Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Chicken & The Queen of Hearts

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        Using both operant and classical conditioning, I attempted to teach a hen to recognize and then peck the Queen of Hearts when presented with multiple playing cards. Like Pavlov’s experiment with dogs, I paired a neutral stimulus, the sound of a clicker (NS), with unconditioned stimulus, chicken treats (UCS), to produce a conditioned response (CR), pecking only the Queen of Hearts. Like other domesticated animals the most effective method of training a chicken is to offer her a treat immediately after performing the desired action. Much of a chicken’s day is spent hunting, scratching and pecking for food so playing food related games with them is fun for both of you. Playing games with your chickens can help prevent them from becoming bored, which can lead to aggressive behavior. It is important that the hen be comfortable around people and in a familiar environment.  It also helps if the hen is hungry but not so hungry as to be agitated. The desired response will be achieved only through reinforcement.  At no time did I subject them to any form of punishment. I allowed her to decide when she had enough and would be returned to the run with the others.