Quail Training :)

Discussion in 'Quail' started by jbobs, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. jbobs

    jbobs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Moby suggested I start a thread about this so here it goes :)

    I used to keep quail for years as a teenager and for a university project I built an incubator and hatched some coturnix in class, and grew them out at the school (I'm taking Animal Health Technology, ie Veterinary Technology)

    I'm very interested in dog training and we do a lot of clicker training with our program dogs at school, so I took a couple quail home (to my dorm lol) and started training them. I read somewhere that coturnix are used a lot in laboratory experiments on operant conditioning because they are so heavily food motivated, so i thought I'd try it.

    The first one I started with was a golden but I left the lid of their cage off one day and she jumped up and hit her head under the desk and broke her neck :( which I should have known better but there you go.

    I documented all the training progress step by step and it's on both my blog and my youtube channel:

    http://epicquailblog.blogspot.com
    http://www.youtube.com/user/epicquailblog

    This is Blondie first learning to peck at a red dot instead of step on it. (I previously taught her to step on it and worked her way up to pecking it)


    When Blondie died I taught Brita the same thing and moved her onto a red ping pong ball instead:

    And then I started to teach her to step on a green sqaure the same way I taught Blondie the red circle. But I intended to raise the square little by little into a platform:



    I have her going on a 1" high platform really well now, I just want to raise it a bit higher every time. Won't be for a couple more weeks that I get more videos up since I am out of town on a practicum right now and she's staying with a friend. Interesting how something we just think is a dumb quail can learn things :) I want to work on all kind of things with her in the next few weeks. It only takes her a few days to learn something new.
     
  2. MobyQuail

    MobyQuail c. giganticus

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    very cool, brings another angle to this little bird. thanks for sharing!
     
  3. MobyQuail

    MobyQuail c. giganticus

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    we did clicker training with our pitbull.

    the smaller and smaller green square is cool.

    Im sure others are doing similar experiments but I gotta give you kudos for documenting and sharing.
     
  4. jbobs

    jbobs Chillin' With My Peeps

    It's actually a really common thing for people getting trained in clicker training to train chickens, actually. because a chicken is so fast that it forces you to be very fast and percice about what behaviour you're marking. Often their movements are not only very fast but very subtle. There is some awesome stuff on youtube on chicken training, but I couldn't find any videos on quail training so i thought I'd try it.
     
  5. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend... Staff Member

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    Holy Crow Batman!! LOL This is really interesting stuff here! I have always known quail had intelligence and many years ago was for warned not to expect much from them. But I have also used clicker training on my Bobwhites with great success.

    I keep my Bobs in an aviary and with so many of them running around, sometimes I need to be able to control them. Especially in emergency situations and yes, I have had a few situations that warranted my need for evacuation.

    But I could not move 31 Bobs in orderly fashion in a hurry! So what to do? I then remembered that I had some clickers that I had used to train our puppy and I had saved the clickers for any future need. Well, the quail needed it!

    I had no idea if it would work or not, but I wanted to train them to go into their coop, which is in the greenhouse that shares one wall of the aviary. So at first, I was just commanding them to "get in the coop" as I am clicking this thing. But how do I get the quail to understand what I wanted?? I thought about using food, but I couldn't lure them in like you might a chicken following a tray of corn!

    So, out came the dreaded "net". My quail know what that net means and they had better go to the opposite side of the aviary when that thing comes out, or they are gonna get caught! So in one hand I held the net, making sure everybody saw it, and in the other I clicked my clicker, while saying, "get into the coop". Well wouldn't you know, they all filed in as it was the farthest place away from that net!!

    I was so excited! Ok..but that does not mean they are trained, but at least I was able to get them inside. So over the days, and weeks, I worked with them at least once a day. And after about one month, I no longer needed the net! All I had to do was click my clicker and say "get in the coop" and they marched in like soldiers!

    And not a moment too soon did I have them trained as I had an incident with the ceiling caving with too much snow on it, one summer a big rattle snake somehow got in the aviary...so my clicker came to the rescue and got the quail to safety. And even years and years later, going months on end when I do not use the clicker, they still remember what that click means.

    Another interesting fact about a few of my Bob's....a few of them actually know their names and come when called. This is a true statement. They do know when I am calling them and having hatched nearly all my Bobs, some of them have bonded early on with me. I worked some of them through and through to friendly them up and a few of them stayed extremely trusting in me.

    So quail do have brains! And I do not doubt in the LEAST that they can be trained.

    Jbobs, this is fantastic stuff you have done here. Excellent work here!! Fascinating!
     
  6. mz.candiz

    mz.candiz Out Of The Brooder

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    Awesome!! I can't wait to see more; super interesting!!!
     
  7. MobyQuail

    MobyQuail c. giganticus

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    told ya jbobs...

    good stuff huh Leyla?

    and wait til Tonya sees it... lol
     
  8. jbobs

    jbobs Chillin' With My Peeps

    twocrowsranch, thankyou! I know they are just "dumb quail" kinda like "dumb chickens" but they do have the capacity to learn easily - mostly because they take everything at face value.

    Good to hear that you have a system for your birds - our chickens do the same. They have learned that when the net comes out, everyone better haul a** back to the coop or they are going to go for a ride! Your birds have associated the sound of the click with being chased by the net, so now everytime they hear the click they make the next step in their mind and work to avoid what's comming next. It's a good system and it works - but it actually isn't clicker training! :)

    Animal behaviourists recognize two different kinds of learning: operant learning and classical learning. Classical learning is like Pavlov's dogs (and like your trained bobwhites!) - when the dogs were fed, a bell rang, and they paired the ringing of the bell with food and began to physiologically react to the sound of a bell by salivating. The bell meant food! Just like when you're sitting on the bus and someone opens a bag of chips, we suddenly want chips (well, I do anyway) When your birds hear the clicker, they immediately go on alert and a second later run into the coop because they associate the sound with the unpleasantness of being chased by the net or going for a ride in it.

    Clicker training is a type of operant learning. Operant learning involves some classical learning too, at least at first. With a dog or horse or any animal - let's use a quail, for example - the sound of the clicker has to be paired with something pleasant and desireable - something the bird is willing to work for. A dog might work for a treat, or a ball, or a belly rub, or simply a "good dog!" but a quail doesn't care about anything but food, so that's what I use. I also start them off hungry, so they havn't eaten in a few hours. With Brita i use mealworms now, because they are a very, very awesome food according to her and she'll work harder for them than for silly layer crumbles. (As any binge eater of cookies and chocolate will tell you, eating good food makes you feel good, because it releases endorphins). So I click and then immediate feed her a bite. And do it again and again. I always stop before she gets full so she doesn't lose interest. But after a few days of this, the sound of the click means FOOD IS COMING YAY! and physiologically, in the brain, endorphines like seratonin are released when the click is heard BEFORE THE FOOD EVEN COMES. This part is purely classical learning, the same way your bobwhites learned that the click meant NASTYNESS IS COMING! RUN HIDE!

    So now what? When I hear the click, I get food, thinks the quail. But now I only click and feed at certain times - like when her foot is touching the green square on the floor. The first few times she doesn't know what she's doing, it's random. She accidently steps on it, she gets a click and treat. But when she doesn't step on it, nothing happens. She wonders why suddenly she isn't getting a steady stream of click treat, click treat, click treat. Somewhere along the way the quail (or, whatever you are training) makes a HUGE discovery - "it only clicks when my foot is on the green sqaure. Hmmm." and as an experiment, she PURPOSELY puts her foot on the green square in an effort to bring back the click. And it works. At this point, a lot of animals will visibly do a little a happy dance and get really excited when they discover that they actually have control over the click and can make it happen any time they want - just by stepping on a green square. It's funny because you can actually see this with Brita and her green square - she looks at it, looks at the clicker, looks back at it, and just deliberately puts her foot on it then looks to the clicker to see if she is right. And she is. And then she can't stop doing it. They call this Operant learning because the animal has become the operator. So now if I put a green sqaure in front of her, she steps on it. if I take that away and put a red ball in front of her, she pecks it. She knows the objects are different and that she has to do different things to them in order to get the click.From her perspective, it's like she is training me. "How can I teach this dumb human to give me food?" "See how well trained she is - all I have to do is peck this ball and she gives me food."

    With dogs its a little more complex because they view us differently and actually have an emotional bond with humans, but with a quail - we're just food dispensers. If I give Brita enough food eventually she will stuff herself and lay down and not peck the ball anymore because the food is no longer desireable.

    NOW, about bobwhites... I hatched one alone once and raised it by hand in the house and I swear it was as intelligent and sociable as a parrot. It ran free in the house and could not bear to be away from me. I think that somone could do some crazy stuff with a bobwhites quail, they are just so... alert, inquisitive. I would love to see what a bobwhite could do!
     
  9. jbobs

    jbobs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thanks everyone! As soon as I get back from my practicum in two weeks I'll be making more videos and doing more advanced stuff with her. I have the raw footage of her platform stunt I just havn't put it together yet. Maybe I'll try to get on it this week :)
     
  10. TwoCrows

    TwoCrows Show me the way old friend... Staff Member

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    How right you are here! I guess my crew is working on a fear response of getting into the coop instead of a "if I do this, I will be rewarded" response. But! All these techniques do prove that there IS a brain inside those tiny quail and we should take that into consideration the next time they do something we think is stupid. LOL

    Now with my few that know their names, they have been trained to know that if they do come when they are called, they do get treats. I have one boy that literally wants me dead, LOL, his name is Simon, and I can call him from anywhere in the yard and he will come to the screen door of the aviary or jump up on a post to see where I am at and scream at me. LOL I don't know if he associates this word, "Simon" with me threatening him, as he always wants a fight with me, or he truly just knows his name. But it sure is comical that at any moment, never fail, I can get this quail to pop up from under the brush pile and scream at me. LOL

    You are doing a fantastic job here and keep up this great project. And, keep us posted on all your ventures in training quail!!!
     

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