Thursday, January 5, 2012

Training Your Chicken

We clipped the chickens wings today. The whole damn flock of them. All paying because one of them decided to learn to fly.

The problem is that two of the girls are leghorns, which are lighter than the other four ladies. For those not up on chickens, Leghorns are the breed that was depicted in the old Warner Brothers cartoons by the character Foghorn Leghorn (the Southern rooster known for his "I say, I say boy!")

Yesterday I had let the girls out to scratch around the yard while I read my paper on the patio. I had no more sat down than one of the leghorns, I'll go with Peaches since I don't recall seeing the other one, took a running start and lifted off the ground. Which is pretty typical, they all like to fly about two feet off the ground for five or so feet at a time. But this time, she kept climbing in altitude until she landed on top of the fence that separates us from the neighbor behind. A six foot tall block fence I might add. And then she had the nerve to look pretty damned proud of herself.

Of course, I was freaked out that my future egg supply was heading over to the neighbors house because then I'd have to figure out how to get her back. The thing is that if any of my chickens went over the fences on either side of me, that wouldn't be a problem since I could just go over and ring their doorbell and get my wayward pet back. But the neighbors behind me are fairly (okay totally) anti-social. To the point that they removed their doorbell and don't answer the door when you knock. We only know this because Master J lost at least one toy over there that we've never gotten back because they wouldn't answer the door.

Thankfully my chickens are trained. That's right people, I said the birds are trained. Remember back to when we got them how I said I wanted to handle them and make them easier to work with? Well, I have. And now I shall reap the reward of not losing my chickens over the wall.

Because I love you guys, I'm going to tell you the secret of training your chickens so that you too can keep your egg supply in your yard. Or at least get it back to your yard should it wander. Here's how it works...

Step 1: Every time I brought scraps of food to them, I would talk to them. I would tell them I was bringing them a "snack". When it got really cold (for Arizona) I brought them oatmeal in the morning and they LOVED that. I actually told them I was bringing oatmeal each time so now if I say the word "oatmeal" they get all sorts of excited.

Step 2: Once they started figuring out what it meant when I said I had a snack, I started only putting the snack into their coop when I wanted them to go back to their coop. I would tell them I had a snack and they would follow me to the coop.

Step 3: Here's where it gets into the real "training" part. I started telling them I had a snack, then followed that with telling them to "kennel up", which is a phrase our favorite dog trainer used with our first dog. It seemed easier to stick with the phrase I was familiar with rather than trying to say "get in the coop" (while simultaneously trying like hell not to let on to the neighbors that we have chickens in the first place.) I repeated the phrase "kennel up" once the food was in the coop until the last chicken got in.

Step 4: That's it.

Seriously, the girls are trained to get into their coop when I tell them to kennel up. Most of the time they head right in, I always make sure I have food with me because I want to make sure I'm always positively reinforcing the words I use.

Yesterday, when Peaches landed on the top of the fence, I immediately asked if they wanted a snack and told them to kennel up. They all ran for the coop (including Peaches, who flew down from the fence.) I ran into the house and grabbed a bit of strawberry tops from Master J's snack and brought it back out to the coop. I tossed the tops into the coop and closed the door.

And today, Mister C and I learned how to clip chicken wings like professionals. Did you know that Youtube has a video for everything? They do. Including how to clip your chickens' wings. I grabbed each bird from the coop and held their wing out while Mister C clipped the fight feathers. It took about fifteen minutes to do all six and that's for first timers. I'm betting next time we can get it under ten. Mostly I'm just happy that I won't have to worry about them disappearing over the fence any time soon. I say, I say Boy! That makes me happy.


Anonymous said...

I say,I say Boy, you are trusting to let Mr C do the clipping. Is this my son-in-law who never measures twice,I'm surprised they weren't wing less. Jk Mister C.:-) Thanks for the tutoral,very visual and interesting:-)