There’s a lot of advantages to train your chickens to come when called, including keeping them safe from predators.
It’s also pretty fun to see these tiny little dinosaurs come running, excited for their treat (mealworms are a favorite).
We used to have a Rhode Island Red hen named Daisy who would not just come running, but would wait for us to pick her up!
Realistically, if you train your chickens to come when called, you’re giving them another way to defend themselves when you spot a predator, but in their free-range daze, your chickens might have missed (a good example are hawks or eagles – these predators like the element of surprise, and chickens pretty much have no chance once in their clutches).
You will also have an easy way to find them when they’ve wandered off out of sight. There’s been many times on our farm when we’ve been looking for a particular hen, who has gone off somewhere.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to train your chickens to come when called, and luckily, it’s pretty straightforward (especially if you train dogs or any other sort of animal.) All you will be doing is treat-training your chickens.
Decide what THE CALL will be
You will have to have a single call to signal to your hens that it’s time to come home, and use only that call.
The call can be long or short, whatever works for you, as long as you can do it loudly, since your chickens might not always be close to you.
I use my voice, but you can use whatever signal you like, but be consistent.
Use a treat your chickens like, that they can specifically associate with your call
You want to choose a treat they love, and only give them that treat while you train them (continue to only give it after they understand the exercise, otherwise you will un-train them).
Pick something that you can be certain each chicken will be able to get, such as scratch, mealworms, unsalted pumpkin seeds, unsalted sunflower seeds, etc. Mine go nuts over mealworms, and they don’t get them all the time, so they’re perfect for us.
Specifically choose something that you can spread out over a few feet; if you don’t, then only some of the chickens will get the treat – and only some of the chickens will come home when called.
Train them to associate the call with the treat
Just like training a dog, you want your flock to associate the behavior (coming when called) with the treat.
Begin to train your chickens to come when called by giving them the treat in their coop. At the same time give your call.
Repeat this exercise at least once a day, and use your call each time. You can do it several times a day if you have the time.
Test whether they understand
After 2-3 weeks, test your chickens. Give the signal – do they come when called? If so, congrats! Your chickens are trained.
If not, don’t worry – teaching any animal can take some time. They will get it eventually.
Pro tips to successfully train your chickens to come when called
There’s a few other things I’ve learned over the years to do this successfully. When teaching your hens, make sure your flock hasn’t just eaten. If they’re not hungry, they’re less likely to respond.
Of course, chickens are pretty big pigs, and mine are ALWAYS hungry, so this might not be an issue for you!
Similarly, if they’ve been cooped all day, and you want to get them to come right after they’ve been let loose, you’re less likely to be successful. Time their free-range time so they have at least a couple hours outside in the sun.
I’d like to hear from you!
Did you train your chickens to come when called? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.
I start training mine when they are chicks using mealworms in my hand this gets them to come when called & use to me picking them up anytime without raising a fuss. They know at a certain time of day they are going to get a treat (different every day) & line up by the fence gate and wait for me.
Thanks for the tips. I just put my chickens out side for the first time. They seem a bit scared and confused. I did use your advice, we’ll see, hope it works.
I use the same treat, call & treat container I use a clean old ice cream plastic tub. Now the chickens close by just see the tub & come. Those further out or behind trees come to my call. Life is good.
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