Public Poultry Shaming: When a Good Egg Goes Bad

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I am a blogger for Backyard Poultry Magazine and this is an article of mine that they posted on March 4, 2014

IMG_6577(RH)2You know in your heart that YOUR chickens are smarter and more talented than everyone else’s. Maybe you even carry a picture of them in your wallet or a copy of their egg score card to brag to your friends. But what do you do when one of them becomes a discipline problem? None of us think it will happen to us, but then out of the blue, we face a behavioral problem.
What do you do when you’ve tried everything to change the offending conduct? You’ve spent a small fortune on gourmet meal worms to try positive reinforcement techniques. You’ve tried negative reinforcement by scolding and maybe even gone so far as a swat on the behind. You’ve even sent them to their nest to think about what they’ve done. You’ve talked until you are blue in the face, but nothing seems to get through to them. They sit quietly and listen to you, but then the behavior just doesn’t change!
I can honestly say that I never thought I would be considering Public Poultry Shaming or PPS as it is referred to in some of the most highly respected Poultry Psychology Journals. It’s a drastic approach, but it is one that is getting a lot of attention and it’s getting results!
Here is what we are dealing with. Billie is a special girl. She is warm hearted and bright, but despite my best efforts to change her behavior, she is a thief. We’ve discussed it at great length. She seems to know that it’s wrong, but before long, it’s happened again. She has snuck into another hen’s nest and rolled the eggs back to her nest to sit on them. Or worse, she just takes over the other hen’s nest entirely. It’s wrong, but my biggest fear is that someday she’ll end up in a cage with a criminal record. No poultry parent wants that for his or her chicken. So, something had to be done.
We talked about it as a family and decided that this controversial technique was worth a try. It was not a decision that we came to lightly. There are a lot of Poultry Psychologists that feel like PPS can be damaging to a bird’s self-esteem. Of course we didn’t want Billie to feel like less of a hen or be exposed to any undue humiliation in front of the flock. After all, who can afford years of poultry therapy?
So we sat Billie down and explained the process to her. We told her that we would help her make the sign because her handwriting is not much better than chicken scratch. We told her that she would have to wear it and have her picture taken. We would then upload it to my Blog for the world to see. We knew that she might be subjected to reproachful tweets, but we decided it was a calculated risk. It is too soon to tell if this technique will have the desired result, but I will be sure to keep you posted.
Where do you stand on this controversial topic? Are the psychological risks too great, or is it just crazy enough to work?

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