The Art of Natural Dressage

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 Post subject: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:46 am 
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Location: Vienna, Austria
As you may know, I did a Chicken Camp last autumn and was totally amazed about what great little characters those animals can be. They learn lightning fast, are clever and eager and all of a sudden I found myself totally in love with them :love: :funny:.

Last weekend I visited the second part of the Chicken Camp and again I came home with high spirits and renewed enthusiasm for Clicker Training and positive reinforcement.
We tried to train more complicated things this time - we had two hens each to train with. With one we tried to do a nice behaviour chain (including climbing a ladder, picking up a piece of cloth and finally knocking over a small bowling pin). the second one was our "experimental chicken". We could pick any behaviour we wanted to get a bit deeper into certain topics we wanted to learn.

Here is my "experimental hen", which I named Gertrude. She was as clever (she excelled in form discrimination!) as she was beautiful and I hope she gets a nice place to spend her life in peace. I would have taken her gladly, if I had the space :)
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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:34 pm 

Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 9:58 pm
Posts: 1620
Location: Western Cape, South Africa
They are very smart and force you to be consistant!!!! I had no idea they used them for teaching clicker until you posted about it some time ago, but figured out at the last place how easy they were to train if food was involved. Today I put out hay for our two and the chickens came running, they have obviously figured out that when the horses are there, there is easy grain to be had :funny: It is no where near where they are normally, but within minutes they had arrived.
Chickens can be so beneficial for stables as they eat all the eggs and lavae in the poop and keep the flies down. Can you not ask the owner of the stables if you could get a couple to run free range? They really need next to nothing except a shelter (blocks and a plank of wood) and need very little feeding if they are running free. Not sure if you have predators there though (birds of prey/snakes etc) if you do, a simple run where they can be locked in at night (chicken wire) will suffice.
Goats are also fun to clicker with although not nearly so keen as chickens and pretty suspicious of what you may be doing :funny:
Great photo by the way :D

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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:30 pm 
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Location: Vienna, Austria
Morgan wrote:
I had no idea they used them for teaching clicker until you posted about it some time ago, but figured out at the last place how easy they were to train if food was involved.
In fact, it has become quite popular to use chickens to train animal trainers. For one part, it's easy to get them without training history whatsoever, so you can really start fresh. For another part, they are so fast in their movements and also in mirroring the trainer's successful or unsuccessful clicks.

Morgan wrote:
Can you not ask the owner of the stables if you could get a couple to run free range?
Hmm. I thought about that myself, but honestly - I don't really trust the living conditions of the chickens at our barn. The seldom are allowed outside their little pen, because of mislaid eggs and the not so tame German Shepherd who also lives there :sad:

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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:08 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:21 pm
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Location: Devon, United Kingdom
That's brilliant Volker! I have also heard how good they are at 'training trainers', and making you much more precise with the clicker. I am about to begin a clicker training journey, so am wondering if Bill's mum will let me have a play with her chooks before I unleash myself on Skylark and Spirit. I'm sure she won't mind, so i'll keep you posted on my progress with Sharon, Lucinda, Gladys and Marjorie :D


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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2013 8:10 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:28 am
Posts: 39
Location: Australia
Hi Volker,

we love our chooks who live a very natural life. They all go inside a snake and fox proof pen at night and in the morning I let them out at dawn. They all have names too. We never take the eggs they want to hatch, only the ones they "give" to us. They often put them in my washing basket or if they want to give them to the dogs they lay them in the dog kennel. The ones they try to give to the horses we get. But often they decide to hatch some eggs so they lay them elsewhere and sit on them and after 21 days they have little chicks. Here is a video of my son with our chooks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n7v-AO3 ... e=youtu.be

I have to look up more about the chicken training so we can get into that together. They are safer than horses for little kids! I would love to hear how you started with Gertrude, if you have time to tell me.

Uli


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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2013 2:49 pm 
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Ulrike Kraft wrote:
We never take the eggs they want to hatch, only the ones they "give" to us.
That's so nice :).
I've read stories about chickens and how wonderfully social they are and also so interactive with humans. Must be nice to have some living yith you...

I trained chickens only at the Chicken Camp clinic and there the approach was a rather strict one, adhering closely to clicker training rules. We did very short sessions (30 seconds at first) after which we wrote a report and how we intend to progress. We started the chickens right with operant conditioning, usually some form of targeting or free shaping.
We had a useful tool which made our work a lot easier - it's what I am holding in my hand on the picture above. It was a small sieve, with a clicker taped to its handle ;). That way, we could click and quickly deliver the food (mostly grain and corn), with one smooth movement and not risking to lose either food or the clicker. Since chicken are really fast, it proved wise to cover the sieve with the other hand ;).

I guess though, had I my own chickens, I would try to work just like I do with my horses :smile:. It was fun though, to do some SERIOUS training for once :D.

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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2013 7:39 pm 
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Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:28 am
Posts: 39
Location: Australia
Thank you very much for your reply, Volker!

I don't really know the clicker training rules. I never knew about chicken training, either.

We're going to have so much fun and I'll try to record some of it to share here. The big school holidays are about to start, so that will give Felix something to do....

Yes it's so nice to have them living with us! I love the roosters too! Even though they crow all night. But guess what, I only wake up if I don't hear them and then I run out there to check if a snake got in somehow.

Thanks again,

Uli


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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 9:17 am 
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I just remembered that there is a video of my first chicken camp - just so you can imagine what it's like ;) Seeing it again, I realise how slow and hesitating I was. It got better in the second clinic :).
What's also important to know that you have to keep your training sessions short and only feed like 1 piece of corn per click, as otherwise the chicken will be full quite soon and lose interest ;). You can feel the size of the crop at the base of the neck to check how much they can yet eat...

Image
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M89Mi9G4b9c

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Volker

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 Post subject: Re: Chicken!
PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:14 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:28 am
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Location: Australia
Thank you very much for posting this video, Volker! I couldn't quite imagine the food container thing. Watching it made me realize that we need something similar because of the sharp beak!

Uli


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