Awesome! We need videos.
starting clicker training with chicks - Page 2
First time with a target: While the other chicks were busy with snacks on the coop floor, I put a chick on top of a flat place & put down a green plastic can lid. There was no attention paid to it, so I sprinkled a bit of scratch on it (any quick snack would do like dry meal worms) and then when she approached the lid, I clicked and pushed the treat cup to her for a quick snack. She began to pick pieces off the lid and I continued clicking each time she pecked at something on the plastic and gave her a treat. If a piece was off the lid, I did not click. Mostly, this first target session just got over her reluctance to peck it at all. Tomorrow I will do the same exercise and then watch for a peck when there is no treat on it. That would get a click and treat, too.
Results: 1) not startled by clicker or treat cup coming into her space 2) accustomed to seeking treat on green plastic lid.
Unexpected happening: two more chicks came up and took treats from lid at the same time as chick A was doing it.
None of them understands that a peck to a lid, let alone a green lid means anything at all, but the groundwork is done.
My first clicker session was with the chick feed in my palm but I tried to switch it to a 1/2 cup measuring cup with clicker attached last night. The chicks are all reluctant to take food out of the cup but will easily take it from my hand. I left the cup in the brooder over night/all today. I'll see if that helps them realize they can take food from it.
I wish mine would take food readily from the cup! They still won't do it consistently. They're just under two weeks old though so I guess I shouldn't be frustrated I've decided to spend time getting them used to the cup situation and not worry about the clicker just yet. They're all jumping into my lap as soon as I sit down on the floor though!
Update two: A group of volunteers jumped up on the flat place as I placed the green plastic lid, so I thought I'd just put bits of yummy on it and see what happened. One in particular ate a few nibbles, got click & reward, but kept coming back to peck on the now empty lid. I kept up an instantaneous click and reward, moved "target" several times and she was consistent. Peck elsewhere, no click/reward. She tired of it after awhile, so that was the end of the session. Have not resumed with original two chicks yet.
BTW, 2 weeks is too young for clicker training or any other foods than chick starter. No grit, either. Just sit on something on the ground/floor, drape poop catching cloth on lap and let them come to investigate you, sit on your legs, go to sleep on your legs. Snake out a finger or hand to stroke them slightly, but stop shy of alarming so they leave. They will soon become accustomed to being petted on the back or wings and you can then just settle your cupped palm very lightly on them so they feel they are under mama hen or other chicks with the safety and security which comes from being close.
Clicker tools I'm using. First trys involves separate clicker and cup & I click (oh fearsome sound) and rest cup arm's length away for eating while just sitting on the floor/ground. (Don't be afraid of me, come closer, eat treat, forget nasty clicking sounds). The food gets most of them over the fear of hearing a clicker. There's no relationship between the click and treat, commercial scratch in this case.
Free paint-stirring stick with cup taped to one end and clicker taped at other end. Now I can click and quietly extend the wand near them. Lots of repeats until fear lessens.
Next is putting chick(s) on something flat (top of my nest boxes in my case) and continued clicks and pushing wand into their vicinity, letting them eat a bit, moving it back & repeating.
Next is putting down any object with bits of treat on it & letting them eat it to erase fear of object.
Next is more of the same with clicks and treats (arm going from close to my body to extended near their bodies). Purpose: click/treat at any peck on object when no food is involved. Some will catch on and repeat behavior.
Just for fun. I trained a horse with a clicker & it was easy and useful to humans. Chickens? Just for me for fun, starting with distinguishing colors, maybe certain playing cards. People train dogs for agility contests and basic obedience lessons, turtles, hamsters, bunny rabbits, human athletes, all sorts of critters for useful and for non-useful purposes. A click means yes; yes, right answer. Zoos use it a ton to have animal come to fence for shots, ear exams, etc.
I first became aware of clicker training as a direct line of communication, way better than voice, when I read books about early work to train whales and dolphins. It led to what you now see at Sea World - jumping, spins, tossing balls, opening mouth to have teeth checked.
In the just-for-fun category, there are interesting short videos on uTube of a pet rabbit weaving through carrot "cones", hopping from one end of the line to another, haha. With a light wand and pellet dispenser, people train goldfish to swim through hoops, push soccer ball on underwater soccer field, or almost any swimming trick. One got her turtle to turn around three times in a row on a rock. It's the principle which seems universal, regardless of species. Who knew? Some use a click to tell a gymnastic pupil when their legs or ankles are way better positioned than they were before so they can feel it in their own body. Better than video. Better than yelling corrections/directions.
My chickens will be literally cooped up all winter due to the way below zero temperatures here in interior Alaska. I like to visit them a few times a day and it will give us all something to do besides petting. Does a chicken get pleasure from picking the right answer? Probably not. Is it entertaining? It is to me. That's all I can claim.
Interestingly enough, in watching a chicken do a complex course of ladder, hoop, going around an obstacle, down a ramp, the clicker has faded to zero. The reward comes at the end of all the steps required, so a clicker is only a training tool. Communication is what happens. I don't speak chicken, LOL.
When I trained my horse to side pass over long ground poles, the click helped him learn what was requested. After that, a mere finger or heel touch had him willingly going twelve feet or so because he understood without any clicks while he was busy going sideways; only a quiet click with my tongue and a few sunflower seeds at completion or even a stroking of his neck and verbal good boy were all that kept him complying willingly. Willing and eager to get the right answer - absolutely the opposite of making him do something for fear of correction. No correction was ever used, just no reward. Try again? Yes, right answer Mr. Horse and here is a slice of apple to complete the circuit. See why I enjoy this so much?
Edited by gingerpeach22 - 6/17/12 at 9:23am
My session 2 was very good. Dominate chick figured it out within 10 minutes after I swap the reward to their favorite millet. I can move target all over the place and she will peck on it to get the reward. 2nd dominate chick got it too but if I move it too far it takes her awhile to touch it. The other 2 chicks aren't allowed to participate via dominate chick and get pecked if they try. 2nd dominate chick will yield to dominate chick for reward.
I try to work chick seperately but they got too stress out about being moved out of the flock. Only 1 that would slighty work with me is the dominate chick(of course!).
As for why...
People use this methods to train dolphins, horses, dogs, etc...as mention before. There are classes that uses chicken as subject to train trainers to better understand positive re-enforcement and clicker training. Since I do train dogs I want to see how much different it is to train a chicken.
However, if those chickens of mine were meant for meat instead of eggs then I probably would not do it.