Well, we’ve been back home for eight days as of tonight, and still processing the five weeks at Chicken Camp – that processing will go on for a long time, and I am hoping continuing this blog will help with that. I have been hugely disappointed that I did not blog regularly during the camp itself, but at least I can do some retrospective writing, including pictures and videos, and continue to write about where the Chicken Camp experience leads me in my training and other endeavors.
Here are videos of the final evaluations of my chickens for the teaching workshop. The person you see with me is my partner, Sonia, who is from Barcelona, Spain. She trained these two birds under my direction – or at least my attempts at direction – and at the end I had about ten minutes per bird to work with them myself before the evaluation you see in the videos. This was by far the most difficult, and stressful workshop to say the least, partly because of the nature of the tasks, partly because exhaustion had really set in after five weeks, and partly because I didn’t always think and plan clearly.
I’m starting with the video of the second chicken because that one actually did quite a good job of going through the course:
This next chicken deteriorated badly during the last day or day and a half, and by the last training period I could not even get her to enter the weave poles, so I threw myself on the mercy of Bob and my fellow students, and Bob actually walked Sonia and me through getting her to complete the course, more or less in bits and pieces, which, of course, was very instructional, and perhaps in some ways more valuable than if she had done it on her own. Who was responsible for the fact that she fell apart? Well, she was my chicken, and I was responsible for the training plan and for instructing Sonia as she trained her, so….
As exhausting and stressful as it all was I would do it all over again, and like a good book, it would offer new insights and new skills each time. I might, if I had the choice, choose not to do it all at once, though!
Oh goodness, that must have been so nerve-wracking, with the first chicken. I did find it helpful to see what Bob suggested, though — restarting the animal to give it another chance at properly earning reinforcement, and clicking it for little pieces. I’m impressed at how docile the chickens are when being picked up.
There was a lot of value in just picking up the chicken and starting her over when she went astray. Sometimes we did that over and over and over and over again with a chicken, and often, though certainly not always, she would finally start doing it right.
Not all the chickens were that docile, especially when you were getting them out and putting them back. In the second week we named one of my partner’s chickens Dracula because she really chewed up my hands badly, and drew A LOT of blood. Ultimately she stopped biting me, but the following week she bit the next person who had to take her out.
The second video felt like a nail-biter to me. I was feeling urges myself wanting to click the chicken as soon as she turned her head to coax her to move despite that this was a video.
I have no idea what we’ll learn in Bob’s a three-day workshop next month, but I hope chaining is one of the things taught. I beginning to feel the pressure/anxiety. It’s not as if I haven’t been through the experience as I have attended three of Terry Ryan’s Chicken Camps in 2010, but I wonder how much will I recall from 2.5 years ago to help pull it altogether.
Did you see my video of Romeo kitty learning to skateboard? I wish I had caught myself jumping for joy on video because I really didn’t know if it could be done.
Hi Cindy! Good to hear from you.
You will do fine in the workshop, and more importantly, you will get a lot out of it. I asked Bob what he had planned, and he said “fun and games”, so I have no idea what he will have you guys doing. I have thought about signing up for that one – I can certainly use more instruction and practice! – but I heard it was already full. I may check anyway, and see if I can get on the waiting list.
One of the things I heard Bob warn against a lot was “desperation clicks”, or what Marie Fogelquist calls “rescue clicks”, especially with an animal that has previously shown it knows the behavior. He says “give the animal a chance”, and if it goes astray pick it up and start it over. Fortunately, I am pretty good most of the time at waiting the animal out, though I know I did my share of those clicks, especially when I felt time pressure.
I missed the video! Will I find it on your facebook page? If not, please send me a link – I’d love to see a cat learning to skateboard!
I’ve probably made more than my fair share of using “desperation/rescue clicks” in the past which made training a challenge until it was brought to my attention. I sure hope I’m not doing that anymore, but we’ll see once the Bob’s workshop is in session if they creep back in. Trying to impress the teacher can sometimes make a student make those silly mistakes.
Romeo’s skateboarding is coming along nicely, but we’re at the stage that I’m trying to shape him to keep one foot on the floor in hopes to get him to kick the leg to propel the board forward; I’m finding that quite a challenge! I’ve gone back to the basics and focusing on clicking for the one leg on the ground while the other three are on the board while the board is locked in place on the carpet; easier said than done so that’s where we’re at. I just hope this won’t undo what he’s learned so far once we move forward again.
I saw the skateboarding video – wow! I’m sure you and Romeo will figure out the rest of it. Can’t wait to see more videos as you progress with the behavior!