Habituation

It seems like a very timely topic with my new arrivals; A, B and C. I’m giving them time to get used to life outside of a battery cage and explore on their own. And they are exploring with gusto! B helped me open the house door this morning and A was pushing right behind her. C is still cautious.

By letting them explore on their own without active training from me they are habituating to the new sights, sounds and smells in this new world.

Habituation; where the learner no longer responds to the stimuli around them. The conditions for the learning are that the presentation of each stimulus (A) results in a neutral consequence. In other words, nothing ‘good’ and nothing ‘bad’ happens (like the neighbours dog barking right in Bs face yesterday, nothing good or bad happened so, after an initial startle, B carried on scraping for bugs).

Of course, good and bad are defined by the recipient so I am adding my interpretation of whether I think the consequences were good, neutral or bad based on the ongoing behaviour of the hens in response to repeat exposure to the stimulus.

The other benefit of this approach is that I get to see how the girls interact with each other and their environment. I get to assess where they spend most of their time, what weather conditions have them head back to their house or, now that they are loving being outside they no longer want to go back in to the house when it rains…. they just go under it. Interesting.

I’m getting to observe their preferences with as little influence from me as possible.

It will be fun to watch their preferences continue to change over time. For example; once they realise, through experience, their freedom is not going to be taken away will they choose the warm and dry of inside the hen house when it rains instead of under it.

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