People get chickens for all kinds of reasons. But for whatever reason they decide to start keeping chickens, many owners get taken with their personalities.
Chickens are individuals, intelligent, and can show affection to their owners. Some people just like having them around, so much so they even want them around inside the house.
The obvious problem is that chickens poop a lot, and pretty much all the time. That is not going to lead to Harmony inside the home for anyone, but it does beg the question: is it possible to potty train a chicken?
Yes, it is sometimes possible to potty train a chicken, although the process is not guaranteed to work, and some accidents are still highly likely. Positive reinforcement using food for litter box or paper training is usually most effective.
Believe it or not, some people have had a good amount of success when it comes to potty training a companion chicken or two that can hang out with them inside the house.
That being said don’t count on it and if you are purchasing chickens with the belief that you’ll definitely be able to potty train them you might have another thing coming.
There’s a lot to know on this subject, however. Keep reading to learn more.
Is it Possible to Potty Train Your Chicken?
Yes, in a manner of speaking. Just like dogs or cats, chickens can be taught, or rather incentivized, to use a specific spot for their business.
Chickens are fairly intelligent, but even so the process takes time, dedication, and diligence.
So long as you are willing to put the work in with a specific chicken or two you can probably get them to use papers or a litterbox indoors.
It’s Possible, but Might Not Be Likely
All that being said, it is important to remember that not all chickens will be willing or able to learn this behavior.
Part of this is a physical limitation and the other part is simply the mentality of chickens. Chickens poop…a lot.
In fact, they generally defecate every few minutes when they are awake. They also don’t really have a sense of “place” like other animals do, so they aren’t exactly opposed to pooping right where they stand.
If this is in the middle of your kitchen or living room or just hanging out with you on the couch, so be it!
If that sounds gross to you, that is because it is. Chickens don’t really belong inside for a host of reasons, and that is just one more.
Chickens Have Little Control Over When they Go
Probably the principal obstacle in getting a chicken potty trained is the physical element. That element being that chickens generally have little to no control over when they go.
They don’t exactly hold it in like we do since they don’t have a sphincter. Chickens defecate pretty much constantly, and there is not a lot they can do about it.
While it is possible for a chicken to deliberately defecate, they cannot willfully hold it back, so to speak.
This is important to understand because it means that even if you train a chicken to use a specific spot, there will still be accidents.
Chickens just can’t help themselves sometimes, and when they have to go, they really have to go.
However, knowing that they can “go” when they intend to is something we can use in our effort to potty train them.
The Key is Anticipate and Associate
Here’s the trick to potty training a chicken, if you want to call it that: you have to anticipate when they need to go and then associate a specific place with that need.
When it comes time to “go”, you want your chicken to think of a specific spot. That spot could be papers, a cat litter box, or anything else that will catch their business.
Your chickens will associate pooping with this spot because of positive reinforcement and generally a signal of some kind that it is time to do their business.
Over time, as they make the association between the signal and the need to go, they will start to automatically head to that spot when they feel the urge.
Of course, this is not a perfect science and, again, there are still going to be accidents. That being said, if you are successful it can dramatically reduce the number of accidents.
You Need to Learn Your Chicken’s Pre-poop Behavior
Here’s another hard-earned lesson I can teach you when it comes to potty-training a chicken.
Keep an eye out for their pre-pooping signal. It sounds silly, but many chickens will indicate that they are about to go one way or another.
It might be pacing, restlessness, puffing their feathers, a shake or shimmy, or anything else.
This is an important signal because it gives you a chance to intervene (and give the signal!) before they actually do their business.
If you see this behavior, calmly but quickly guide them to the spot where you want them to go or give the signal once they are farther along in the potty training journey.
If you can do this consistently, you are well on your way to having a chicken that at least attempts to use the potty in the appropriate spot.
What’s the “Signal”?
When I refer to giving your chicken the “signal” this means making a noise, a distinct non-verbal noise” that your bird can associate with getting a reward.
The reward, of course comes from using the potty successfully. This signal could be a bell, clicker, whistle, or something else.
You don’t want to use a verbal command since chickens are not too good with verbal commands, and also since a communication error could lead to your chicken going on the spot inadvertently. Not a good outcome!
You start inculcating the association of the signal with the potty location by placing your chicken on the spot, litterbox, pad, papers, whatever, and then waiting for them to go. Don’t worry, it won’t take any time.
Once they do, sound the signal. Don’t scare them with it. Go through this revolution a few times then give them a break.
But, there is one more step to ensure your chicken associates the signal with going in the potty…
Reward Your Chicken with Food Whenever it Goes in the Box
When training your chicken, make sure to reward them anytime they go in the box and especially when you sound the signal.
Now, a reward for chickens, unlike dogs, and to a much lesser extent cats, is food, not praise. You should give your chicken a tiny treat, a tidbit, each and every time you get a success.
Food, more than anything else, drives chicken behavior and thinking. This will take time to sink in, but if you are consistent, your chicken may, MAY, learn to go where and when you want it to.
Consider Using Chicken Diapers If You Want to Avoid Accidents Inside
As I mentioned several times throughout, potty training a chicken is just not a sure thing.
Nonetheless, some people still want their beloved birds to hang out with them in the house, or even take them on short trips.
If this sounds like you, consider investing in some chicken diapers in addition to potty training.
Yes, chicken diapers are real, and they are exactly what you think they are. They work, too, though you will need to be diligent about changing them regularly since chickens will fill them up pretty quick!
But for short forays into your home or other areas you want to keep clean, they work well.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.
Find out more about the team here.