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Q: Trained chickens ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Trained chickens
Category: Sports and Recreation > Training
Asked by: munkeyboy-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 23 May 2003 21:01 PDT
Expires: 22 Jun 2003 21:01 PDT
Question ID: 207971
How do you teach a chicken to play tic-tac-toe or where can you
purchase chickens that already possess this skill?

Request for Question Clarification by bobbie7-ga on 23 May 2003 22:03 PDT
Hello munkeyboy-ga,

I located the name and contact information for the trainer of the
chickens that play tic-tac-toe.

Would this be a satisfactory answer to your question?

Subject: Re: Trained chickens
Answered By: bobbie7-ga on 23 May 2003 23:57 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello munkeyboy-ga,

Thank you for your question.

Bunky Boger trains chickens to play Tic-Tac-Toe by Positive
Reinforcement. This means when a hen makes the right move it is
rewarded with food.

“For those who think anyone can beat a hen at tick-tack-toe, don't
count on it. Ginger and her 14 backups are highly trained, trainer
Bunky Boger said.”

“Using behavioral techniques made famous by psychologist B.F. Skinner,
Boger taught the chickens to play tick-tack-toe through positive
reinforcement. When a hen makes the right move, it is rewarded with
food. Boger uses only white-legged hens, as roosters are too hard to
train, he said. But training hens isn't all that easy, especially
since each chicken has a unique personality.”

"They're remarkably like people, they're a little bit different from
each other. Most people think a chicken is a chicken and they are. But
people are people, too," said Boger, who has trained animals for 30

Las Vegas Review-Journal: UNBEATEN BIRDS:

Ralph R. Miller, Editor of ANIMAL LEARNING & BEHAVIOR explained that
the chicken pecked at any square which in turn activated a computer
which played the game for the chicken.

“Recent question on the Animal Learning & Behavior e-discussion group
I avoid Atlantic City, but the tic tac toe playing chicken in NYC's
Chinatown also never lost.  However, its peck screen was just out of
sight of the human player with his own press screen.  One day, while
pursuing my hyperactive four-year old son behind the exhibit, I found
that which square the pigeon pecked and which square the chicken's
figure appeared were not always the same.  In actuality, the chicken's
peck (at any square) only activated a computer that in turn actually
played the game for the chicken and never lost (note the analogy to
looking behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz).  I don't doubt that
chickens can be taught to play tic tac toe successfully, but some
people find it easier to program a computer than to actually train the

Ralph R. Miller, Editor 
Department of Psychology

“The chicken is trained to peck at lights, and the machine flashes a
light next to the square representing the chicken's best move.”

Tic-tac-toe games with a chicken:
“The chicken is trained to peck at lights, and the machine flashes a
light next to the square representing the chicken's best move”

The following excerpt is taken from an article describing the methods:

“We had a coin operated unit (probably our most famous) called BIRD
BRAIN. BIRD BRAIN played tic tac toe. The person had the opportunity
to test his or her skill against the chicken (the chicken does get a
little help). When we designed the control circuitry for BIRD BRAIN,
we allowed for reinforcement at the end of the game, meaning that the
chicken would usually play three, four or five times before the feeder
fired. We knew that there would ordinarily never be a chance for the
chicken's first move to be reinforced. We also knew from experience
that a certain percentage of the birds (we guessed about 25 percent or
one out of four birds) would have problems starting the game because
THE FIRST PECK, OR MOVE, NEVER PAID OFF. In anticipation of this
problem, we incorporated what we called a FEED FIRST CYCLE switch that
reinforced the birds after the first, or starting peck. Well, we were
almost right: it was one out of three birds or 33 percent. Those
afflicted birds would simply pace back and forth in front of the cage,
approach the switch panel and lights, and then back away and pace some
more. It might repeat this behavior several times before finally
giving the proper response. By turning on the FEED FIRST CYCLE switch,
that delay behavior (delaying reinforcement, of course) would suddenly
disappear after a few pecks had been reinforced at the beginning of
the performance.”
Robert E. and Marian Bailey, Ph.D. 
Bob & Marian Bailey
Hot Springs, Arkansas

In order to purchase a chicken that has already learned how to “play”
tic-tac-toe,  I would suggest that you get in touch with Bunky Boger
at Animal Specialties.  Here is his contact information:

Contact  Information:

Bunky Boger
Animal Specialties
13231 Hickory Creek Road, 
Lowell, AR 72745
Phone: 501-751-5088

Here are a number of articles with brief excerpts about tic-tac-toe
playing chickens that may interest you:

Casino Offers $10,000 for Beating Chicken At Tic-Tac-Toe

 “The chickens will make the first move, pecking at X or O on a video
display inside hen houses to be set up in the casino's main concourse.
Gamblers will stand outside and press buttons on a separate panel.” News

From Times Free Press:

“And according to Bunky Boger, head of Animal Specialties of Lowell,
Ark., it's nearly impossible for a skilled tic-tac-toe player to lose
if given the first move.

According to Mr. Boger, who is apparently an expert in the world of
professional tic-tac-toe chicken trainers, most human players draw. A
few lose outright. "Some people, I've stood back and watched them
play, and it seems they're incredibly stupid," he said.”

Times Free Press:

Kansas City News:

“They are asked to work only two hours a day. There are about 60 of
them. Their job is to play tick-tack-toe.

They are chickens -- real, clucking, egg-laying hens. And if you can
beat them, you get up to $10,000.

Trained by Bunky Boger and his wife, Connie, of Springdale, Ark., the
birds are managed by the Bogers, their six children and an extended
family of brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Currently, the family manages four "Chicken Challenge" teams of 15
birds each. They are this summer's feathered, featured attractions at
Aztar Corp. casinos in Evansville; Las Vegas; and Atlantic City, N.J.”

Kansas City News

Bunky Boger mentions that he only uses female white leghorn hens.

“In spite of the rooster call blaring from the Chicken Challenge
machine, the family actually uses only white leghorn hens.

They're prettier to look at, Boger explains. Plus, the females are
more focused and easier to train.

"Roosters have only one thing on their mind," he explains, "and it's
not playing tic-tac-toe."

North County Times:

“The chickens are trained by Bunky Boger on a family farm and petting
zoo in rural Tennessee.

The chickens make the first move, pecking at X or O on a video display
inside special hen houses to be set up in the casino's main concourse.
Gamblers will stand outside the booth and press buttons on a separate

Tic-tac-toe games with a chicken:
“The chicken is trained to peck at lights, and the machine flashes a
light next to the square representing the chicken's best move”

How to train a rooster to play the piano with Positive Reinforcement.:

“Last Sunday this guy was training a rooster to play the piano.  He
actually did it.  Using bread as a treat he first fed bits to the
rooster to gain his trust.  He then got a small electronic keyboard
and kept it off.  He then dropped pieces of this bread onto the keys
so the rooster picked the bread up and in the process tapped the keys.
 After a bit the rooster was doing this easily so the guy turned on
the keyboard so the keys sounded each time the rooster pecked.  After
the rooster associated the sound with food, this guy made the rooster
hit the keys five times before getting a treat.”

“At the end the rooster was effectively playing the piano, he wasn't
playing any tune in particular and in fact the noise sounded terrible
but I was so amazed to see that this guy could train a rooster to do
such a thing.  I guess poultry is smarter than we give it credit for. 
Not sure if I could be bothered trying to train a chicken to play the
piano though”

Search Criteria:

Chicken playing Tic-tac-toe
Trainer chicken Tic-tac-toe
Reinforcement chicken tic-tac-toe
Teach chicken Tic-tac-toe

I hope this helps. If anything is unclear please request clarification
and I'll be glad to offer further assistance before you rate my answer
and close the question.

Best Regards,
munkeyboy-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.00
Great - thank you!

Subject: Re: Trained chickens
From: bobbie7-ga on 13 Jun 2003 17:22 PDT
Thank you for the five stars and tip!
Subject: Re: Trained chickens
From: jimwww-ga on 08 Nov 2004 22:21 PST
One part of this answer deserves a comment:

And according to Bunky Boger, head of Animal Specialties of Lowell,
Ark., it's nearly impossible for a skilled tic-tac-toe player to lose
if given the first move.

Bunky is bogus. Played by competent players, tic tac toe will always
end in a draw, no matter who moves first. The first player need NEVER

Here are my questions about this game/machine/procedure:

(1) My guess is that the chicken is merely trained to peck at the
square illuminated by the computer. If so the chicken will never lose
if the computer is programmed well, and will sometimes win against
incompetent human opponents.

(2) Of course, the chicken can peck the wrong square even if the
correct square is indicated by the computer. Is it true (as asserted
by the psychologist quoted) that the computer will make the correct
move even if the chicken pecks incorrectly? If so, the game is a sham;
you're not playing against a chicken, you're playing against a

(3) Given that a properly behaving chicken can NEVER lose, I wonder
how it was that Donald Trump won when he played. He was playing in his
own casino, so in the larger sense this is not a mystery. There are
also occasional reports of players beating the chicken and winning
$500 from time to time.

If I were training the chickens or building the boxes, I would never
leave any of this to chance. So....

(4) Is there a switch that an operator can throw to put the computer
into a "lose" mode?

(5) Does the chicken ever make actual mistakes -- not overruled by the
computer -- and thus really lose?

I'm not asking for formal answers -- just raising the issues. The
whole thing smells like a scam to me -- albeit an innocuous one (if
you don't have to bet money to play the chicken).

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