My Chickens Come When I Whistle

# 767 4 - 5 mins. 3

My chickens come when I whistle. Pretty cool, huh? My ducks come too, they're just a little slower. It's a fun way to show off, but it also is a great way to get your birds back in their coup if you let them out, or they get out some other way. So how do you do it?

It's actually a trick that I've been doing for years, and I first did it kind of by accident. The first time I had chickens, i would feed them twice a day. And knowing that many animals can begin to associate sounds and food together, I started whistling everytime I went to feed them just to see what happened.

At first I did it just because I thought it would be funny if I could call my chickens by whistling, like some people do with their dogs. I was surprised that it actually began to work. Every morning and evening, I would walk out the door and whistle, and as soon as the chickens heard that, they ran to the front of their run and started pushing each other out of the way to be the closest to me. That was about 10 years ago though, and I wasn't able to let my birds free range back then.

Now, I live on about a third of an acre, which is plenty of room for some birds to find tasty free food. I decided to try and implement the same whistle as a way to call the birds back in when I needed to lock them up for the night, or get them somewhere safe from predators. However, it wasn't so easy this time.

I'm a dad, and I have a lot of animals that I need to care for every morning and night. So, to shorten my list of chores, I opted for an automatic feeding system for the chickens and ducks. Basically, it's just a trash can full of food with some holes to give the chickens access. But since I free feed the chickens, throwing more food on the ground isn't very enticing to them. I tried luring them with food and my whistle, but they would just stay in the yard and ignore me.

So, I picked up something that chickens love: mealworms. However, it still wasn't as easy as throwing in the mealworms and whistling. Our third of an acre is big enough that the chickens can't see what I'm throwing in their run when they're out. They needed to associate the whistle with the snacks.

So, for about a week, I kept them in their coup and run. At least once a day, I would get their mealworm snack, whistle, and throw in the worms. By the end of the week, they would run to me when they heard me whistle.

I let them out the following week, and continued the routine, except that I only whistled and gave them snacks when I wanted them to come back into the run.

So you may be wondering if I continue to spend $10+ on those bags of mealworms, and my answer is: "No way!" Once the birds started associating my whistle with getting snacks, I was able to use a chicken scratch mix as the treat instead. They still get plenty excited about this, and I occasionally mix in a handful of mealworms too. Fruits and veggies headed for the compost also make a good addition to their treat.

The key to this working is consistency. Whistle the same tune every time you do it and only do that whistle when you are giving them snacks in their run. Whistling like that at other times will confuse the birds and lessen their willingness to come when they hear it.

My chickens now get excited anytime they hear any whistle. They'll reach their heads up to see what it was and if they're about to get treats. Sometimes I do a shorter whistle to try and get them away from the road, or out of the neighbors yard. Sometimes it works. But if I do the full snack whistle, I am either at their run throwing their snack in, or I just did and am walking behind the stragglers (the ducks) to help them along.

If you have any questions on how to implement this with your own birds, feel free to ask in the comments.

Tags: ducks chickens


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