The All New: How to Train Your Chicken!

By Nutcase · Jun 19, 2013 · Updated Sep 14, 2013 · ·
  1. Nutcase
    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

    - Nutcase

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  1. Meadowchick
    My Welsummer hens kept coming to the carport for catfood. So, I took the bowl away and moved the cat's bowl to the cat ladder (which the hens haven't found). They still come to they carport, but lately I have been shooing them and saying get off the porch!!!. So, they now know that "get off the porch" means get off the carport! Ha! Silly Girls!
      Chelle'sChics likes this.
  2. Groberge
    Awesome! Thank you!
  3. Rickwar04
    Almost like teaching /training your husband.
      Chelle'sChics likes this.
  4. Woytgirl
    OMGosh!! This is AMAZING!! :clapGreat job!!
  5. FeatherMtnFarms
    What a GREAT article! I will be doing this with my chicks that we are getting soon! Thank you!
  6. kim10261
    I have never had a problem with my chickens getting in the coop at night they go in all by themselves and when they are free ranging when they see me they come running,i have been very social with my babies , they so look forward to their morning breakfast every morning...cooked oatmeal raw baby spinach fruit or an extra veggie...sometimes I will sprinkle mealworms on top...they are so spoiled
    I've raised chickens for 40 years and have found that they train easier than dogs. I had a Rhode Island Red rooster that would walk with me to the mailbox, which is 500ft for the house. My neighbor, who trained dogs, said "that rooster heels better than any dog I've trained". He was easy to train. He liked being with me and just walked right next to me no problem.
      Chelle'sChics likes this.
  8. ErniesFlock
    This is awesome bro! I never imagined they would learn to know a name but hell yeah they do. Even ol Shelley who wont let me touch her will come a runnin to see me if I call her. Sometimes I test them as I sit and watch them in the coop and Ill say each ones name and most of the time when I say their name they shake their head like a twitch. "Bigfoot pretty girl" and Bigfoot will shake her head really fast like a split second. They all do it. Speaking of Bigfoot she has a Silkie mop on her she be running into trees or in the opposite direction sometimes. Gets lost etc. So since summer started I give her a haircut started out with bangs only but now I have this Platinum Blonde Circa 1984 Ultra Mullet man it is bad ***. Ill have to post a pic. She actually loves the sound of the clippers she close her eyes and away I go :)
  9. LestersFlat
    My free-range girls have always gone back in their coop at night all by themselves, without any coaxing. I just have to go out when it starts getting dark and close the door behind them. I will however, try your training methods to get my bad girls and boys to stop going in the neighbor's barn and yard, and especially to call them back from the edge of the 55-mile-per-hour road where they like to wander. They have never gone in the road (that I know of) but I have seen them a few times too close to the road for my comfort! Thank you for a great article! Everyone I have talked to around here says that chickens are "birdbrains". I have always believed they are much smarter than that.
  10. tmasker
    To get our chickens in their correct coops, we always put them back in the same order. Shaking a container of bird seed is a sure way to get all the chickens in easily. I always yell "Buck, Buck!" while shaking the container. Works all the time! Oh, and our chickens will do tricks for mealworms!
  11. Anne Katherine
    Can you train older hens as well?
  12. Babecknmama
    This is so true!!! I let my flock of silkies out of their covered pens to eat grass and scratch in our pasture. I sit with them because of the hawks we have in our area. When I want them to go back into their pens, I keep repeating "Time to go up!"
    and clap my hands and they all run back into the pen. I started doing this several years ago not realizing at that time that I was 'training' them. I also have a much loved silkie with a crooked beak--her name is Cuckoo Beak. She knows her name and comes running when I call her name because she learned to associate her name with feeding time, just as you said to do in the article. Chickens are intelligent creatures. Some more affectionate and responsive than others. Thanks for a great article!
      Tinamom likes this.
  13. Dook
    All my grown chickens were hatched and raised by me, so they didn't take long to realise I was the 'food provider' =) The chicken who have names, know it and come when called....but we have two 'twins' exactly the same pattern whom we call the naughty twins "Missys" for mischief. We think they have 1 or 2 extra points of IQ and get into all sorts of trouble, but aren't very good at being told what to do or being called. =P
    They know the word "AH!" means no, you can't go in there, and they wont. and if told to get out from somewhere, they do =)

    Our pekins are skittish and only come for food or running away from the older chickens. But they were hatched from a broody chook, who seems to have taught them to peck and run away!
      OrgFutureFarms likes this.
  14. HorseMadWhovian
    Every morning I call out chook chook and my chickens run straight to the gate. At night they are already away as soon as it gets dark. If it's still a bit light and they're out I heard one of them in and they all go, now I'm teaching them bedtime for that command
  15. chicksunderwing
    Our Cassia is 5, and has always flown up on to our backs or shoulders, on her own, since chickhood. But it's so neat to read your training ideas!
    We accidentally have 2 Silkie roosters; they always get the hens in before sunset, or hidden in silence if there's a danger. But if we need to do it ourselves, we walk ahead of them shaking a pie tin with sunflower seeds - their favorite. They follow eagerly!
  16. Ivy MG
    dose this work for older chickens?
  17. ljw695
    I know what I want to train my Sebastopol baby goose to do. She was hatched last Friday night (SURPRISE). She knows my voice and is comfortable with me picking her up and falls asleep when I hold and pet her for a little while. I was concerned when she slept most of the time the first day or two, not eating, drinking, or relieving herself. Now she has the eating, drinking, and relieving herself down to a science. Since she is less than a week old, would it be possible to potty train her to only relieve herself in a certain spot and not all over her dwelling (she's in a box with paper towel right now). I mean anywhere she is living--like only going potty in a kitty litter box).
  18. NacientNeedle
    I also accidentally trained my chicken to come a runnin' because every time I feed them or give them a treat I call in a high, soft voice "chick, chick, chick, chick..." My kids think its hysterical that they come dashing from wherever they are to my call!. I'm the chicken whisper!!! They are very fun and very brave. Our temporary coop is a tree house requiring them to take a plunge every morning of about 6 or 7 feet - bonzai style. I did not want them to hurt their feet so I set up two long planks for them to walk down. They carefully walk down from way up at the tree house's balcony! I kind of think the Pent-House coop is kind of cool, but it is a pain to climb up and down for me and my girls. The hubby is working on making a coop underneath the tree house - so they'll have a duplex!!

    Now, I want to work on getting them to know their own names.
    1. Evelyn's Mom
      WOW! way cool!
  19. SammyRouen
    Is there an easy way to train chickens how to go into the coop on command, I'm guessing food right?
    Great advice. I've had chickens fo 40 years and have trained them using techniques similar to this. Have even trained roosters not to spur me using these techniques. I find a little personal love and hugging time helps the training go quicker. Yes even the boys need love and hugs too. Just don't do it in front of their hens. They have to keep up that macho facade.
      Tinamom likes this.
  21. DDRanch
    This is great and it does work. My girls come very quickly when called. I use the universal word..... babies.
  22. DDRanch
  23. yyz0yyz0
    repetition is the key.
    My flock got trained accidentally just by me repeating the same phrases each time I did something with/for them. Everytime I let them out to freerange, I say "playtime" several times as I walk to the run. Now I can say it from across the yard and they are all gathered at the gate in about 5seconds. "Scratch" is also another one they respond to where ever I am when I yell it. Helps to get them back in the run or away from somewhere I don't want them to be.
  24. CluckyChook
    OMG I have never tried, apart from the accidental running for food when I call them, but I have to say I'm inspired to teach my next batch to JUMP and STOP. Shame we can't introduce LAY NOW. Thanks for the post.
  25. Nutcase
    @Mountain Peeps and @Meadowchick : Hope the article helped you guys! :)
    @Savcluckers , I've never tried Easter Egger training before. Most of my experience has been with RIRs and sex links, quite friendly breeds. Consistency and calmness are always key to working any animal.
  26. lightchick
    I call here chickchickchick and my chicks come! I didn't even use treats.......they think I'm their mom and so they come to me! One doesn't like being held AT ALL.....she struggles and peeps really loudly when I grab her.
    She will fall asleep on my lap though......IF she's there long enough.
      Tinamom likes this.
  27. Aronia
  28. Banriona
    I accidentally trained my chickens. Now whenever they hear my voice they come running - even when they're free ranging. Then they follow me around like little shadows. I had a rooster that would hop on my lap if I tapped my leg (like calling a dog). I have too many to train each to come by name, but they all come to "Here, chook, chook chook". If they get in somewhere I don't want them to be a gentle "shoo, shoo" usually does the trick - if I need to herd them into the run for any reason that trick works too. Apparently you can train them to do all sorts of stuff. food+repetition=trained chicken
  29. ElCerritoPlace
    I never thought to have individuals respond to commands. Here I was happy having my girls come running when I call Muchachas. I laugh every time watching those big orpingtons running through the woods or across the lawn to me. But my girls fully expect a treat if and when called.
  30. BunnyLover44
    I have trained my chickens from the time they where chicks, now they go in the cooop when I snap my fingers and come running at me when I clap my hands... but lately they havent been listening to me, they just keep eating grass. Has this happened to anyone else if so what did you do to fix them not listening?

    - - - BunnyLover44
  31. barclay84
    I had a duck growing up Named Quack, My brother taught him to Bow. Was the cutest thing. That duck was spoiled rotten.
  32. DuckDodgers
    Cool I need to try this!
  33. Dawna
    I grew up hearing Mom and other relatives go out toward the chicken yard calling 'chick chick chick' in a high voice, so that is what I have done with mine. Also I have a plastic container that I have feed in (usually cat food) and can rattle it and call them. It is a lot of fun to watch them come running. I have a Buff Orpington rooster and he thinks part of his job of protecting is also to make sure everyone is in the coop at night. He will come out looking for a hen that he has missed and finds her and herds her gently toward the coop. Pretty neat thing to watch!! I didn't do any training.
  34. Animals970
    @DuckDodgers . I'm sure if you put some effort into it, and found a treat that your ducks like, than It would probably work
  35. SixChickFlock
    DuckDodgers, the head porpoise and whale trainer at the Shedd Aquarium said you can do this with any animal... From worms to humans.
  36. DuckDodgers
    Is it possable to do this with ducks?
  37. Savcluckers
    I love this... My girls also come running as soon as they hear the door open. It is so cute. Can you train Easter Eggers? Mine have always been so flighty they barely let me touch them. They are 3 months old now.
  38. Animals970
    What I do to train my chicks is very simple!, all I have to do is when they are young {Not exactly chicks, but more like pullets and/or cockerals} is show the chickens that when I holler 'Here chick chick chick' that there is bread waiting for them. They come running really fast XD
  39. nate1the1great1
    and all i have to do is call HEY CHICK!!!!! and all of my animals come running from geese to ducks to chickens to my peococks and wenevr i get a older hen or roo i hav bttr results bc they love being petted and thats how i got m peafowl a duck my geese
  40. nate1the1great1
    what kind of chick is the 2nd pic of the chick that is yllow wit whitish wings and brown cause i have one just like that and they said it was a speckled sussex but it looks just like that one
  41. Meadowchick
    That is really neat! I accidentally trained mine to "pen up" in the evenings by getting behind them, clapping slowly and saying "let's go to bed, girls"...most of them caught on very quickly...especially my Dominiques...I think they are just smart birds!
  42. Mountain Peeps
    Oh my gosh!! This is beyond helpful! All my chickens already respond to "up" and "jump. " I loved the section about the whole "Stop!"I'm defiantly going to do this! I also want them I get more used to their names. Two of them know their names but I would love for all six of them to. Good post and thank you!
  43. SixChickFlock
    I've been accidentally training my six girls... They are only 12 weeks old. Two pre teens live at my home and one loves to chase the chicks around the yard and try to catch them. Is this going to impede my progress or will they just be afraid of her?
  44. Nutcase
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  46. Dee Dee 2
    Oh Dear ! Apologies please ! I am very tierd and bleary eyed. I just discovered I posted twice almost the same. Sorry ~Im not trying to be a post hog.
  47. Dee Dee 2
    The experiences with training my chickens are very simular to blmack. I did start with a clicker and mealworms. Now all I have to do is a clicking noise with my mouth. They are, usually, for the most part, depending on the breed, the amount of time you spend, and just how they feel that day ~easy to train. Yep , A way to a chickens brain is throught it mouth, usually in the form of meal worms. (ˆvˆ)
  48. blmack
    I accidentally trained my chickens. I always lovingly called them Chickie or Chickie-doodles when I would handle them as chicks. Now all I have to do is go out the back door and yell out Chickie or Chickie-doodle and they start coming. They will also all show up if they just hear the back door open. They follow me to their pen at night because they know they will get a treat. I rarely call them without a treat in hand, but they often come running up just because they see me outside. I think they even know the sound of my car engine because they sometimes come to the gate when I pull up. I have found that if I go into the hen house when they are on the roost they will not run away. They let me touch them. They are skittish if they weren't handled as babies but get calmer every time I touch them. I tuck mine in with petting every night. I haven't tried to teach them to get in my lap or do tricks because I don't have the time to spend with them.
  49. mrsfluff100
    Nutcase when would you start with level 1? like what age chick??
  50. Nutcase
    Good job Dee Dee 2! I have never tried the clicker method before, but mealworms are definitely worth using.

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