How to Train and Tame Chickens?
When you think of chickens, you will usually visualize them as endless suppliers of eggs and tasty meat rather than easy to tame pets. Nonetheless, with some love and patience, your chickens can be good layers, broilers, and pets.
They can come running up to you when you call them instead of scurrying in the other direction like they often do.
Like humans, chickens have unique personalities and react differently in diverse situations. Some love being handled and prefer happily sitting on your lap, a few will love sitting close to you, and others will remain aloof. Even so, chickens are far from stupid.
With the right steps, you can easily train and tame your flock. The article below will detail some ways of training your chickens and answer the questions you might have surrounding the practice.
Understanding Chicken Behavior
Chickens are undoubtedly entertaining to watch. Knowing what their behaviors and body language mean can give you a glimpse into their lives and ease their training and taming.
Below are tidbits on a few chicken behaviors:
- Preening: This entails a chicken running its beak over the feathers to make feather barbicels that insulate it and create a water-repellent web. The behavior can also help your bird spread oil from its preen gland at the base of its tail to make the feathers water-resistant and glossy.
- Treading and mounting: In mounting, a rooster grabs a hen’s neck or head feathers when mating. Treading entails moving a rooster’s feet back and forth to aid in mating and maintaining balance.
- Tidbitting: This is what a rooster does when he finds something tasty to share with hens. The behavior is your rooster’s way of feeding his flock when foraging.
- Courting: Here, a rooster drops his wing and then does a shuffle dance in the hen’s view. It is part of the rooster’s mating ritual to catch the hen’s attention.
- Sunbathing: In this behavior, a chicken lays on its side, spreads its wing out, and raises its neck and head feathers in the sun. Sunbathing rids the bird of parasites and optimizes the amount of sunlight penetrating its wings.
- Brooding: This is the hen’s behavior when she desires to incubate eggs and take care of chicks. The broody hen remains in a nesting box and might hiss, growl and peck at you and other chickens when you approach her.
- Dust bathing: The chicken, in this case, will use its feet to kick loose dirt into its feathers. The behavior cleans the feathers and gets rid of external parasites.
- Pecking: This behavior allows the chicken to explore new things, establish hierarchy, fight and move objects.
- Foraging: This is what chickens do when looking for food. Foraging entails scratching dirt away, pecking at the ground, and slowly wandering over an area with their heads lowered.
Building Trust with Your Chickens
Chickens are naturally skittish. They will thus initially run away as you approach, believing that you are out to hurt them.
Thankfully, here are some steps you can take to build trust with your flock so that the birds can start following you around and even jump into your lap with time.
- Spend some quality time with them. Pick them up when chicks and learn to talk to them when facing them. If you have older birds, sit and relax in their roaming area. In this case, stay close to the ground to avoid intimidating the chickens, and do not make sudden movements and loud noises. With time, your flock will identify you as non-threatening.
- Each time you visit your flock, announce your arrival so that the birds start recognizing your voice and becoming comfortable. Talk softly and move slowly, so the birds do not feel threatened.
- Bring them treats. Chickens will love treats, including cracked corn, table scraps, mealworms, and fruit. If you bring them these, they will come running and, with time, associate you with treats. They will even start eating treats from your hand as they trust you.
- Avoid touching the chickens’ heads because the animals peck at each other’s heads and pull head feathers when fighting or establishing pecking orders, so they will interpret this as aggression. Rub the crop area or bottom of the chest instead.
- Create a routine for interacting with your chickens so that they know what to expect and can remain calm.
Tricks Chicken Can Learn
The capacity of your chickens to learn and remember is astounding. If you take time to teach your birds, you can impart a few functional skills that will ease their care and make them exceptional pets.
It will take about two months for a chicken to learn a skill, so do not give up too soon. Here are some tricks that chickens can learn.
Come To You When Called
Training your birds to come to you when called requires two main things: treats and marker words or actions. Your marker action can be clapping your hands, or you can use a specific phrase that is loud enough to get the chickens to come to you.
Next, have some treats to reward the birds for coming to you. You can also use the treats to motivate the chickens to come to you by rattling a bag of treats.
Follow You in The Yard
Like humans, cats and dogs, chickens are quite motivated by food. You can train your flock to follow you in the yard by shaking a bag of treats or the feeding bucket.
The sight of the treat bag or feeding bucket combined with the sound are enough to get your flock following you to get some delicious treats. To ensure this works, use the same bag of treats and feeding bucket every time.
Eat From Your Hand
You can train your birds to know the hands from which they feed. Place your hand palm up in the feeder and keep still for some minutes. When your chicks are used to the hand, you can move it from the feeder and feed your birds from the palm on the brooder floor.
The birds will slowly understand that your hand means feeding. When you do this when your birds are young, the hand-food association persists as they mature.
Stay in the Yard
When you have free-ranging chickens, you want them to stay in the yard away from predators and mischief. To train them to remain in the yard, create a partial fence to keep them in a designated area and get a guard animal to keep them from wandering off.
Your yard should be predator-free and have comfortable nesting boxes to keep the chickens there. With time, you can remove the partial fence and guard animal without worrying about your chickens wandering off.
Wearing a harness
When you get your chicken to wear a harness, you can ride with it in a bike basket, go for walks and attend fun events with it. Training your bird to wear a harness needs positive reinforcement.
Get the bird to associate the harness with a positive experience by giving it yummy treats when it wears it.
Friendly and Easy Chicken Breeds to Tame
Unfortunately, not all chicken breeds are easy to tame. You should consider a breed’s temperaments if you want to train and tame your flock.
Here are the easiest and friendliest chicken breeds to tame.
- Speckled Sussex
- Rhode Island Reds
- Buff Orpingtons
- Easter Eggers
- Golden Buffs
- Jersey Giants
- White Leghorns
- Barred Rocks
- Plymouth Rocks
Tips for Training Your Chickens
Irrespective of the breed you choose, training your chicken is an art. First, you should invest a good deal of time and patience.
After all, you cannot tame your chickens overnight. Here are tips to ease the training of your flock and even make it enjoyable.
- Create a safe environment because chickens are prey animals that should feel safe around you for you to train them.
- Start socializing the chickens in the first week after getting them by speaking to them softly and handling them gently so that they get accustomed to your voice and touch. Do not hoover too much because the flock will rely on you excessively.
- Befriend and train the bold and adventurous chickens first so that the less confident ones feel an assurance of safety.
- Announce your arrival when approaching the brooder so that chickens do not get startled and run away. Pay attention to your tone of voice because a sharp and loud call might sound like a warning to your flock and cause the birds to run away.
- Relax and move carefully and slowly since animals will have a better response to calm people.
- Spend time observing your chickens to understand their behaviors and communicate with them effectively.
Chickens can form exceptional bonds with humans when trained well. The article above provides a foolproof guideline for training and taming your birds.
Know your birds, spend time with them, create a safe environment and start training them early for the highest odds of success.
Remember, taming chickens is a two-way relationship. You will learn about the chickens while they also learn about you. Therefore, be calm and on your best behavior so your flock will want to learn from you.