Our chickens are now full grown. So we started letting them free range around the farm during the day and putting them in their coop at night, to protect them against predators. This seemed like a simple enough concept, open the coop in the morning and let the chickens out….no problem….get the chickens back in the coop at dusk…..Problem!!! Getting 6 chickens back in the coop when you want them isn’t an easy task. My Australian Shepard helps me herd them in, but it still takes some time to round them all up.
So I started thinking. I have trained our out door cats to come inside at night when I ring a bell. Could I train a flock of chickens in the same way? As it turns out, You can! It’s simple classical condition (Thank you Dr. Pavlov). You take something the animal really likes to eat. With the chickens I used meal worms. You can either use a bell or whistle, or you can make a specific sound or call. You ring the bell or make the sound and immediately give the chickens the meal worms. You continue to do this for several days. Eventually the chickens will learn to associate the sound you make with the treat. So when they hear the sound they come running, looking for the treat. Now in order to sustain the association between the food and the sound you will periodically need to reinforce it by giving them the treat. But you no longer will need to do it every time. Now I have perfectly trained chickens that come when called.
Problem number two with free range chickens, getting them to lay eggs where we want them to. The chickens seem to love haying out in the horse stall and in the bushes near the house. So my daughter asks, what happens if the chickens start laying eggs all over the yard? Good question kiddo! I hadn’t really thought about that. “Well,” I replied ” I guess you will have an easter egg hunt every morning to find your breakfast!” The look on my daughter’s face told me she wasn’t thrilled with that idea.
So how do you train your chickens to lay eggs in the nesting boxes? I asked a friend of mine who has had free range chickens for awhile. She told me to put fake eggs in the nests and the chickens will lay their eggs next to the fake one’s. I remembered seeing ceramic eggs at the feed store and wondering why in the world you would need ceramic eggs for chickens. Now I know.
Apparently you can also use golf balls, but since my husband wasn’t thrilled with the idea of giving the chickens his golf balls, I went and purchased some ceramic eggs and placed them in the nesting boxes. Our chickens haven’t started laying yet, but hopefully the sight of the fake eggs will give the the hint s to where to lay them.