Training Chickens
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Yep, that’s right…chickens are trainable!  Who would have guessed?

So much is happening at Polyface now that spring has sprung.  Cows are on pasture, broilers are on pasture, turkeys are in the brooder with the chicks, pigs are pigaerating, and eggmobiles are out! Since spring took its time arriving, it has been a mad dash to get all of the animals outside.  Much of the last several days and evenings have been spent preparing, filling and deploying eggmobiles and then training the chickens.  Here is a more in-depth look at the process.

Polyface currently has several sets of eggmobiles. Some sets hold 900 birds while others hold 700.  One set remains at Polyface while the others go to rental farms.  To prepare the eggmobiles for deployment we de-winterize them by doing repairs, haying nest boxes, setting up waterers, etc. When an eggmobile is ready for deployment, we gather together as a team after dark to catch the chickens from the hoop houses. We do this after dark so the chickens are easier to catch. The eggmobiles below are waiting at dusk at hoop house 3 to be filled.

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After we fill an eggmobile, the chickens stay inside for a full day to become familiar with their new home.

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On the second day, we take the eggmobile to the pasture and let the chickens out! Hooray!  The chickens are so happy and it is such a pleasure to see them get outside and do what chickens do!  For the first couple of evenings, we have to go train the chickens to go inside the eggmobile for the night.  If we don’t do this, the chickens will go to sleep under the eggmobile, leaving them vulnerable to predators.  To train the chickens a few of us go to the eggmobile and encourage them to head up the ramps and go inside.  We walk around and “herd” the chickens toward the doors as best we can. The darker it gets, the more the birds huddle up and start to go to sleep.  Once it is dark, we catch the chickens that would not go in on their own and put them inside.  Amazingly, it only takes a couple evenings of this before the chickens figure out how to do it on their own.  Then each night it is only a matter of shutting the eggmobile doors so the chickens are safe and sound inside to sleep. The following pictures were taken at Briarmoor a few evenings ago when we helped Grady train his chickens.

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Old barn at Briarmoor.

 

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About Heather Juda

Heather was born in Atlanta, GA, but spent 19 years in Colorado before moving to Virginia. She came to Polyface for the 2012 internship and has stayed on as the first female apprentice. She became interested in the food industry when she was in high school, and over the years sought to eat in a healthier way through community gardening, hunting and supporting local farmers. She had a very blessed and “comfortable” life in Colorado complete with a good IT career and condo, but on a calling from the Lord, she left it all to start a new life in farming at Polyface. She looks forward to seeing what the Lord has planned for the future and hopes to use what she learns at Polyface to provide healthy food for people!
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22 Responses to Training Chickens

  1. Jeff Hamons says:

    Yep we have to do the same thing. One thing i found that really helps is to wrap the bottom in some cheap lightweight plastic construction fencing. It keeps them out from underneath — a few mak still bunch up one the edges — but at least I’m not crawlin around grabbing them off the axles! Synergistic Acres – Kansas City Natural Farm

    • Leilani says:

      The only issue with enclosing the bottom is that it takes away critical shade area that they need on hot days.

      • hamons says:

        The fencing underneath is just for the brief training period — usually just one week. But you are right — and they are more vulnerable to aerial predators during that time.

  2. Mama C says:

    thanks for sharing! We are just getting ready for our first chicken mobile, and very first set of broilers… then we’ll be building the coop.. We are new to farming, and our aim is sustainable farming.. this post was SO helpful! thanks! I loved the photos

  3. Charles says:

    Great post Heather. This is exactly the kind of post I look forward to on this blog. It has both great content and information with pictures showing the progress. Keep it up.

    Charles

  4. Rachel E. says:

    We trained our chickens to go into the coop within a few days. On occasion we have a few that won’t go in but we just work harder to get them in.

  5. CrystalK says:

    How do you keep predators away during the day? We have such a problem with dogs getting our chickens if they are out and about.

  6. Sarah says:

    I don’t see any poultry nets out there. Are you having success with just letting them range without the nets? We use nets to control their rotation, but I’m wondering if we might be able to get away without them. How often do you move the eggmobile? Thanks!!

    • You need to move the eggmobile every other day. When you do, it needs to move approximately 200 yards or else the birds will continue going back to their previous spot…this is important if you are employing a rotational pattern without the use of netting/fencing. Hope this helps!

  7. Dawn says:

    This made my day.

  8. I never knew you could train chickens. But then again, I have pretty much zero experience with that (although I hope to get some experience soon!). 🙂 I think you guys are the coolest farmers in the whole world. That picture of you pretty much sums up the awesome. Great post!

  9. Thanks for the info. My chickens would roost outside the house, but they went up in the trees…thats fun to catch!

  10. Heather S says:

    Kind of jealous that you’ve got animals on pasture already. Here in North Dakota, we’re still looking at 3 feet of snow in a few parts of our property! Enjoy!

  11. Savannah says:

    Yay for Eggmobiles! I was just telling someone the other day how Polyface trained the chickens in the Eggmobile, but now I will send them here for a more in-depth description. And I love the overalls, Heather:) Thinking about you a lot these warm, spring days!

  12. Denise Benner says:

    Hi Heather 🙂 I loved the article, just perfect and what I needed. I know chickens can be trained, they are so amazing I love them. I posted a question to Polyface Farm page on FB, I am going to post it here as well as I am in the process of working on new watering systems for our chickens. I thought I read or heard in one of the articles or videos I saw what type of pipe you used for the Eggmobiles. I am hunting for a pipe that is safe for us and livestock. Any ideas would be appreciated! I hope to have my first egg mobile this year!! Its already built, it just needs legs and a wheels. It was built as a large brooder, but I see it as my new mobile coop. So glad I found the blog today !!
    Denise Benner

  13. Liana says:

    Great post! I never readed this kind of information in my life.. Thanks for sharing this innovative information with us.

  14. Diana says:

    Love it! What variety of chicken do you have there? I’ve just started backyard farming, with the goal of eventually having acreage (as soon as I can find some). We’re having an uncharacteristically cold spring here in the Pacific Northwest and I’m hoping it warms up soon to move my chicks outside fulltime. They’re about 5 weeks old now. I’ve got Wyandottes and Ameracaunas.

  15. April says:

    What do you feed your chickens supplemental?

  16. Susan says:

    Any way of training them not to dig holes out in the field?

  17. Nancy Voros says:

    How can I know when my white rocks are sturdy enough or ready to go outside into the portable shelter/ chicken tractor , I am thinking the temperature should not go below 15 C they are still inside the barn in a stall that is protected against cats I will be very worried about my chickens if the temperature dips down at night Plus we have extra chicken wire to skirt the shelter because there is a dog that wanders and he is a known chicken killer, I am in need of reassurance when it’s time to put the birds outside. Thanks.

    • Susan says:

      My thought would be 10 weeks old – and use an electrified poultry netting from Premier 1 supplies – it will keep all ground predators out. I’ve had a momma fox hovering around my chicken yard for the last three weeks, and just yesterday she tried to get into their yard. The fence was on – and hot! – and all I saw was her tail up in the air running away from the pain of shock! With nerry a chicken in her mouth!!