Harold the Rooster

AMKuska

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We're working on putting sit to a verbal command. I think it must be hard for chickens to distinguish a verbal command. They're very responsive to visual cues but not so much the verbal cues so far
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AMKuska

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Today, I wrote to an Avian Training program that specializes in parrots and other "higher birds" today about Harold. I want to find out if their training program will be useful for a chicken trainer, as Harold has not progressed all that much on his sit.

The last two days he has refused to sit without some kind of lure. He will not offer sit on his own. I'd really like to be working on heel work now, as most of the novice rally-o maps are a combination of sit and heel. In order for my project to finish I need him to be able to understand sit not just while I'm on my hands and knees luring him with corn, but also when I'm standing up and even walking around him.

I know they are capable of learning it because the girls are offering it no problem, but I'm perplexed as to why Harold isn't. We'll just keep working on it.
 

AMKuska

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Harold is a stubborn rooster!
I suspect the fact that he's a rooster is actually the root cause. Hens sit to be mated, to warm chicks, to lay eggs, etc. sitting is natural for them. Roosters stretch up to look for predators, and seldom sit outside of perching. Since it isn't natural for him, he's probably more reluctant to do it.
 

flowerbug

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I suspect the fact that he's a rooster is actually the root cause. Hens sit to be mated, to warm chicks, to lay eggs, etc. sitting is natural for them. Roosters stretch up to look for predators, and seldom sit outside of perching. Since it isn't natural for him, he's probably more reluctant to do it.

so you're looking for a rooster that puts the seat down...
 

Branching Out

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Does the learned behaviour have to be a 'sit', or might it be possible to train him to do something else instead that would be more rooster-like? It is quite interesting following this training process.
 

AMKuska

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Does the learned behaviour have to be a 'sit', or might it be possible to train him to do something else instead that would be more rooster-like? It is quite interesting following this training process.
I can. The Rally-O judge said it would be fine to make accommodations for his chicken-ness. The major issue being that as a bipedal animal his "sit" and "Down" Will likely look exactly the same. We've talked about doing a wing spread or something to indicate a down better, but nothing has been decided.

I'm reluctant to change this however, because the goal of the training project is to show what new behaviors look like for dog training. I'd ideally like to go through sit, down, come etc. as closely as possible since it is a model for dog behavior. The idea is if you can train a chicken to do it, you can certainly train a dog to do it--even if you don't have the brightest dog.

Happily, I tried a new technique this morning and made a small amount of progress. I'll try and go out again this evening and take pictures/video. In this book I read about resource guarding (relevant because practicing taking away a prize object like a bone is something that isn't natural or desirable from your dog's perspective) I found a hot and cold activity to try.

Essentially, you practice with something "easy" first to warm up, and then move on to something harder. In this case, I had Harold do sit 9 times with a lure, and then asked for sit without the lure. The first 2 sets of 10 he didn't do it, but the third set he did offer one sit without a lure. I can work with that! My goal for the next week is one sit on verbal command only per lesson, and we'll move on from there.
 

AMKuska

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This will be my last post on Harold for a couple of weeks. It appears he just needs a ton more time than a dog does, which is unsurprising given the fact that he is a chicken. Over the last two days he has figured out what I've wanted, and started offering it without lure once or twice.

I am going to take the next 2 weeks to make sure he knows what I want. I'll update this again when we're working on heeling, and sequencing his first trick (scratching a target) with his second trick, sitting. I may update with cute photos in between though, because who could resist Harold?!

Here he is, sitting with no lure! So proud!

haroldsits2.png
 

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