Teaching chicks to come for treats

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by shannaben8, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. shannaben8

    shannaben8 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hi I am a new chick momma. I had my 5 chicks inside in the broader for 5 1/2 weeks. They are 7 weeks now and have been in their coop for a week and a half. They loved me in their broader and now that they live in their coop they don't want nothing to do do with me! I catch them and hold them and talk to them everyday. I hoped to get them to come to me with treats, but they don't seem interested. They don't really know the whole treat thing, as I just throw some in the yard after having sat there with some on a rock by me and no one cares. What can I do to "treat train" them?
     
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    The first step is going to be identifying a really favorite treat item that they just LOVE - this can vary from one flock to the next as some folks swear by a particular item (ie dried meal worms) and others report their birds have zero interest in that same food. Is there a particular treat you know they like? If not, what have you tried to date - it may be as simple as changing your bait.
    Next is to get them to associate a sound with the arrival of that favorite treat -- this can be a verbal call or a sound. One advantage to use a sound over a verbal call is that if there are more people than just you in the family that will need to be able to call the birds (this training is handy not just for getting them to come when you want to pet/play with them but if/when you need to gather them if htey are allowed to free range or make a jail break) - verbal calls, even when using the exact same word/s, can be less effective when delivered by a different person due to tone, pitch, emphasis, volume, etc......a sound produced by an item is the same no matter who does it. You can tap a bucket, shake a rattling item, use a whistle, etc. (I like an empty water bottle with a handful of grit in it -- makes a great sound that can be done quietly or LOUD, the loud is handy when the birds are not in sight and you want to call them in)
    So, you have your bait and your call -- you walk over and, as soon as they notice you, make the sound and toss a little bit of the bait. Lather, rinse, repeat. Work in small doses of treat so that you can repeat the sound/treat cycle several times in a short period. You can then change things up by call, treat then turn away from them a little and call and treat in front of where you are facing now so they are having to move around to the front of you to get to the treat - this helps build the association of coming to you for the reward. Next step is to do the same but moving a few steps away from them each time so they are walking to you for the treat. Practice, practice, practice - increasing the distance and varying the situations so that you are getting them tuned into hearing the call and immediately moving to you, wherever you are, to get the treat they expect.


    All that said - what you are wanting is a bit different than being able to call them - what you seem to be looking for is for them to want to be with you. The change you are seeing is pretty normal when you change environment and at this stage of their lives -- frankly, the brooder was boring and you were the one interesting thing to come alone every day -- now they are out in the coop and there are lots of other interesting things for them to seek out. The best way to get a chicken to want to check you out is to be completely uninterested in the chicken - they are curious by nature. Go out, sit down and read a book or do "chicken chores" of cleaning, filling feed, etc -- the point is, the last thing on *your* mind is the chickens.......if/when they do approach you, ignore them....don't reach for them, pick them up, etc. Let them learn that approaching you does not automatically equal being picked up and handled. They are a prey animal and we represent predators to them, especially in the way we tend to move and respond to them - it's about changing what you represent in their new environment - move from the side or below rather than coming down on them from above, move slowly and quietly vs. trying to snatch them up if they get within reach, use quiet soothing tones - sing song style - vs loud excited voice, etc.
     
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  3. shannaben8

    shannaben8 Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 24, 2016
    Thank you so much!! I have really only tried the mix stuff of dried meal worms/seeds/etc. I guess I need to try new things to see what they love. They just don't seem real interested in table scraps or anything other than their food! With my dogs were that way! Thanks again for your great advice!
     
  4. Cacique500

    Cacique500 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Ole Grey Mare gave some great advice. You might want to try grapes, raisins, and tomatoes. One thing that worked for me is I'll sit down while they're out of the run and let them come to me (and I'll have treats). Several now will jump up on my lap and get rewarded with a raisin. That will draw more in, and next thing you know you've got a lap full of chickens. I also try not to handle them too much, and never come at them from above if I can help it...if I do need to pick them up I let them see my hands and try to come in from the side. I also try to move slowly when close to them so they don't get spooked. I was very spoiled with my last flock...3 of the 5 were full blown lap chickens and would all come take a nap on me while I was reading.

    With my last flock I had a jar of dried mealworms and I could take that and say "chick chick" and wherever they were in the yard it was a sprint to get to me first. VERY easy to get them back in the coop when I needed to. The new batch of chicks just ignores me for the most part and I'll have to go wrangle them. Work in progress... :)
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2016
  5. shannaben8

    shannaben8 Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 24, 2016
    that is great info! Thank you so much! I love your flock, they are beautiful, you have some great friends!!
     
  6. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Love the photo!

    My call is similar to yours, though it was "chick chick" when they were chicks and now it's "chook chook" now that they're chooks. The rattling of dried mealworms isn't the lure that it used to be though, but they'll still come running even without it so I guess I don't need it any longer.

    To OP: The advice above was very thorough so I haven't much to add to it. Just try different treats until you do find something they like. Mine seem to love strawberries the most (I grow alpine strawberries which are perfectly chicken sized) but their tastes seem to change every few weeks, so I'm always trying different foods with them.
     
  7. RRLaney

    RRLaney Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You've got some really good advice! All I can add is that once my youngest pullets have gotten used to (and less afraid) of free ranging they want nothing to do with me until they get older again. They'll come up and eat out of my hands occasionally but they won't risk being picked up. When they're at that stage we try to pick them up only when we can do it without stressing them out, and we make sure to reward them a lot for it. And we always make sure they can leave on their own accord. Then they start to learn that coming to us is fun and they won't get punished (like locked up or held against their will for a long time). And the pattern seems to be that once they get older they start to bond with us more again and everything goes back to normal. We always have lap fulls of chickens!
    Our go crazy for tomatoes, grapes and watermelon. You can also try plain Greek yogurt, meal worms, sprouted seeds, corn, or cooked oatmeal (awesome in the cold weather).
    Only problem with becoming successful at this is you'll have chickens on your lap ALL the time. Good luck ever eating your own food outside again without sharing! Lol

    Exhibit A: Sam trying to eat queso in the backyard! Cersei says "Nope, pay your chicken tax!!"
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    Exhibit B: Sansa helping herself to grapes while I'm distracted feeding the others
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    Here our some of our newest pullets bonding with me for snacks, they hung out for probably half an hour and jumped off when they were full.
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    Favorite picture of my man and a bunch of our red sex links swarming him for meal worms!
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    More corn and mealworm love
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  8. shannaben8

    shannaben8 Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 24, 2016
    omg love it!! I will let them settle in and try more w they are older. This is great stuff. How many do you have?
     
  9. RRLaney

    RRLaney Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We have 15. It's never enough, we keep adding to the flock lol. They really are the most fun pets! Just keep spending time with them, I'd be shocked if they didn't start to take advantage of you like ours do to us lol.
     
  10. mikey1957

    mikey1957 Just Hatched

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    I like to keep my brood guessing. They never know when I am coming with treats or what I am bringing. I found if I only offered treats to get them to go into the coop at night, sometimes they would give me trouble. Like they would decide that they would rather stay out than go back in for treats. Since they never know what they might get (or not!) they come running as soon as they hear or see me. They are a funny little group!
     

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