I began clicker play sessions with Gracie at the end of June, and she’s been a natural from the start. For her first enrichment exercise, we taught her to ring a bell. In true Gracie fashion, she picked it up on her very first try. Now a few months into our sessions, she’ll happily trot all the way across the barn to ring the bell for a few pieces of lettuce and watermelon. She has learned several other skills as well, including targeting a green ball with her beak, learning the word “purple” and pecking at a purple dish, walking into a hula hoop, and coming when I call her name – at a fast speed!
I also just started working on teaching her to spin in a circle, and she’s naturally picking it up very quickly. Gracie has always been engaged during our clicker play sessions, but we have been through some trial and error in the process of fetching her out of her enclosure. The rest of the flock quickly learned how to break free while I was fetching Gracie, and enjoyed alluding me despite my lettuce luring attempts.
This also began a love-hate relationship with Pan, Gracie’s resident rooster, in which I do the loving and he does the hating (or at least gives a lot of rooster stink eye). But I’m determined to win him over, one blueberry at a time! Recently though, Gracie and I had a big breakthrough. In our last few sessions, Gracie has come right to the enclosure door when she sees me instead of hanging to the back. Then it’s a simple matter of opening the door enough for her to slip out, and she’ll happily waddle to our training area on her own. It’s a small thing, but it shows that she recognizes me and trusts me, and also that she enjoys her enrichment sessions.
I like to think her eagerness to play is not just the promise of lettuce and watermelon, but also thanks to the strong relationship we’ve built. I’m looking forward to many more clicker play sessions with Gracie and can’t wait to see what she learns next – and also what she teaches me.
— Cheryl Warner, Luvin Arms supporter and volunteer