You train your dog, so why not a chicken?
Chickens are smart. Like, surprisingly smart. Studies have shown that chickens possess the cognitive abilities of a 4-year-old human…that’s impressive.
They have good memories, can recognize different people, have a rudimentary concept of time (feed them at the same time every day, then be late by a few minutes just one time and you will never hear the end of it) and can be taught some pretty neat tricks quite easily.
So, break out the treats, because it’s time to train your chicken!
Chickens may be naturals at “Sit” and “Stay,” but there are lots of other fun tricks you can teach your flock. Some are useful tricks while others are just for fun. Here are a few you can try on your backyard hens today.
Chickens may not be the most agile avians, but they can jump decent distances. One trick that is fun, and give your hen a nice workout, is the “Jump” command.
Simply hold a treat above your chicken’s head a few inches so they have to hop to grab it while saying “Jump!” Once they learn that both feet off the ground means they get a tasty morsel, you can add some extras like teaching them to jump over a rope or a stick, hop up stairs or through a hoop.
This one requires some hands on, so be sure to start slow. Very gently push your hen onto her side, then immediately let her up and give her a treat. If she panics or struggles, give her a minute and try again a bit slower. Use lighter and lighter touches until she rolls over when she sees you pointing at her side.
This trick is quite handy because it teaches chickens to trust their humans and allow them to be manipulated. No more panicked frenzies at the vet!
This is a great game to play for guests! Set up a simple obstacle course with whatever you have lying around. Use blocks of wood or upside-down flowers pots and set them a few inches apart, ask your chickens to hop across them. Lay a pathway with sticks or string and have the chicken follow the path without stepping outside the lines. Stacks some cups and ask the chicken to weave in between them. Hold up a hula hoop and ask your chicken to jump through it.
All of this can be trained by slowly walking through the course and baiting your hen with a handful of treats. Once she gets the pattern, she will do the course on her own and be rewarded at the end!
Remember when I said chickens have the intelligence of a 4 year old? They can actually recognize colors and perform simple cognitive tasks!
Get a few colored cards or balls, lay them out and let your chickens investigate. When they inevitably touch a certain color, give them a treat. Soon, they will figure out that pecking that color will get them snacks! Be careful wearing that color as a toenail polish, your chickens will not leave your tootsies alone (I learned that the hard way).
Show your chickens a treat, then place it under a cup and say “Find”. Knocking over the cup will be self-rewarding. You can challenge them by putting the treat under a towel or wrapping it in newspaper. They will figure out that when you put something in front of them and say “Find” there is a hidden treat waiting to be found.
Trick training is not only a fun way to engage and bond with your pet, it also prevents boredom and builds trust. Your chickens will look forward to spending time with you and maybe spend less time digging up your garden!
About the author
Shelby Stone is a writer and communications mechanic at Small Pet Select (shop.smallpetselect.com) when she isn’t busy with her chickens, her horse Percy, Mango the parrot, and the many other animals in her family.
Many more fun chicken tricks await!
With the right tricks, you could go on tour!