Time to Train Your Chickens!

Did you know you can train your chickens, even your turkeys?? Well, you can. Now of course you can not train these guys to sit, or stay, or not poop on your porch, but what you can train them to do is come when called.

OK, maybe they won’t come when called in the exact way your dog will come when called, however you can get them to come to you when they see certain things happen. At my house, my chickens and turkeys know it is time to come to us when a few things occur, first if they see my middle child. They associate him with food so when they meander up the driveway and he goes out the side door and calls for them they all come running/flapping down the driveway to safety. He will occasionally toss them some food so that they continue to run to him when he calls.

The second time they know when to come is when the side door opens. Now they think that it is every time the door opens because we frequently throw scraps out of the door to give them a treat. As soon as you open the door birds come running from everywhere on the property to see what treat they are getting. Just picture if you would 40ish birds flocking to the side door. It can be quite entertaining as they all coming running as fast as their little chicken legs can carry them in hopes of getting a morsel of food.

Lastly, they ALWAYS follow whoever has a white bucket. We feed them every evening out of white 5-gallon buckets. They have learned that when we have them and are walking back to their coop it is time to eat. All the birds including the turkeys know what this means and they run around you trying to stay near the bucket while also being the first ones to the coop. The turkeys even know how to go through the coop to their section and wait on their meal. The only downfall with this is that if you have to carry a bucket elsewhere on the property be prepared for a line of chickens to follow you in hopes that your bucket contains food.

So as you can see training your chickens and turkeys is really not hard all you need is food and a routine. When we started with our birds, and when we have new young birds to train, we begin with shortening the time that they free range. This allows us to take advantage of them wanting to go back to the coop and roost before we head out to feed them. When we are ready to feed them, we have one person take the bucket around back calling to the birds and dropping a little food so they realize what we have for them. Another person stays behind and helps to herd the stragglers until they follow the group. When you already have older birds trained in this manner the younger ones pick it up rather quickly, otherwise, it may take you a few weeks for everyone to learn the routine. Once they are all in the coop we shut the door and feed them, grabbing any more stragglers as needed. (Here is where I will admit that it is my Husband that does most of the birds training, due to this ANYTIME they see him whether it is with food or not they all follow him)

One key to this method is to only feed the birds once a day, they free range the rest of the day so they get plenty of food. We have learned that teaching the birds what meal time looks like gives us the upper hand when we need to put them up early. There have been times when we’ve had hawks in the yard that won’t leave or a stray dog or fox stalking around, and we have used this method to get everyone safely back into the coop without losing any birds. I do not promise this will work with your birds (chickens sometimes just do what they want), but if you choose to free-range them and can teach them to respond to certain signals you will find it much easier to get them in when night falls, the weather is bad or there is a predator. Chickens and turkeys really can be trained just not to go fetch the paper.

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