Have you ever heard of clicker training being used when teaching your canine companion a new behavioral skill? What about CHICKENS? An animal behaviorist/veterinarian by the name of Dr. Sophia Yin has many free resources available that demonstrate how it is possible to train a chicken to follow certain commands, or perform a certain action. Some of the skills that your feathered friend can learn include coming when called, to peck a certain object, pull an object, or even to complete a small obstacle course! Training chickens is a step that a lot of good dog trainers take in order to help understand basic animal behavior and nature, along with the steps of associating clickers with training.
Dr. Sophia Yin based all of her behavioral training through positive reinforcement- rewarding an animal for the correct behavior and teaching them that these new tasks can be a good thing! While training chickens, she incorporated clicker training in order to further help them understand what these positive behaviors were, and gave them a small treat upon sounding the clicker (typically mealworms are used as a training treat for chickens). As Dr. Yin also put it in one of her question and answer articles that can be found on her website, this type of training also involves "a hungry animal in a comfortable environment and a trainer with good timing."
To begin, you need to ensure that you have a clicker, which can be found easily at most pet supply stores and they only cost a few dollars! Then, make sure that you have your chicken’s favorite snack on hand, such as their feed or even pieces of mealworm. If your chicken is already very sociable and friendly, then your training will be much easier versus having a chicken who is flighty and unsure of human contact.
The chicken needs to be hungry to begin the training, that way they have the proper motivation towards associating good deed → clicker → treat. This does not mean that one needs to completely starve their poor chicken! It just means that you should probably withhold food that day until the training sessions begin, encouraging them with small pecks of their treat/food as they learn to perform the tasks you have established for them.
I have yet to personally begin training a chicken in this manner, but I look forward to sharing stories of it in the future on Backyard Chickens. I can, however, vouch for the great success I have had with positive reinforcement training for other animals in the past, inspired by Dr. Yin's teachings.
For more information about behavioral training, here are some great links for you to check out:
Dr. Sophia Yin's Blog: Chicken Training
Dr. Sophia Yin's Videos
Chicken Training Workshops held in WA
I encourage you to take the time to research this further before you try it for yourself, because you need to understand the nature of the animal and the proper methods of clicker training. With time and practice, your chickens could be doing things that would make your guests drop their jaws and say, "I didn't know they could do that!" I hope that this brief article has peaked your interest, and provided information to you that will help you learn more about training your own chickens!