When I finally made the decision to add chickens to the homestead, like most, I went into serious research mode.
Admittedly, with all the research I performed, the one situation that I never considered was that, like most animals, chickens can and do get bored. It only makes sense, seeing that they split their daily routine between eating and roosting in their coops.
That is why I decided to try to find ways to keep my chickens both entertained and happy in an attempt to relieve their eventual boredom. Here are a few of the ideas I found and present them as suggestions for your flock as well.
Just A Swingin…
When I mentioned to family members that I was considering purchasing a chicken swing for your flock, I got a look like I had grown a third eye.
Those who do not own and maintain a flock seem to think that the buying of toys to keep your chickens occupied is just a frivolous and unnecessary endeavor. However, to the contrary, a chicken swing is a great way to keep your little feathered friends happy and active.
Once your chickens realize that they can perch on the swing, it won’t be long before they learn that with the shifting of their weight they can swing back and forth.
Chickens are smart and curious, and given enough time and patience, they will figure out how to swing their day away.
There are a variety of chicken swing products out there, as well as tips on how to DIY your own. But what it basically comes down to is the fact that a swing is pretty much a swing.
1) DIY Chicken Swing
If you would prefer to make your flocks swing yourself, rather than purchasing one, it is an easy task to undertake. It also provides the flexibility of providing several for your flock, will still remaining inside your budget.
In fact, the best thing about a DIY swing is that it can be made from scraps of wood you may find lying around your homestead.
When considering the perching portion of the swing, you may choose to use a twig, branch, or piece of wood. If you go the route of a branch, it is best to make sure that the branch is of a reasonably wide width.
Contrary to popular belief chickens, unlike birds, do not wrap their little toes around their perches. They in actuality sit more flat-footed, so the thicker the branch or log is, the more comfortable they will find their perching to be.
Now, to create the swing is quite easy. Simply drill a hole at each end of the twig, branch, or piece of wood and then pull a piece of thick rope or twine through the hole. Do not use a chain as your chickens may get caught in it and become hurt or harmed.
Make sure to make a strong, and secure knot in the ends of the rope that is closest to the hole in the wood. You will then attach the other end of the rope to the roof of the run or the coop.
Check out this link for a step-by-step guide.
2) Treats On Demand
Anyone who maintains a flock can tell you that chickens absolutely love their treats. I know my own will sprint to the end of their run when they hear me shake their treat bag.
They will proceed to dance back and forth, chattering excitedly at the thought of them getting their treats.
However, if you would prefer to offer your flock treats on a more consistent basis, then the choice of a hanging treat basket or block may be a more efficient way to go.
MannaPro puts out a mealworm medley treat block—and believe me chickens go crazy for mealworms—and a hanging basket to place the treat block in. Before you ask, the block itself is just a mashing together of delectable mealworm goodness
The block measures approximately three inches by three inches, and you simply place it in it hanging basket and place it in the coop. Be prepared though, because the block won’t last long as your chickens will go crazy over it.
The benefits of the treat block is that it provides your flock with an additional source of those vitamins, protein, and nutrients that your flock needs and is beneficial to them.
The main benefit is that it stimulates them mentally with the routine of pecking and hunting, much as when they are free-ranging for bugs and other such goodies.
3) DIY Your Flock’s Treat Block
Once you have your hanging basket (which you may find here ) you can then proceed to make your treat blocks for your flock
If you wish to forgo the use of a hanging basket for your treat block, you can easily take the approach of putting a hole in the homemade treat block and hanging it from a string.
The process of creating the treat block is straightforward and takes just a few moments to accomplish, once you gather your ingredients.
You will need:
- 2 cups of scratch grains
- 1 cup layer feed
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup wheat germ
- ¼ cut whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp cayenne
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup blackstrap molasses
- ½ c coconut oil (liquified)
You can even throw in some mealworms for an extra added tasty surprise
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, In a large mixing bowl mix the dry ingredients Add the wet ingredients and mix well Pat into several small baking dishes or casseroles, making sure your blocks are approximately 2” thick.
At this point in time, if you decide not to use a hanging basket, make a hole in the top of the blocks. Bake for 30 minutes, then cool completely. When cool, run a knife around the outer edge of the pan and invert to remove the block.
You may find these instructions here.
4) The Rhythm’s Gonna Get You
As mentioned before, chickens are very inquisitive and curious creatures, who are attracted to colors as well as sounds. That is why one of the best toys you can provide your flock would be a xylophone.
Yes, the type of xylophone that creates such a thrill for smaller children. With the variety of vibrant colors, it won’t take long for your chickens to soon be pecking their boredom away.
The reason that a xylophone is a perfect toy is that, as mentioned above, chickens are attracted to color, and they are capable of distinguishing between those colors. They also enjoy making sounds, and as a result will have fun entertaining themselves with the many sounds, as well as tones, they will be able to create.
During the winter months, a xylophone will be a vital addition to the coop as it will provide them the necessary mental exercise and distraction from picking on each other.
They can exercise their pecking actions and stimulate their minds, in turn, distracting them from the inevitable boredom they will experience.
Unfortunately, there is no easy method to DIY your own xylophone. However, if you find yourself in the market for a xylophone for your flock, I would suggest checking around your local thrift stores, or check this link.
5) No Piles Allowed
It would seem in the world of chickens, piles of any type is pretty much a no-no. It doesn’t matter what the pile is made of—leaves, pine needles, dirt or hay—they will work at them until they are nice, level, and flat and no longer in a pile—no joke?
They HATE piles! They will work and work, scratching and kicking until that pile is just a recent memory.
For this reason, you can throw a bale of hay or straw into your flock’s coop or run, and you have an instant, frugal boredom buster.
For an extra added delight, you can hide their favorite treats throughout the bale of hay so that when they run across them, they will be extra excited.
6) Mirror, Mirror
A mirror is the perfect boredom buster for any species of bird. Chickens are very intelligent birds, and as such are very aware of themselves.
Add in the fact that they are preener’s and you can see that the addition of a mirror to your coop is a great idea to relieve your flock’s boredom.
The mirror doesn’t have to be an expensive or top of the line brand. A quick trip to your local Goodwill or thrift shop will do the job. It is best that the mirror is of reasonable size, but not too big either.
Keep in mind that your flock will most assuredly take times that they will peck at the image reflected in the mirror, so it is crucial that you make sure that the mirror is adequately secured.
Otherwise, it may get knocked over and possibly harm or injure a flock member. You may even discover your flock members pushing each other aside, all in the effort to check out their reflections.
A bit of a word of warning, if you have a rooster in your flock, you may want to think twice about a mirror. The reason being that most roosters will not take kindly to another “rooster” amongst their girls.
If you find yourself needing a mirror for your flock, check out this link.
7) Tree Stumps
One boredom buster that is pretty much free and easy to create is that of a tree stump. Simply check out the area around your homestead for any downed trees or limbs. Cut these into various lengths, and then place them in groups around the chicken’s run.
Your flock will soon take to them, standing and perching on them, as they watch the world around them go by.
You may even find from time to time they may appear to be participating in a fun game of “king chicken of the mountain.”
Want to make sure that the stumps provide adequate fun?
Move the stumps from time to time, from one area of the run to the other, and not only will the stumps appear new again, but your flock will thank you for giving them access to the bugs that have taken up home in the stumps original location.
8) Additional Perches
When it comes to chickens, you can never have too many perches. They perch on anything and everything, at every opportunity.
They will hop up on just about anything and take the chance to get a “birds-eye” view of the world around them. They will do this when it is muddy and snowy, but it is also in their very nature to always seek out and take the high ground.
The placing of additional ladders, roosts, and perches in their coop or run can prove to keep your flock occupied for hours if not days, from time to time. You don’t have to get fancy or extravagant, and can go the DIY route quite easily.
The perches can be made from items you have lying around the homestead, such as boards, branches, or even old un-used ladders.
The thing to keep in mind at this time is that the perches need to be multi-leveled, creating somewhat of a chicken jungle gym. Moving the perches, from time to time, and to other areas of the coop and run will make them almost new again to your flock.
Check out this link on perches and why your flock needs them.
9) Home Of The Free-Ranging
Although free-ranging is pretty much assumed during the warmer months, it does not automatically spring to mind when thinking of the colder, snowy months.
Even during the days that there is snow on the ground, and it seems freezing outside, your flock will still take the opportunity to leave the coop.
Chickens love any chance they can get to stretch their legs, and as long as there are a few bare spots in the snow, that they can scratch and avoid the white stuff, they will thank you for the freedom.
There is also the benefit that fresh air is good for both you and your flock, and if the sun is out in full force even better. If you do decide to let them out to explore and free-range, make sure to supervise them at all times.
During the winter, predators are hungry and looking for their next meal, so you will need to be diligent in your supervision.
If you have them in a fenced area, you will still need to keep an eye on them. If they are wondering at their heart’s extent, make sure that they do not wander too far. The situation can go very bad, very fast, if they are unsupervised and a predator realizes this.
10) Rethink Your Run
The suggested run space for each flock member is 8-10 square feet. However, keep in mind, the more room, the better. Your birds will need to be able to stretch their wings without worrying about being cramped up.
A small run will also lead to increased periods of boredom, which can lead to them picking on each other, and possibly harming each other in the process.
Considering an extension of your run area could serve to alleviate any chances of your flock becoming bored. Maybe you don’t need that much lawn—less lawn is less upkeep.
If this is the case, consider that you may be able to extend your run a few more feet, creating more roaming space for the flock.
Giving your flock the most significant area possible to roam and explore will more than benefit them in the end. They need space for some “me” time every once in a while, and that can only happen within the largest amount of space you can provide.
11) Scheduled Visitations
Those who tend flocks will tell you that chickens can be very social animals. Not just with each other, but they can become attached to their caregiver.
Setting aside time each day, to just hang out with (and talk to) your chickens, will not only benefit them but you as well. It will also give you time to provide them with a “chicken checkup” to maintain good health.
Every flock has a pecking order—but from time to time, due to a variety of reasons, including boredom, some of the flock members may become bullies.
Setting aside visitation time with your flock, you will be able to identify the possible bullies, and also determine if the bullying is indeed a result of boredom or something else altogether.
Warmer weather visits are pretty easy to make time for, however, the cold, winter months are the most crucial times for visitation.
Consider that your flock is locked inside most of the day, unlike the other months, and they have only each other to interact with. By scheduling visits with them, you can break up the monotony and boredom, making them much happier and content.
12) Pinata! Ole!
Chickens are attracted to and enjoy chasing after, anything that moves. So, why not fashion them a “chicken pinata” of their very own. This is more of a DIY project, rather than something you need to buy, and is super easy to make.
Your “pinata” can be constructed from just about any type of vegetable, but the most common choices are cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower.
The best method for creating this item is to drill a hole through the head of whichever type of vegetable you choose, and slipping a piece of rope through the hole and knotting it.
It is very highly advised that you do not use a chain, since when your chickens peck at the treat they may hurt or injure themselves.
You will then need to hang the “pinata” in the coop, or run, making sure that the flock has adequate room to reach it.
Your flock will spend many hours dodging and pecking at the “pinata,” giving them something to concentrate on and keep their minds active. It will not only provide a wealth of fun but will also offer them a healthy boost of much-needed greens.
For more detailed instructions, check out this link.
So… How Will You Spoil Your Chickens?
Chickens are curious and intelligent creatures. As such, they tend to get bored very easily and very quickly. There are various methods and items that you may provide that can help to elevate this boredom.
If you are not a very DIY individual, there is the convenience of purchasing toys and such for them to use.
Tracy lives with her furry baby, Chigger, in a small, quaint, country town nestled within the Appalachian Mountain range.
A mere four years into her homesteading journey to obtain a simpler, more self-reliant lifestyle, she finds that she always has something to learn, and there is always something to be grateful for.
When not researching or writing, she can usually be found working on one of the many tasks that always seem to be needing done on her homestead, tending to her garden, or laughing at the many antics of her chickens, whom she has affectionately named the “feathery five,” as well as Chigger himself.