Monday, October 18, 2010

Transitioning Outdoors

Getting used to the chicks while they were indoors was easy, but getting trained with them outdoors is a lot tougher. 
Outside, the chickens now run free, and they actually do run sometimes. They chase bugs, they chase each other, or they are playing, and we have to be trained not to give chase, or allow that instinctual prey drive to kick in. Mum starts out by putting us on a Down-Stay. We get used to the activities and behaviors of the chickens.
There are a lot more distractions for us too, more things to lose focus on, more ways to get in trouble, but we know by now, to stay calm when we are with our chickens. That's the crucial thing, to stay calm.

Mum also feeds us together, and she's done this indoors too, so we have learned that treats = good chicken behaviors. The more we stay calm, the more praise we get, the more treats we get. The chickens get treated too. This is training for both species at the same time.

Rummy surveys the property to make sure all is fine. He checks the chickens under their favorite spots, and is satisfied when all is calm and orderly.

It became a daily ritual, at least twice a day, where we would be on a Down, and Mum would sprinkle oats and other chicken treats all around us so that the chickens associate us with good things.

Rummy watches his chickens from far and close by.

After we get "freed", we are allowed to move with the chickens. By and by, we all get so used to each other, that it no longer becomes necessary for any further training, and all is well.

Rummy moves with the flock as part of our pack. 

So that was how we trained our chickens to love us. I'd say I am amused by my chickens, but I'm not in love with them, as Rummy is. That's me above, sniffing my chicken's butt.

We can now be left alone outside with the chickens, guarding them against hawks or other birds of prey. When we are near, nothing harms our chicks, and that's how we like it. Our neighbor lab, Howard has killed chickens before, and once, he came by around and went to the back fence. Our acreage is totally fenced in, but Howard has learned to push and shove his way under the fence so as to get to our chickens. Rummy was so angry and protective, he and I immediately charged to the fence, and Rummy was growling so hard and deliberately, telling Howard to "Go away, stay away! No entry to you". He really meant it. Howard heeded his warning growls and barks, and he did not push his way through that time. Fortunately, his owner then build him his own run, on their property, so that he couldn't attack our chickens. There is a saying, "Once a chicken killer, always a chicken killer." And Mum is extremely cautious about making sure we don't witness Howard making any kills in front of us. But I don't think Rummy or myself would allow any such thing to happen. The chickens are now part of our pack. We feel strongly for them and our urge to protect them is strong.


When we sense danger or see a strange car pass, we'd bark and sound the alert. All the chickens would hear us and hide. They would dash into their house and stay away till all was well again. We become the alert signals and the birds heed our signs. This was, we become their guardians.

Kimi and Rummy


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Maggie and Mitch said...

You are two of the smartest Dale boys that we know! The chicks feel safer with you around and that's a good thing! Your mom has trained you well!

Love ya lots
Maggie and Mitch

At 4:44 PM, Blogger julandmatt said...

This has been a very interesting lesson about 'just getting along'. Pretty cool stuff.


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