Why should dog trainers train chickens?
Trainers do not have bad (or good!) chicken training habits because they’ve never trained a chicken before, thus avoiding the baggage often taken to dog training workshops. Training a chicken is a stretch and a boost to your mechanical skills. The average chicken is faster than the average dog, giving you a chance to improve your coordination and timing. Chickens will freeze or fly away if they don’t like the way you are training them. Unlike dogs, you will know immediately if you are taking advantage of a chicken or pushing too hard, too fast. Chickens don’t give their trainers a second chances as often as our dogs do. You will not be showing your chickens at the next performance event, nor will you be taking them home, so there is no pressure on what will happen in the future. You probably do not have a library full of chicken training books and DVD's to influence you, much less televisions shows on chicken training. Instead, you can take advantage of this amazing opportunity to work with Legacy's resident flock of chickens. Each student will have one or two chickens to handle and train using a clicker and food pellets. Students will work in pairs, taking turns training their own chickens and coaching their partner.
Listen to what experts have to say!
Watch Terry explain the benfits of training chickens in the video below How to Teach an Old Chicken New Tricks.
Read what Don Hanson, former president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, has to say about chicken training.
Chicken Workshop Descriptions
Legacy offers 3 chicken workshops taught by Terry Ryan for both the beginning and advanced chicken trainer. These include: Poultry in Motion, Beginner Chicken Camp (Shaping, Targeting, and Discrimination) and Advanced Chicken Camp (Criteria, Cueing and Chaining). Read more about each course below.
Poultry in Motion
This workshop will introduce you to chicken training. We will focus on selected principles of classical and operant conditioning. We will work on timing, criteria and rate of reinforcement while shaping a simple behavior. Systematic desensitization, criteria definition and selection, latency (limited hold), discrimination and extinction will be discussed. Coaching skills, constructive critiquing, lateral thinking and problem solving skills will be practiced. Parallels will be drawn between chicken and dog training. No experience required.
Beginner Chicken Camp: Shaping, Targeting and Discrimination
The student's understanding of the concepts of applied behavior analysis will be developed. We’ll practice mechanical skills with special attention to timing and eye-hand coordination. Lessons include observing and recording behavior on a simple ethogram, systematic desensitization, capturing a behavior, shaping a behavior and the use of targets. Students will work on a discrimination task. The pros and cons of extinction as a learning tool will be discussed. Effective coaching techniques to aid your training partner will be addressed. No experience required.
Advanced Chicken Camp: Criteria, Cueing and Chaining
Students will train several behaviors and assemble them into a chain. This will be a combination of targeting, obstacle and moving behaviors. Students will develop their skills in the selection, identification and effective marking (use of bridge) of training criteria. We will discuss rapidly changing criteria and cues as reinforcers within a chain. The concepts of stimulus control, latency and fluency will be also be discussed. Goal setting and task analysis skills will be developed. Prerequisite: Completion of Poultry in Motion or Beginner Chicken Camp.
FAQs for Legacy Chicken Camps
Typical Day at Camp
Students will work in pairs, taking turns training their own chickens and coaching their partner.
These topics will be covered in approximately the following order.
Mechanical Skills – drills for eye-hand coordination, timing and observation skills
Ethology-consideratiom of the ethology, physical attributes, and stress issue of the animals
Umwelt – how individuals acquire, process and store information differently
Selection, identification and effective marking (use of bridge) of training criteria
Reinforcement: rate/schedule/value/delivery/quantity, 80% rule, Premack principle
Capturing and Shaping behaviors – in general and specifically to target training
Criteria Selection and Identification – what do you really want?
Task Analysis , instructional formatting, Training Plans
How to Be a Good Coach –including TAG teaching exercises
Data Collection, keeping records, making a TAGulator
Lateral thinking techniques
The History of Legacy's Chicken Training Camps
Legacy has been hosting dog training camps since the 1980’s. In the old days the camps had 120 participants, many from overseas. Terry decided that a convenient on-site training model should be provided for people flying in and unable to bring their dogs. For several years Legacy campers trained rats in Skinner boxes. In the early 90’s Ingrid Kang Shallenberger (Sea Life Park) and Terry Ryan, began using bantam chickens as training models at Legacy camps. The students rotated several times a day among various instructors and topics. The “other” species section was a popular rotation enjoyed for many years by Legacy campers. In 1994 Terry asked Marian Breland-Bailey and Bob Bailey to share their years of animal training experience with Legacy campers. For several years Marian and Bob taught the chicken unit at Legacy Camps.