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In the decades leading up to the pandemic, Terry Ryan traveled often, offering workshops on animal training to enthusiastic audiences around the world. When international travel became impossible, Terry had to stay put. But it didn’t take long for her to find another way to reach students – virtually, if not in person.
When I met Terry Ryan, she was an obedience judge at the American Kennel Club living in Pullman, Washington, where she was the program coordinator for the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University – Programs involved in the study of the human-animal link and the implementation of animal-assisted therapy. Terry was one of the original members of the Delta Society, now called Pet Partners, an international resource on the human-animal bond.
Terry was teaching dog training in Pullman and neighboring Moscow, Idaho at the time. I have been fortunate enough, as a novice instructor myself, to audit these weekly classes. When Terry offered his first dog training camps at the County Fairgrounds in that area, I was an enthusiastic participant. When the chicken training was offered later, I was delighted to attend. My first intern: Gregory Peck.
Terry has led national and international chicken training camps since 1993, helping animal trainers of all disciplines hone their skills. These camps have extended to team building events and continuing education courses for teachers in private and public schools. When the pandemic put plans for future camps on hold, Terry was stranded at his home in Sequim, Washington.
I asked Terry how the idea of “virtual” chicken training courses came to life.
Terry responded, “A friend and former student at a chicken camp in Ohio had chicks this spring and posted some cute photos on social media of her kids and chicks. We started talking about me working with children. Other friends saw it and before I know it we had eight children. I crossed my fingers to make Zoom work. “
I followed for more details: “You have already done a session for young people, and in November, you will do another for adults?”
Terry replied: “The one who occupies the children, yes, and we are now halfway to another.” People from five different countries. “
Registration is still open at this time for the November session.
Terry Ryan Virtual Chicken Camp
Virtual Chicken Camp
“Terry Ryan has gone virtual as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Kitsap Animal Rescue & Education (KARE) is proud to partner with Terry for this next virtual chicken camp! Virtual Chicken Camp lasts one hour per week for eight weeks, with lots of guided homework between classes. No experience is necessary. Terry will help active participants select and condition a hen from their own flock to be their training partner.
Photo provided by Terry Ryan
Here is how Terry describes the purpose of the course and what training a chicken involves:
“The purpose of this course is to help you become a better coach. Our end goal is not the cool behaviors the chicken will learn. It’s about developing your coaching skills. The course will delve into the intricacies of classical and operant conditioning, mechanical skills and respect for animals. Leading dog training organizations award PDUs [continuing education units] for this course.
“The welfare of our chicken training partners is of the utmost importance. The chickens didn’t sign up for this! I want to be sure that you choose a chicken from your flock that wants to work with you. Please select a hen. Roosters have their own agenda. Any chicken can be trained, given enough time and the right reinforcement. As we have very little time on the course, please team up with an emotionally ready chicken to train. Lessons will alternate between a PowerPoint lecture / demonstration, individual exercises and hands-on exercises with your chicken. “
Why should dog trainers train chickens?
“Trainers don’t already have bad (or good!) Chicken training habits because they’ve never trained a chicken before, and thus avoid the baggage that is often taken into dog training shops. Training a chicken is a stretch and a boost to your mechanical skills. The average chicken is faster than the average dog, which gives you a chance to improve your coordination and timing. Chickens freeze or fly away if they don’t like the way you train them. Unlike dogs, you will know immediately if you are enjoying a chicken or pushing it too hard, too fast. Chickens don’t give their trainers a second chance as often as our dogs. You won’t be showing your chickens at the next show, and you won’t be bringing them home, so there is no pressure on what will happen in the future. You probably don’t have a library full of chicken training books and DVDs to influence you, let alone chicken training TV shows. “
Here are several reports from a chicken training workshop that took place in Canada:
Canine behavior and training inherited from Terry Ryan:
Terry Ryan’s Legacy Chicken Workshops:
Next week, animal professionals, especially dog trainers, will answer these questions: “Did you attend a chicken camp? What did you learn about the training there? “