How to Socialize and Train a Backyard Pet Chicken
for their treat
hen on a walk
Backyard pet chickens are easily trained with positive encouragement and tasty treats.
It is easiest to work with hens that were socialized as chicks, but with routine practice and a safe environment even older chicken can learn to trust and work with you.
Develop a training routine that includes a familiar person, time and expectations. Approach your pet chickens with a calm, serene attitude. Chickens are easily startled and like to know what to expect.
Handle your pet chickens gently. Do not force, trap, or chase your pet chickens. This will imprint fear instead of joy with your training sessions.
Mimic their sounds as they talk with you. Listen carefully and you can learn some chicken speak – coos and clucks that indicate a contented state. They check in with each other often as a flock and will quickly accept you as one of them.
Bring treats to your pet chickens. By feeding them a few blades of grass or some bugs every time you visit they will soon associate you with positive experiences.
Respect the pecking order. The lead chicken should always be greeted and offered a treat first. This will keep the flock happy and calm.
Not all pet chickens like to be held; accept each individual’s comfort level and the pace and outcome of training will expand to the best of their ability.
Use mealworms or scratch grain for training. Sit down and give them the treat when they come to you. Next, you can work towards having them hop into your lap to get the treat.
Use a sturdy perch for training once they are able to fly. Put the treat in a cup and tap it on the perch. The smartest one will quickly figure this out and the others will follow. Give them the treat when they hop up.
When your pet chickens hop up as you approach you will know they have the perch/treat trick figured out. The next step is to hold them while you give them the treat. Always praise them and repeat their chicken talk.
Put them on the ground after the treat. Just like the rat that learns to press a lever, they will understand they have choice and will quickly learn being held is a positive experience.
Begin taking the pet chicken out of the coop for a walk. Hold your hen securely under the breast and do not put her down. The first time may only be a few yards; she is not used to being separated from the flock.
The comfort level will increase each time you walk them. Soon you can take your pet chicken inside your house or to visit a neighbor. Give her a treat when you return to the coop and give the next willing hen a turn.
Purchase a small dog harness and lead. Place the smaller opening over the head of your calmest chicken and bring the other strap under the wings. This is best done on the perch you use for training. Offer a treat when the harness is on.
The leash ring should be on the back between the wings. Set her on the ground inside the coop. If the hen totally freaks out and won’t calm down with food or petting take off the harness and try another pet chicken.
When your best trainee comfortably stands and walks with the harness on you can take her out of the coop on a leash and put her on the ground. Some chickens will want to have another along for comfort. Make the first few attempts short and finish off with a treat. Remember not all pet chickens will get to this level of training.
Allow the pet chicken to lead the leash adventure. Pick them up to avoid brambles or danger and set them down in the safety of your yard. They have spurts of energy and may run quickly at times. Then they will stop and peck or rest. They may try to hop up to perch on a higher object, always be careful with a leash to avoid entanglement.
Remove the harness on the training perch and offer a treat. Unbuckle the quick release tab and gently thread out from the under the wings.
Remove the headpiece by tipping the pet chicken’s head up and slipping off from the front where the feathers are shorter.
Visit a school or group with your pet chicken. Buy a bird carrier from a pet store and practice taking your calmest hen into your house inside the carrier. Make sure she has the harness on while in the carrier, but put the leash on only when you take her out. With a few practice sessions your pet chicken will look forward to this adventure.