Chicken Training

The first photo shoot for my childrens’ book, Snowball Lays an Egg, is happening this coming weekend. I have been preparing the 7 hens in my new barn for their moment of stardom by training them to pose next to a target stick. I’ve also been trying to get them to go in and stay in a nesting box on cue.

It turns out that some hens have more aptitude than others for this sort of thing. After only a few days of training sessions, I decided to replace my New Hampshire Red, Marge, with her sister, Petunia. Marge was posing just fine – but she was too obnoxious! Marge is the loudest hen, and she clucks with such an insistently complaining tone, that I just couldn’t work with her. Petunia, on the other hand, is a pleasure to be around.

I’ve always loved the Australorps, Twinkydink and Blackie, because of their calm natures. Physically, I can’t tell them apart. One of them went into the new barn. After a week of training sessions, it was clear that she couldn’t handle any separation from the flock. Even if she could see the other hens from the other side of a screen door, she’d fly into a panic. So, I switched her with her twin, who I am calling Twinkydink. This Australorp (same age and background) is also nervous, but can be handled and trained.

So, for those of you keeping track, in view on the Hencam are Blackie and Marge.

Meanwhile, luckily, thankfully, Snowball has emerged as a true star. She follows the target stick and stands next to it. I have gotten her to walk in a circle on the roof of toy truck – a skill she needs for this book!

Training animals is a window into their personalities and quirks. Not only have I learned breed differences (the Barred Rocks will do anything for food, and the Orpingtons are gentle but nervous), but I’ve learned about each individual in my backyard flock.

Now, if I could find the time, maybe I could train my puppy, Scooter!

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