I’ve attended three Bob Bailey and Parvene Farhoody Chicken Workshops. One of the things I learned about there was something Bob called “zone training”. He doesn’t know of anyone else who teaches this.
Bob talked about using zones to help us in our training chickens to either loop around two cones or to make a figure eight around two cones.
He wanted us to draw a picture of our setup and then divide the area into zones. There would be a zone, kind of a “no-man’s land” strip, between the cones where we would not (should not) click or feed the chicken. There was also an area, fan shaped, near us where we would not click or feed the chicken. The other areas around the cones could be divided into three or four zones.
Bob’s idea is that you should think about these zones as areas to click and feed in, but to not click or feed in the same place more than once or, at most, twice in the same place. The zones would help us picture where we would and would not click and feed.
Here’s a graphic of what that might look like:
Here is a possible plan for the figure 8 behavior:
Notice that for each graphic, the click comes in one spot but the feed action occurs in another. With fast chickens, you can do that – they run for the cup of feed! Click for action (feet moving), but feed for position (ahead of where they are and where you want them to go).
The reason I’m talking about it is because I think we need to think about these zones (as well as the magnets and rubber bands) when we train so that we’re not always clicking and treating in the same spot.
It’s hard to say what the animal picks up on in our patterns – and we do have patterns! We might not know it, but we do. And anything we repeat reliably gets picked up by the animal.
If I’m counting steps in walking but I somehow keep clicking and stopping in the same place regardless of the steps, then I’m creating a magnet and building mass around a specific spot that’s going to bite me later.
I have also been training Ollie to out around a barrel and earlier this year, we played with having him go around a circle of PVC pipes. In both cases, I need to vary where I click and where I feed to my best advantage. Eventually I want to be able to train Ollie to do both the loop pattern and the figure eight pattern around two barrels. I need to keep the zones in my mind while I train.
Along with all those other things we need to keep track of and think about, here’s another. Look at your training plan and see if you can use zones to help you.
Did you find this useful? Do you think you’ll be able to use zones in your training plan?