for persuading/praising your chicken, and a sterner tone for scolding.
And remember not to overdo it, or your chicken will get bored and frustrated. A few minutes per session is plenty.
Have fun training your chickens! Let me know if there’s anything you think should be added.
Read about more advanced training here: Advanced Training Techniques
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- 4 Tasks & Tricks You Can Train Chickens To Do
With some time and patience, you can train your birds to gather for dinner, eat from your hand, jump for treats or take a bike ride.
- 53.2K views
We all love watching our chickens’ antics. If we could, we’d pop some corn, pull up a chair and watch their entertaining escapades for hours on end. Despite their droll shenanigans, your chooks aren’t birdbrains. Their capacity to learn—and remember—behaviors is quite astonishing. Whether you want to train your flocks to come when called or teach them a sensational stunt, it takes only a little time and patience, plus a tasty treat as a reward. Not sure what to teach your birds? Here are a few ideas on how to train chickens, all of which have been mastered (in some cases, beyond my expectations) by the members of my flocks.
All of our coops feature storage areas for lidded feed buckets; this makes refilling feeders easy on me and my farm hands (aka children). These buckets are a brilliant white and very easy to see—a good start when you want to train chickens. Our curious chickens noticed them right away, quickly realizing that the white things in our hands were the same white things that contain their feed. The older birds pass this important fact along to the new kids every year.
Back in February, our pullets and cockerels just stared as our hens charged toward me or, more precisely, my scratch bucket. Three days later, I couldn’t carry a bucket anywhere without having a bird underfoot. I recently conducted an experiment in which my son, Bryce, walked around the coops empty handed. Not one bird reacted. I then sent my son Jaeson out with one of the feed buckets. Like the children of Hamelin, the birds immediately trooped after him.
To train chickens to recognize dinner time, use the same container–preferably one that is brightly colored and at least gallon-sized—to refill their feeders. Be certain that they can clearly see what you’re doing; They’ll catch on quickly. Just make sure to use the container solely for feed. We’ve lost a number of eggs to inquisitive pecking, thanks to the kids’ use of empty buckets for egg collection.
2. Eat From Your Hand
I train every bird I hatch to recognize the hand that feeds it. I start when the chicks are one week old, placing my hand in their brooder and leaving it there, palm up and still, for several minutes. Once they’ve grown accustomed to my hand, I add motion: I lower my hand into the brooder, pause for a moment, then remove my hand. After a few days of this, I offer the babies dried mealworm bits on my palm.
Occasionally, the chicks immediately dive in and eat. Most of the time, they don’t understand I am offering food and just scamper across my hand. When this happens, I place the crushed mealworms in a pile on the brooder floor, then withdraw my hand. I repeat this daily until the chicks enthusiastically gather around my hand, eager for their treat. Once the babies understand that my hand means food, I lessen the frequency of my offerings.
The birds remember the association of hand-food as they mature, even if I offer treats only once every couple of weeks. It’s a pure pleasure for them to feed from my hand so trustfully. Note: Full-grown chickens feed more vigorously than baby chicks do, so keep your palm fully extended rather than cupped to lessen the possibility of being nipped by a hungry bird.
3. Ride On A Bicycle
Chickens love to perch, and bicycle handlebars are a perfect size for this activity. When you train chickens to this this, you won’t be racing cyclocross with Henrietta as your co-pilot, but you can serenely circle your yard with one of your birds blissfully balanced on your bike.
Pick one of your most biddable chickens. The feistier they are, the more likely they are to resist. Start by setting your bird on the handlebars of a motionless bike. Face her and reassure her, but don’t force her to stay on if she wants to hop down. Repeat this daily until she comes to trust the handlebars.
For step two, carry your chicken to your bike, sit on the saddle, then place your bird in front of you on the handlebars. She won’t be able to see you, so let her hear you: Use a gentle, reassuring tone to let her know you are there. Again, if she jumps off, don’t force the issue. Repeat this step daily until you can both sit on the bike for at least five minutes.
Add movement next: Use your feet, not your pedals, to slowly inch the bike forward with your chook perched on her spot. Every day, slightly increase your distance, then gently increase your speed.
The final step? Use the pedals to propel your bike forward a little at a time. Stay on level ground, ride slowly, and keep one eye on your bird to watch for signs of distress. You won’t go far, but you’ll have fun riding together.
4. Jump For A Treat
Why should dogs get all the glory when they leap for treats? Chickens can jump, too, especially if you’re extending a delectable tidbit for them to grab. Choose a snack your birds love (such as bread or dried mealworms), making sure it’s at least one inch long. This will keep your fingers from accidentally getting chomped by an eager beak.
Extend your arm out from your body, holding your hand about 2 feet above your birds’ heads. Make the treat visible, then stand absolutely still. If your flock stares at the food but does nothing, lower your hand a few inches and wait. Hunger—or greed—will eventually propel one of your birds upward, so be prepared to release the treat the second your bird opens its beak. Have more morsels ready to go and repeat the trick until your jumper has mastered it.
A caveat: Bear in mind that birds are fast learners. One week after I taught Claude Orpington how to leap for a treat, six others were emulating his stunt. Poor Jaeson one day headed to our garden when Davey Orpington ran over, jumped up and snatched the slice of pizza from his unsuspecting hand. Now, that’s a trick I could have watched for hours.
The first step to forming your chicken into a wonderful pet is potty training.so you can bring your favorite chicken inside, and enjoy each others company more often, without having to pickup after him at the same time.
A few notes:
1. In order to potty train your chicken,He MUST be hand tamed this mean he can sit on your hand without assistance.(Such as holding him in place or having both hands on him).This means the chicken should sit freely on your hand, and more importantly,enjoy it.
2. There will be accidents even after training your chicken to use a specified area to poop, just as would a dog, or any other household pet, accidents happen, you may have to pick up a few .
3.No Praise! Chickens do not do well with complex words as praise it will just confuse things, and we do not use them to tell them that they have done a good job. If you want to reward a chicken, give him a treat.The way to a chickens heart is through his stomach.
4. Patience! Training your chicken does take time, especially with complex exercises such as this, you must be patient and work with your chicken.
5. The younger the betterAs with any animal, Young chickens who have been hand tamed make the best candidates for potty training, it is easier to train them at a younger age(around 3 week’s is optimal) but this is not saying that it cant be done with older birds.
Ok let’s get down to business! (no pun intended)
First we will teach your chicken to poop on command, this is not absolutely necessary but it does help a lot. Training this behavior is all about Anticipation anticipating when your bird is going to go is a key factor in training him. Many birds ruffle their feathers right before they do, some don’t. watch your bird in the coop and, see how he acts right before pooping.
When you bring him inside have an area for him to go in, Such as a litter box, or paper’s.
Hold your chicken on your arm, and do something idle like watching tv, or even forum’ing on BYC, watch your bird closely for signs that he is about to go.
Side-NoteYou need a signal such as a Click,hand signal, or whistle for the next step,No words!! this will be the command for pooping, try to choose a signal that you don’t use everyday , it may lead to accidents)
When you think the bird is about to go, swiftly take him to the designated area and hold him over it, until you hear the tell-taleSquit! use the signal that you’ve chosen , and IMMEDIATELY reward him with a treat.
Repeat this process when you think he is about to go, until you can give the signal for him to go!
Once you have trained the above you can move on to the next step,this one is pretty easy.
During training the above
you should have noted a pattern in timing around which your bird will poop,
when it’s almost time, set the bird down on the area designated,and give the command for poop,if he goes reward him promptly, if he doesn’t do not reward him. (Only reinforce the behavior your trying to train, nothing else.) Systematically practice this exercise until he start’s going on his own.
Wishing you good luck and lot’s of Fun-
PS:If there is interest I will write another article keeping chickens as house pets just let me know!
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!
Your dog might soon be jealous that you and your chicken have formed a close training bond!
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.
Photo by SKLA /Getty Images
For more tips on raising chickens for backyards, check out our Raising Chickens blog.
Any chicken owner has at one time, or another, found themselves chasing their chickens around the yard at the end of the day because, well, we just want to go to bed already.
It’s incredible how pokey chickens are at the end of the day, and if you don’t have the luxury of an automatic coop door, you have to close it every night manually.
If this was you or is you, it won’t take long to realize you are no match for your chickens’ quick little feet and their dodging abilities.
So, first off, stop chasing your chickens! And do this instead:
Train Your Chickens to Return to Their Coop
There are really only three sure-fire ways to get your chickens back into the safety of their coop. And one of them is to let them think it was their idea in the first place.
Chickens are creatures of habit, and once they know where their roost is, they will return to it every night–like clockwork.
Now, I know this may not be the answer you are looking for because sometimes you are in a bit of a hurry, but I promise you it is the least frustrating way to get your chickens to return to their coop every day.
Here’s what to do:
- Keep your chickens in their coop for 1-2 weeks.
- Start letting them out at the same time every morning
- Watch to see when your chooks return to their roost
- Close the coop at the same time every night
Yes, it’s really that simple. Once your chickens get their bearings, they will go back home on their own accord. It doesn’t hurt to feed them, in their coop, at the end of the day (treats or whatnot) to give them an extra incentive.
Ring the Dinner Bell
This, of course, is a metaphor for calling your chickens home for treats and meals. You can use bells, or your own voice to associate with goodies, so your chickens eventually come running 100-miles an hour to see what’s for supper.
This works best if you ALWAYS give feed in the coop because if you just sprinkle it around and try to urge them into the coop, they will see what you are up to and outsmart you.
It doesn’t take long for chickens to learn that the same sound (or command) every day means food. They have much better hearing capabilities than humans. So, if not everyone is tucked in, and you want to get to bed, you can start treat-training your chickens paired with sounds.
So here’s how to do it:
- At the end of the day, when your chickens are heading to the roost, use your command and present feed (or treats) inside their coop.
- Do this every day until all you have to do it sound the alarm (your command) and your chickens run straight into the coop.
If You Need to Catch Your Chicken
Unforeseen circumstances may require you to catch your chicken before the end of the day. Maybe there is a predator in the area, or your chicken needs medical care.
If you’ve trained them to come on command with feed and treats, you can use this method to confine your chickens in the coop and catch whichever one you need to. Ideally, this will work at any time of the day.
With that being said, you still have to catch your chicken, even if it is in the coop. So how can you do this safely without injuring your chook–or yourself for that matter.
Here are a few ways:
Using a Poultry Pole
A poultry pole, or simply a pole with a crook on it, can be used to snatch your chickens around their feet. You can find these in most agriculture stores.
A Landing Net
I cringe at the thought of using a landing net because claws, feet, beaks, and wings will all get tangled in a net. So, if you can help it, try not to use a net to catch your chickens.
If you must, however, use a large net (like a fishing net) and be as gentle as possible.
Most chickens “give up” once they are caught and stop struggling, however, this isn’t usually the case if they find themselves caught in a net.
A safe way to catching chickens in a confined area is to grab a large cardboard box and corner your chicken. Quickly, but gently, plop the box over the chook and let them sit inside for a second, so they calm down.
Next, close the lids of the box (yes your chicken will have to sit on the lid) and slowly flip it over while holding the lid closed. You can now move your chicken to where it needs to be and treat them if needed.
Hands only work if you are in a cage with your chicken trying to catch it. Never pull at feathers, tail feathers, or wings if you are using your hands.
Instead, act like a predator or rooster.
Here’s what I mean:
If you’ve ever seen a rooster mount a hen, she initially may fight it, but eventually, she squats down and stays put. Some hens will do this if you approach from the top and push down on her back, gently. Then, you can gather her up, taking care to keep her wings close to her body and carry on with your task.
Free-Range Becomes Too Much Freedom
There may come a time or two when you, gasp, forget to close your chickens up at night, or simply can’t due to unforeseen circumstances–hey, you’re human after all. When this happens, however, your chickens may decide to find a place to roost that they feel more comfortable and safer than the one you have provided in your coop.
This usually isn’t a big deal on the first time this happens, but if it happens often, your chickens will ignore your bedtime efforts and opt to return to their new favorite roost.
And if you have a large flock, that may mean you have chickens all over the place.
When this happens, you have to retrain your chickens to return to their coop every night. Unfortunately, this means you will have to start over with confinement for 1-2 weeks. In time, your chickens will forget about their new favorite roost and remember that home is truly where they feel the most comfortable and safe.