Last week at this time I was enrolled in Chicken Camp 101 with Terry Ryan of Legacy Canine. Terry first started teaching Chicken Camps 15-20 years ago when she wanted to offer dog trainers a way to hone their clicker training skills. Since chickens are often faster than dogs and less forgiving, they were an ideal species for trainers to work with to expand on their skill set and timing.
I attended the two-day workshop where I was paired with another person and assigned a chicken. My partner, Patricia Calderone of Clicker Canines, and I worked with a beautiful and talented hen named Chickira. Chickira is a cross between a Wheaten Ameracana and a Welsummer and produces olive-colored eggs (exterior shell).
Over the course of two days, we worked on our timing and delivery. Making sure not to be to distracting with our body language when working with the chicken and being sure to click the exact moment the behavior we wanted was being produced.
Chickens are quick, so this is where getting our timing down was crucial. I’m happy to say, both Patricia and I had pretty good timing, so we were able to increase the criteria for Chickira at a steady pace and she was able to achieve the approximations we set forth.
We worked on discrimination with Chickira. The first goal was to get her pecking at a target. The first approximation for this was simply to click any interest the chicken showed in the target, which for us, was Chickira bobbing her head towards the target.
Once she was reliably pecking the red-dot target, we started moving the target around on our work table, so that Chickira had to look for and move to peck the target. After she successfully figured out that game, we added another color: a blue-dot target of same shape and size, only different in color. If she happened to peck on the blue-dot target, she was not punished in any way, she was simply not clicked, thus given no reinforcement. This made it clear to Chickira that if she wanted a click and reinforcement, she needed to peck the red-dot target, and red only. Again, we proofed her by moving the targets around, putting them close to each other, sometimes even overlapping them slightly, but only clicking and reinforcing when Chickira got the correct color.
I am all signed up for Chicken Camp 201 this September.
All the chickens who attended Chicken Camp are owned by the same person, Pat, and live a wonderful life on her farm as laying hens. Pat welcomed all of us “Campers” to come out to her farm and work with her chickens whenever we wanted. If only I lived closer to her!