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How To keep Chickens Entertained

I strongly believe that providing your hens with a fun and interesting coop helps with giving them a better quality of life. As a thorough believer in this statement, I wrote this article to give you some new ways on how to keep chickens entertained.

One way to keep chickens entertained is to provide them with plenty of toys. This could include things like a treat ball, xylophone, or a small ball. Chickens also enjoy exploring their surroundings, so make sure to provide them with a large area to roam around in. Finally, be sure to observe your chickens and interact with them regularly; this will keep them happy and entertained.

A frequent negative effect of hens becoming bored can be bullying within the flock; this is a common issue we chicken keepers have to deal with. Providing some sort of entertainment for your hens significantly reduces bullying. I am not saying that bullying won’t happen in your flock, as it’s a natural process that occurs when birds live together. I have a whole other article on how to deal with bullying properly. Here’s the link to that if you’re interested.

But there are other different ways to entertain them, varying from season to season, whether in the daytime or in the coop when they shelter at night. So read on!

Advantages of keeping your hens entertained

Keeping your chickens busy comes with its advantages, minimizing bullying within the flock and providing the hens with a better quality of life which we believe will lead to a more friendly flock. The egg production will also be at its best; this means more of those fabulous eggs for you.

Adding some small changes, such as the ones we’ve mentioned, means you’re also decreasing your chances of having to deal with an injured hen. This is evident when hens have nothing to do; they will start pecking at each other.

Dealing with an injured hen is not pleasant; it takes time and effort to help the injured bird to recover. However, it’s not completely unavoidable. With that being said, giving your hens the best quality of life should ensure you don’t have to deal with bullying often and get the most out of your chickens.

What Activities Do Chickens Enjoy?

You seldom see a chicken idle unless it’s sleeping. They are curious, inquisitive, and easily bored if there is nothing to stimulate their interest. Food is top of their priorities, and there are many possibilities for you to perk their interest with an assortment of tasty goodies.

Foraging is a favorite chicken activity. Chickens love to scratch in the dirt and leaf litter to uncover tasty morsels. You can entice them by placing food in different locations, or by hiding it around the coop or run. This will give them something to do and also provide them with a nutritious meal.

Keeping free range chickens entertained

Chickens also like to play with toys and will often spend hours playing with a simple ball of string or a small ball. You can buy chicken toys from most pet stores, or you can make your own.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on toys. Just look around your house and you will soon find a raft of things you can use to entertain your chickens.

Store-bought Toys Are Great But Not Necessary

If you’re handy, you’ll be able to make one, but chicken swings are available from pet stores and online. You can even buy packs that include a chicken swing, xylophones (for chickens that show a musical appreciation), hanging feeders, and fruit-holders.

If this sounds a bit sophisticated for your farmyard fowls, suspend some old CDs on a string, throw hay on the ground for the chickens to scratch in, or find old rotten logs full of bugs and insects to provide hours of entertainment.

Toys such as logs or branches

Old logs and tree branches are one of my favorite ways to keep our chickens entertained. They keep the hens entertained for hours as they perch on them, pick at the wood and find worms and insects to eat, this just shows how something so small has a big impact when it comes to keeping your hens entertained.

Rotting logs provide hours of entertainment for your chickens

As these logs start to decompose over time, they become the perfect habitat for bugs and insects to thrive in. This makes them an even better source of entertainment for your hens as they can forage around looking for them. Another advantage of having logs in your coop is that they’ll last for absolutely ages, giving your hens a ton of fun. This idea as a form of entertainment that is cost-effective and long lasting is definitely worth considering if you keep hens in your back garden.

Giving them treats/leftovers

Another great way to keep your hens entertained is by giving them treats. We do this on a daily basis with leftover scraps from last night’s dinner. It’s a great way to be environmentally friendly, not waste food, but also give your hens something to do. Here are some examples of foods you can give to your hens:

  • Leftover/stale bread 
  • Fruit/ vegetables that are past their prime
  • Plain rice
  • Pasta
  • Lentils, seeds, or beans
Cooked pasta or stale bread make great treats for chickens

Using foods as forms of entertainment is great; however, it may not be the most long lasting solution. This is where we discovered pecking blocks. They consist of lots of delicious goodies all pressed into a block, perfect for hanging from the top of your run.

We noticed our hens would stay pecking at the block for hours, definitely keeping them busy. We would highly recommend this if you want an easy but effective way of keeping your hens entertained. Here’s a link to the one we use: Henhouse Reserve Block (check price on Amazon)

Make sure they have plenty of perches

Making your hens perches, ledges or other features is another great way to make sure they stay entertained, our hens love to perch up together for hours sitting in the sun.

Simple things such as a few pieces of wood are all you need in order to do this, it’s effective, easy and will give your hens lots of fun. Depending on the layout and construction of your coop, installing a wooden perch isn’t a hard task, if you’re comfortable with basic DIY then building a perch for your hens is an option well worth considering.

One of the main things that make the wood even more attractive for hens is the insects and bugs that it will attract. It’s guaranteed if your coop is filled with small bugs, your hens will remain entertained for long periods. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to building a perch:

Step 1: Find some timber, depending on how high or low you want your perch, choose the appropriate size of timber. The basic tools you will need in order to make this simple perch is a drill, three pieces of round cut wood and some screws. 

Step2: Start off by drilling the three pieces of wood together as shown in the diagram below, a quick tip when doing this is to use fairly large screws, they’ll help with keeping the perch secure.

Step 3: If your wood comes with an added point at the base then start hammering the structure into the ground, depending on how high you want your perch should help you decide how far you need to hammer the wood into the ground, for this step we recommend using a mallet. It should protect the wood from splitting or cracking when under pressure.

Step 4: If you want to replicate this with regular wood then we’d recommend digging a 1-foot deep hole, next place the wood in the middle of it, then add a concrete mix of your choice to the hole. Make sure you keep the base of the structure secure whilst the concrete is hardening, using some rocks at the base it what we found to work when doing this.

Step 5: For added protection from the elements you can add some varnish however this isn’t necessary. Your perch is now ready for use.

All in all, when thinking about adding an entertainment feature to your run, don’t overlook something as simple as a perch.

Let them out into the garden

Another great way to keep your hens entertained is to let them into the garden for short periods, we usually do this once a week when giving the coop a clean, however, this can only be done if your garden is securely fenced off. If there are any places your hens could escape block them off before letting your hens out. 

Letting chickens free range in your backyard is a great way to keep them entertained

Some people believe that letting your hens spend too much time on your lawn is a bad idea, however, like with everything, It’s perfectly okay in small amounts. If you’d like a more detailed explanation then feel free to check out our article on: will chickens ruin my garden?

To be honest, we’ve found our hens tend to stay away from flowers and plants; instead, they try to forage for worms and insects.

As your garden is probably much bigger than your coop, there are lots more areas for the hens to explore. This is the primary reason why letting them out into the garden is so good for keeping them busy.

Hang some CD’s to the coop/run

If you want to keep your hens entertained, try hanging CD’s from the ceiling of their coop. They’ll love staring at the colorful light show! This is a great option if your run is slightly smaller in size. It’s practically a free entertainment source that your hens will absolutely love – that is if you can find any CD’s lurking around!

Throw in some hay

Another cheap but effective tool to ensure your hens remain entertained throughout the day is to throw some hay into the run. This gives the hens plenty to play with as they’ll spend hours pecking and foraging for insects in the hay. It should last a week or so, but replacing it frequently is a good idea if you want to keep your coop clean and hygienic.

Put hay in their coop for all day entertainment

Mirror Mirror on the Wall: Who is the fairest hen of all?

A great way to keep your hens entertained is by providing them with a mirror. Hens love looking at themselves and will be occupied for hours staring at their reflection. You can either purchase a cheap mirror or upcycle an old one you have lying around the house. All you need to do is attach it to an appropriate spot in the coop. A small 10×10 inch mirror is the perfect size for your chickens to admire themselves.

Dust baths

Dust bathing is a great way for your chickens to stay clean and entertained at the same time! Especially on warm days, our hens love dust bathing. It cleans any lice or parasites out of their feathers and keeps them looking immaculate. They can spend hours just sunbathing in the dust. If you don’t have any dirt in your backyard, A kiddies’ play pool or even an old tire will work. Make sure there’s no clay in the soil you fill it with and mix it with wood ash or diatomaceous earth.

chickens dust bathing

Where The Chickens Live Affects Their Entertainment Needs

Chickens’ lifestyles vary from full free-range to fully confined which means their entertainment needs can vary wildly.

Free Range Chickens Have All The Fun

Free-ranging chickens allowed to spend most of their day in an open space or in your garden will not need more entertainment than what is freely available. If your backyard chickens fall into this camp you won’t need to provide them with much entertainment unless they are in their run a lot in poor weather. In fact, watching them will provide you with all the entertainment!

How To Provide Entertainment In The Run

Depending on the size of the run and how many chickens you have, there may be a need to keep the flock entertained beyond what is naturally available. Bored unhappy chickens may try to escape the run. They can also get stressed and reduce their egg production or even get involved in pecking-order disputes.

Some fun ways to entertain your chickens in the run include:

  • Make a chicken jungle gym: Swings and perches are great options and can be purchased but are easy enough to make using lengths of suitable heavy-duty twine and wood offcuts. Hang them low so that the bird can easily climb on and ensure that they can swing freely.
  • Hang an unbreakable mirror or a large old mirror and place plastic bottles or materials with bright colors for a happy flock.
  • Spread hay or a pile of straw in the chicken run and throw in large pieces of melon, pumpkin, and squash, for which the chickens can scratch.
  • Hang a head of cabbage, head of lettuce or leafy greens at pecking height, which will keep them amused for hours, and also provide your pet chickens with their favorite thing – food.
  • Ladders and roosts provide exercise for the birds but also a place to rest. Any old stepladder or wooden chair will be put to practical use by the flock.
  • A good dust bath as already mentioned provides not only entertainment but an essential health routine for chickens in a run. Parasites, mites, and lice can cause illness and even death, and the chickens use dust bathing to clean their feathers and skin. A kiddies’ play pool or even an old tire will work. Make sure there’s no clay in the soil you fill it with (disastrous for their feathers if the clay gets wet) and mix it with wood ash or diatomaceous earth.

What To Put In A Coop To Entertain Chickens

The chicken coop provides shelter at night from predators and during the day from inclement weather such as rain or snow. Some chickens, particularly on commercial poultry farms, spend their day “cooped up,” and keeping them from getting bored is essential for the farmer as well as the chickens.

It’s been proven that chickens are intelligent, curious creatures that are best able to produce healthy eggs when happy and content and are liable to aggressive behavior only when bored and unstimulated. Hence, toys are a lot more than just for decoration.

Depending on the coops size, many of the toys mentioned above will be suitable for the coop – small ladders and extra perches, hanging cabbage heads, and pieces of fruit for the chickens to discover all make simple boredom busters.

You can also introduce “treat balls” which are mesh balls that you can fill with seedcakes, nuts, peanut butter, and other healthy treats, which roll around the coop and provide the hens with a food source, which they love, as well as entertainment. You can tie a small bell to the treat ball, adding to the experience.

Another favorite toy suitable for the coop as mentioned above is a hollow log, preferably rotting, so it’s full of termites and live insects. You can fill the log with seeds and fruit or leave it for the chickens to explore, and if it’s big enough for them to get into, so much the better. You can also put in a tree branch if you can’t find any big juicy logs.

Seasonal Toys To Keep Your Chickens Entertained

With the seasonal change, there is a change in the natural environment that your flock lives in. In winter, the rain and snow keep them inside more, while in summer the heat may limit their activity.

Winter toys should concentrate on providing nutrition as well as fun until your chickens can get out again to dig up worms and bugs and scratch through the summer grass. In the cold weather suet balls, made from seeds mixed with fat, which you can wrap in chicken wire, are a big hit with chickens. If the ground is muddy or frozen, you can suspend this edible treat ball from the roof of the coop. You can also fill these chicken wire balls with chunks of fruit and vegetables.

In summer, add to the range of good chicken toys by tossing in blocks of frozen berries or scattering frozen peas around the coop. These are a good way to cool the chickens down, as well as provide nutrition. You can also make iceblocks or freeze watermelon for hours of fun.

In autumn, as days start to shorten and temperatures drop, most chickens begin to molt, losing feathers before growing new ones. They may also stop laying for a while. During this period, it’s a good idea to throw a pile of alfalfa, straw, or hay bales into the coop for the chickens to scratch through. It will keep them busy and provide bedding to keep them warm and dry while they grow new plumage.  

Conclusion

Chickens are sociable, inquisitive creatures, and keeping them happy and entertained will result in a friendly flock producing beautiful eggs for your table. We hope you agree!

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