There’s is a small flock of free roaming hens next door that like to visit and one has just had chicks which are adorable. I’m a little concerned that our dog Cruz may try and chase them for fun as he’s only a couple of years old. We’ve stopped feeding them and are encouraging them back to their property where they’re more likely to be safe.
One big black hen still continues to show up, she’s got a bit of an attitude and doesn’t seem concerned about Cruz at all, they were hanging out about a metre from each other the other day which gives me great hope that in the future they can all get along. I’d like to get a few hens of our own and am hoping I can train Cruz and the hens; I remembered seeing an old article on our site about training hens and thought some of our readers might like to try this too.
Training Your Hens
Most hens will do anything for a sultana so they are a really valuable tool for taming your hens. Start by sitting on the ground and letting them take the sultanas from your hand. If you have a “sultana session” every day, you should have them eating out of your hand in a couple of weeks. Once they have the idea do some sessions without the sultanas. Just sit there and hold our your hand, and they may let you scratch them under the chin, which they love. This is called intermittent reinforcement, and is essential to use when training animals.
As the hens get used to you, gently encourage them to hop up onto your arm by pressing your arm softly against their breast and against their feet. They will climb on as they feel that they are being pushed over. This can take a lot of practice, so keep at it and don’t forget to give a sultana reward if they hop on. With practice, you should be able to walk around with your hen on your arm and eventually train them to hop on your head. Although to be honest, I’ve only ever had one hen who enjoyed that.
Why training is important
Hens have a habit of escaping into neighbours’ gardens, out onto the street, or into your vege patch, so you need to be able to get them to come when called. If you have been conditioning them to eat sultanas, you just need to call them and they will hurry over for treats. Then once you’ve given them a few they will follow you for more. Mission accomplished.
For more info and training tips check out this article from Backyard Chickens