Chickens in education -Chicken Workshops

Discussion in 'General Chicken Discussion' started by behavior, Jan 10, 2013.

  1. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    I'm a new member. My name is Bob Bailey. I am in Hot Springs, Arkansas. If you go to Google and type Bob Bailey and "chicken training," or "animal training" you will be able to read some about me and what I do now. In brief, I am a "behaviorist" with nearly 60 years of studying, producing, and teaching behavior, everything from lecturing at Harvard to producing TV commercials. I have trained from cockroaches to killer whales (no foolin'). Right now my primary endeavor is teaching military and law enforcement trainers the "finer points" of precision training of their dogs.

    I use chickens when teaching animal trainers. I use adult white Leghorn chickens, to be more specific. I've been overseas (Holland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, UK, etc.) teaching the last few years. I'm returning to teach in the USA. I am looking for adult (1 to 2 years old) white Leghorns. I need 60. They will live a VERY good life. I've never had one of my chickens live longer than 15yrs 11mo, but that's pretty good for a chicken I think you will agree. I take very good care of them. And, though this is anecdotal, I think the chickens get a kick out of making humans appear so stupid!<smile>

    I'm requesting help finding the chickens. They cannot be debeaked, which has been a big stumbling block when asking commercial raisers. I need to have health papers. I will form a flock that meets Fed and State standards. The chickens will be housed initially in Oklahoma under the care of my daughter. From there the birds will travel to a permanent location somewhere near Queen's College, located in Queens, NYC.

    I've already discussed this with Austin. He kindly told me to submit this to the General Forum. I "think" I'm doing that. <smile> If I'm sending it to the wrong place, my apologies in advance.

    If anyone has any information that will help me locate the chickens I need, I would be much obliged.

    Oh, I should have added that I will pay very well for these chickens!!

    Thanks,
    Bob Bailey
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  2. fuzziebutt

    fuzziebutt Flocker

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    Well hi Bob Bailey, and welcome! A link to a short video using the chickens would be cool!! :D
     

  3. patlet

    patlet New Member

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    Hi Bob. Is your need for white leghorns a constant? Would it be worth raising them for your needs? Leghorns are big birds...60 of them equals a large operation. And you say they should be a year old. Since leghorns are usually raised for meat, that means carrying them longer than typical. I'd be interested in raising them for you if it was worth it.
     
  4. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    We will start with a population of about 40 to 60 birds. They will be untried. We need a steady population of 64 birds ready for class, enough for 30 students, plus spares (like any animal, at any moment in time, some will be ill, some will be laying and egg, or ???, and not working well, so we may need the occasional replacement bird. In addition, at the home base, we need about 6 more spare birds. Each year after the second year we would replace roughly10- 15 percent of the birds with new birds. That means we would find homes for "retirees." In AR that is no problem because farmers are always glad to get "smart" chickens from the IQ Zoo. That means we need a small number, no more than 15 to 20 birds, usually less, as replacements. This gives us vigorous new stock and keeps the flock at an average mature, but not old, age. We think we will be able to work with local 4H students who can keep us supplied, and we plan to work with our county extension agent on this.

    Thanks for the interest. Several have emailed me privately and asked if they could help us. We appreciate their interest too. It is THIS year that is the challenge- getting birds old enough to provide a good experience for the students.

    Bob Bailey
     
  5. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    If these are education birds, why choose leghorns. So much more could be learned by having different breeds, or smaller birds that would be less dangerous cheaper to feed and house, and could still provide a varied assortment of breeds and colors and eggs.
     
  6. patlet

    patlet New Member

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    Good point! With tox studies the animals need to be as genetically close as possible. But behavioral studies should encompass a wider case study because different breeds have distinct behaviors.
     
  7. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    Missing the point

    The entire point of educating the trainers using chckens as models is to teach trainers that they, the trainer, must adapt to the animals behavior as well as the other way around. Trainers are used to dogs conforming their behavior to what people want. This process takes a while, and the dog,and the human makes lots of errors.

    If the trainer learns to search for the most efficient way of communication with the chicken, and if the trainer learns to reinforce (or what some call reward) those behaviors that are closest to the desired behavior, the chicken learns fastest, with the fewest errors. As the chicken learns more precisely what is wanted, the trainer raises the criteria of the desired behavior - the chickn has to do more and more to get reinforced. In this way the chicken's behavior is shaped until, finally, the chciken is doing the finished behavior.

    In this process, the student learns the basics of 1)Timing: precisely timing the presentation of the reinforcement to cooincide with exactly the wanted behavior. 2)Criteria: The reinforcement is provided when, and only when, the chicken gives the desired behavior, and this desired behavior, which may not be the final behavior, but may gradually change until it morphs into the desired behavior, must be consistant. 3) the rate of reinforcement, giving the chicken what it wants, must be high enough to make it worthwhile for the chicken to play our silly little game. In training, it is best that it is worthwhile for all involved, including the chickne and the trainer.

    Bob Bailey
     
  8. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    Just a thought here, but why don't you use different breeds. I think the experience will be much richer for all involved. And I'd include a few Roos too. It will keep your hens safer and it will add to the experience. Roos are very smart (they have to be) but that will also teach your students the complex hierarchy of chickens. The ratio of hens to Roos recommended is like 6-10 hens per Roo.
     
  9. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    Hi, Eneryvet;
    Please don't miss the point of the exercise - teaching people the PROCESS of training. We are not "studying" anything. The process of training is well known, and well studied. The people come to us thinking they know a lot about training. I have had many, many world champion dog trainers in my classes. They find the chicken is a totally different ball game than training a dog. The chicken has no special emotional attachment to the person. The person is a source of food. All the chicken needs is a healthy appetite. Chickens are NEVER starved. Chickens are well cared for. No student is allowed to man-handle or physically punish the chickens. Our chickens are used for many years.

    But, to get back to the point of NOT training chickens but teaching people, we want every chicken to be as close as possible to every other chicken. The student, or, rather, the student's behavior, is the primary variable. Do it right, the chicken learns quickly; do it wrong and the chicken will appear NOT to learn, or learn slowly. Chickens are not mental giants, but what they know they know very well, and they are quick learners. The white Leghorns are flighty enough that if the trainer is not reasonably smooth in his or her behavior, it will startle the chicken and cause it to move away, slowing down training. Trying to hold the chicken still, or attempting to push around the chicken will also scare the chicken. We do NOT want totally docile birds. We want birds who are somewhat suspicious of new things. We want a reactive birds, up to a point.

    I don't want to beat on a dead horse, but, we do NOT want different breeds. We don't want wildly different birds. We do NOT want to give the student another excuse for not getting the assigned behaviors. I know within a few minutes of how long it takes to get most of the assigned behaviors. What will determine how long it takes for the birds to get the behaviors? Some depends on the birds past experience, and some genetics, but the greatest single factor determing speed of training is TRAINER SKILL! That is the issue in this course. Improving trainer skill is the purpose of the course.

    Thanks for the questions. Looks like we've found our first 10 birds. The construction of the chicken coop and runs has started. We will be conducting classes this summer. I hope the students enjoy the classes, and I'm quite certain the chickens will do very well (and, maybe, if I may be allowed some anthropomorphism, I believe the chickens will have fun!).

    Bob Bailey
     
  10. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    For your viewing, and to show this is not a hoax, here are just a few shots of some of the very simple behaviors these chickens do. Training takes minutes or a few hours, not days or weeks. Yes, the students are "evaluated" on the birds performances. Some of these shots are of internationally famous trainers (Canada, Singapore, USA, etc.) Some behaviors involve pecking or pulling things on a cue, or "going out" or making discriminations to shapes or colors. Again, we are using chickens to teach trainers. This is not about "teaching tricks to chickens." Students are taught about the importance of keeping data, about measuring progress, about he passage of time, and about training prinicples. I teach the process of training.

    Bob Bailey
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    Bob,

    I find all of this fascinating! Really!
    Wish I could take the course. Love the photos, too.

    The leghorns are so clean and white!

    Keep us posted on your progress! I really would like to partake albeit, vicariously.

    Thank you!
     
  12. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    About numbers, way back when, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, we had perhaps 2,000 chickens at our training farm, about 1,000 of which were Leghorns and the rest all of the way from some giant Cornish rooster that were truly fearsome, to tiny seabrights, and all of these chickens did things. We also had almost 1,000 rabbits, 1,000 ducks, and an assortment of other animals such as otters, reindeer, horses, sheep, and just about any domestic animal you could think of. I've trained over 140 diff species - as I said before, from cockroaches to killer whales. However, when it comes right down to it, the common barnyard chicken (especially the Leghorn) is by far the best teaching animal around. By the way, our training farm covered 270 acres and I had a staff of about 50 full time and 50 part time (during the summer).
    Bob Bailey
     
  13. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    "smaller birds that would be less dangerous"

    A quote from a previous post. What is "dangerous" about a chicken? I have worked "free contact" (in the cage or in the tank) with elephants, grizzly bear, ostriches, killer whales, etc., and I'm puzzled about what would be dangerous about working in close contact with a while Leghorn chicken. I carry a few scars, having been bitten by raccoons, otters, pigs, sea lions, etc., but I've never gone to the hospital (emergency room, yes), with an animal injury. No offense meant, but isn't one of the reasons a chicken is called a chicken is because it is a "chicken" <smile>. My six kids (3 sets of twins) began training chickens when they were 4 or 5. I will repeat what I said earlier, there is no finer behavioral model that a chicken when it comes to teaching animal training, and the general process of animal training, and demonstrating how animals learn. I have been quoted as saying "no one should be allowed to raise a baby (human) until they have raised a dog, and no one should be allowed to have a dog until they have trained a chicken." While said tongue in cheek, there is more than a grain of truth to this statement.
    Bob Bailey
     
  14. doubleoakfarm

    doubleoakfarm New Member

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    Maybe this will help: what Bob seems to be saying is this class is about human behavior or behavior in general. It is not about studying chickens or agriculture. Chickens are used because they are easy to work with to get the desired results. All the chickens need to be the same so the students all have the same experience.

    Is that close to accurate? Is it a psych class, an edu class? I'm curious.
     
  15. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    The workshops I give have to do with animal and human behavior; the topics are related. No, we are not studying chickens or agriculture. Chickens exhibit a wealth of "generalized" behavior, and, being an omnivore (eats about anything) exhibits traits of both grazers and predators. Since just about every other modest sized and larger predator eats chickens, Mother Nature also makes chickens very wary. We have bred out much of the fear in most breeds, but white Leghorns are still a bit flighty, which we use to our advantage when teaching animal trainers.

    I've taught dog trainers, dolphin trainers, bird trainers, medical people, business people, just about anyone who has a need to influence the behavior of another. Certainly, I have taught in a university environment, but not as commonly as teaching pet dog trainers, military and police dog trainers, and search and rescue folks. Actually, much of my work is designing entire "systems" for the police and military. Beginning back in the mid 1960s we were training dogs and cats for the CIA (could not say anything about this until a few years back they admitted to the Russians that there were trained cats roaming about Moscow <smile>.) I was the first Director of Training for the US Navy Marine Mammal Program, and was the first to work with dolphins in the open ocean. Now it is routine. In 1963 no one had done it.

    Now, in semi-retirement and nearing 80, I can no longer jump from airplanes, or repel from helicopters, or deep dive with the dolphins. But, I still teach folks and work on classified programs. And, I still use chickens to teach people how to apply behavior analysis to change human and animal behavior. I still get around pretty well (just returned from lecturing in China). I still have fun. I now use Powerpoint and video rather than the old flip charts and slide projectors. The material I teach has evolved as the behavioral technology has evolved. In the old days a bird might have carried a transmitter that weighed 120grams, while today a transmitter that has greater range and reliability weighs 1/10th as much. Now the dogs I work with carry gps and broadcast TV signals. Now I have tiny robots that can enter rooms and measure air samples. It is an incredible technological world. BUT, and this is a big BUT, nothing beats a chicken for teaching people how to make it all work!!!!

    However, this is not an ego trip for me; this is a serious attempt to teach others that there is not magic to this, just technology. Animal training is a skill that can be learned just like other skills. And, my way of teaching those skills often employes chickens. Whether it is teaching a class at the Univ of N. TX, or a class of special ops personnel in Holland, Norway, or France, it is about the technology and the chickens, and not about me.

    Bob Bailey
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2013
  16. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    The photos I sent are more or less self explanatory. Top photo is a chicken simply pulling on a big rubber band. Of course, it is also a chicken pulling a worm out of the ground. The exercise is to get the chicken to stretch the rubber band further and further. If the trainer is good, the chicken eventually pull so hard that the chicken cannot get a purchase on the table top and the chicken's feet just slides out from under it, but it still keeps pulling and pulling and pulling. The next down is the chicken doing a "go out" and rounding the far pylon. Eventually the chicken will go out almost ft and then around the near (to the trainer) pylon, and the chicken must do this two full times before it gets a signal (the clicker on the food cup) and is fed. We call this a ratio of 2 (two full turns for one reinforcement. The bird, at a shorter distance, sometimes had to give as many as 7 full times around before getting a click. The next down is a chicken that has to crawl through a tunnel and push a small dowel in front of it. The distance the chicken crawls is about 30 inches. If the chicken pecks towards one end of the dowel the dowel will turn and not go straight. The chicken must learn to peck in the middle of the dowel so the dowel goes straight. The next shot is of a chicken negotiating an obstacle course (climbing a ladder, walking a beam, and making a discrimination (select the yellow ball in this case; look carefully and you see a yellow ball as if falls from the platform) and then walking down the ladder and doing another behavior (waiting for a laser to turn on and then pecking at a black spot) on the table top. Then there is a chicken doing a weave poll, as in dog agility weave poles. This is just one of a sequence of behaviors for the agility course.

    All of these behaviors are simple, but the chicken must also master them quickly to demonstrate that the trainer know what to reinforce and what not to reinforce. And, yes, we can create all sorts of distractions to confuse the bird. If the trainer does his or her job, the bird will not be distracted, but will complete the course.
    Bob Bailey
     
  17. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    As I said Bob, keep us posted. I fascinated intrigued and you've got my gull attention. Oh and the danger is those spurs on a Roo can do some damage is a person isn't paying attention. That's all I meant.
     
  18. patlet

    patlet New Member

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    Man that sounds like fun! I wish I had had the chance to be in one of your courses. While not having anywhere near the experiences you have had, I have trained many a critter but I am terrible with humans. I find a goose easier to work with than a co-worker. It does my heart good to see that there are folks out there working positively with critters and using those skills to deal with humans. Keep up the good work!!
     
  19. behavior

    behavior Junior Member

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    Since you mentioned "gull attention," see attached.<smile> That is one of my gulls in the late 60s flying for the Navy off the coast of San Diego. This stuff really works!
    Bob Bailey
     

    Attached Files:

  20. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

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    Very very cool, Bob. So glad you're here!