Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The 10 secrets of chicken whispering : Part 1

He's telling you something

Communicating with your animals, understanding them and finding ways to help them to understand you is what the term “whispering” is all about. The approach that I take to whispering with my animals is very much like the approach that I take to teaching and developing people. Many of the same principals apply.

The first secret that I want to share with aspiring whisperers is the importance of understanding your subject. Take time to observe the bird’s behaviour. What they do and don’t do, when they do it and why. So, in the words of Steven Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Successful People, seek first to understand and then be understood.

Contentment - Dodger chilling out at the bird bath
My starting point when working with animals, or people for that matter, is to look, listen and learn. Understanding, habits, behaviours, drive, motivation, fears and social structures, as well as methods of communication, influence and reward, are an essential foundation to any future development.

By understanding how animals communicate with each other, and the messages that they send, we can identify how to communicate effectively with them. In order to get them to engage with us, we must first establish our credibility by gaining trust and rapport.

Understanding cockerel behaviour
 Trust and rapport can only be developed once our animals have learnt to feel safe and familiar with us. It can take a long time to reach this point with some animals and birds. Once we have it, however, and are able to comfortably engage with our animals through eye contact, touch, and food rewards, then we both have a basis to communicate with each other. As we learn the animal’s language, we can show each other what we want and what we don’t want, and our desires and theirs can be understood and respected.

Happy Whispering!


  1. I so much agree with Sue in the importance of interacting with the chickens. Let me just introduce myself, my name is Thorleif, and I have known Sue Doherty for a bit more than a year, but I used to chat with her on a poultry-forum, and now we are friends. I am so exited about her book, and I cannot wait to read it. I have Croad Langshans as well, and it was them that got Sue and me chatting on this forum. I have had chickens since 1997. I used to live in Newmarket, Suffolk, where I used to work in the horse-racing industry. Ther were some wild chickens living there, and I used to feed them a bit, and got quite friendly with one group. One day as I was walking my dog, she signalled that there was something in a big grove of stingy-nettles, so I investegated. And there I spotted a little black hen sat on a clutch of eggs. I went home, and I built a little coop and a little run, and next day I went back to the sitting hen, took her, and put all the eggs in a little basket, and took the hen and 14 eggs with me home. I had made a nice nest to her, so I put the eggs in there, and laid her carefullu on top of them. And she sat there as if she had chosen the nest herself.
    I will continue this post if anybody reads it, and post a comment or two. Hope I hear from you!

    1. Hi I Thorleif, thankyou so much for your lovely comments. I am really excited about the book too and do hope that people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

      I love your story about your little wild black hen and would love to hear what happened to her and her chicks. If you want to tell me more about the wild chickens in an email I will happily post it as a blog for all my readers to enjoy.

    2. Hi, Sue! Yes, I will continue my story, which shows one way of starting with this addictive hobby, my way. Ok, here goes Part 2: As the hen was sat on her eggs, I kept on building and modifying my new little chicken-run, and she did not seem to mind at all. She was laid proudly on her nest ad ckucking all the time. I made an opening, about a foot or so from the ground, so the hen could jump out if she wanted to, but not the chicks. After all she was a wild hen, and the life she knew was being wild, and I did not want to try and convert her into captivity. And then, after a while, the chics hatched, and would you believe: FOURTEEN of the little buggers! I had bought this place in Wales, and I would be moving by the time the chicks was a couple of months old. So the little black hen raised her chicks in my little run, and when she thought the time was right, she just cleared off, and joined the other wild chickens. But she still came bach to be fed, and the people that had bought my house was quite fascinated by what I had done, and promised to keep on feeding them. The young chicks moved to Wales with me. I kept on breeding from them for a few years, and they were a very hard "breed", with exellent egg-production, and really good fertility. Unfortunately, I had to stop breeding them, as I was hooked on chickens, and I had started breeding 3 pure breeds, and needed the room, so the "Newmarket-chickens" in Wales died out. The hens were all small and black, some of them were beautiful white mottled, and the boyos were all shapes and colours. I have 1 photo of a hen left, she is sat on my wifes shoulder, if I remember right, she (Tweety) was 3.rd generation of "The Wild Ones". I will dig it out, and get Sue The Webmaster to put it in this site, so you can see her. That was a little story about how I got started with chicken-keeping, and as you can see, I fortunatly early understood to deal with them on their terms, and I believe if you treat them good, and accept that they are chickens, not little people, you can have a really good life with your chickens. The old "foundation hen" that got me started with chickens was allowed to live the rest of her life in the environment she knew, and who knows, her great-great grandchildren probably still roams the are where I found her and the eggs? So that was the story of how one family got started with this wonderful hobby.

  2. Thanks Thorleif,

    I have often wondered if my birds would survive in the wild. One keeper I came across, let their birds roost in trees on a night by teaching them to climb a ladder.
    Yet I have come across a number of keepers who have found that birds that sleep outside fall victim to foxes when they leave their roosting place to forage in the early morning light.
    The Langshans as we both know are placid but very bright so perhaps they would be quick witted enough to survive in the wild.
    Though a number of mine prefer their creature comforts and seem to have plans to move into the house. So I dont think my idea of a bush craft survival weekend would not go down too well with them!

    Thanks again for sharing your story with us.

    1. I am sure the foxes kept numbers down on the wild "Newmarket Chickens", and that is always going to be an issue with "wild" birds. There is a place up in Derbyshire somewhere where the have "wild" Derbyshire Redcaps, and their number is pretty stable. The fittest will survive? On the Danish Island of Bornholm there are no foxes, and I have to admit, I dream about letting some Croad Langshans lose there, and let them get on with it. I do have a chicken-friend there. I might send her some eggs to hatch, and let her try? (Sorry I still blog as "Anonymous" but it is the easiest option, if you have not logged in at Google, Wordpress or any of all those. Thorleif (Again).

  3. Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. Orpington locksmiths


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