Making Popcorn Chicken
Can you really 'train' a chicken? Probably not. That would require a bit more brain power than the little peckers have at their disposal. But it's pretty easy to condition them because they have one big driving motivation in life ...FOOD. If they're awake and not laying an egg or 'making more chickens' they're scratching around for food. They will taste test anything. Since you have probably been scattering food for them since they were fluffy yellow chicks, they long ago figured out that whatever drops from your hand is probably food.
With the shortened daylight hours during winter, our hens didn't get as much yard time as they had become accustomed to, certainly not as much as they wanted. Most days, Yeoldfurt let them out mid- to late-morning before he left for work and I was home in time to put them back up before dark. On days when I knew I would be getting home after dark, they had to stay cooped up all day and they didn't like it. They must have some brain power because they always remembered being cooped up for the day and were always twice as hard to run back into the coop for a day or two afterward.
Herding chickens is probably easier than herding cats, but not by much. We only had three hens last winter. Two of them hang together and they're usually fairly easy. But one of them is a rebel and always makes a break at the last minute. Then the trick becomes can you time the opening of the door just right so that the wayward hen goes IN and the other two STAY in. Not always easy. After a full day at work, a long commute and plenty of other chores on the list, chasing chickens is not my idea of fun. So I came up with a plan.
I happen to a have a 28 count box of microwave popcorn that we bought at Sam's Club years ago. It's so far out of date, I am surprised it still pops ...but it does. My microwave usually does a very good job on the microwaveable popcorn but every once in a while a bag gets scorched. I am pretty sure it's because the popcorn is out of date and stale, parts of it are probably dried out. But the hens didn't care. If you shook a bag of popcorn, all three of them came running. This year, we added four new pullets. Herding seven hens is probably a little more challenging than herding three ...so the popcorn trick should come in handy this winter.