There are a few good reasons to keep your chickens happy and entertained. But the primary one is that chickens are naturally cannibalistic. As if it weren’t enough that every other carnivore wants to eat them, they now want to eat each other?! This is a question I’ve contemplated many times. The sad truth is that chickens also need to worry about their own flock, along with all of the other predators out there. The good news is that keeping your chickens well entertained greatly reduces the likelihood that you will run into this behavior in your flock.
Everything we’ll suggest in this post is inexpensive, easy to implement and totally healthy for your chickens. We hope you enjoy our methods and that you try them out!
Community Dust Bath
Dust baths are a great way for your chickens to socialize and stay entertained. They are super easy to make and also have a variety of advantages associated with them. In addition to the social benefits, dust baths also keep your chickens clean and reduce bothersome bugs. The dust removes the excess oil from their feathers and the ingredients in a traditional dust bath help your chickens stay mite, lice and flea free. Any plastic storage bin will work for this purpose, as long as your chickens can get in and spread their wings a bit.
An easy recipe for a dust bath is as follows:
- 2 Parts dry dirt – Peat moss is a great ingredient to use for this as it’s so light and fluffy. But you can also just dig up dirt from your yard or use top soil.
- 1 Part play sand
- 1 part diatomaceous earth (this is what keeps the bugs away)
- 1 part wood ash (healthy for them to peck at and adds a nice texture to the bath)
Strategic Fruit & Veggies
There is a lot of different produce that can keep your flock interested for hours out of a day. A few examples of these are pumpkins, squash, and watermelon. Depending on the season, we cut one of these in half and put it in our chicken’s run. They will peck at it all day and eat every last bit of flesh away from the rind. It’s amazing how clean they can get a watermelon!
The other method we’ve tried is to tie a string around the stem of a cabbage and hang it from the roof of their run. This gives them the added enjoyment of watching it swing back and forth when they peck at it. The purpose of this tip is to find fruit that will take them longer to eat and keep them interested while they are doing it. You can also use apples or other fruit and dangle them from strings in the same manner as a cabbage. Be creative and be sure that anything you feed your flock is safe for their digestion.
Chickens love to roost high off the ground. It makes them feel safe and secure. It also entertains them to hop from branch to branch in their run. We currently have three roosts set up for them at varying heights. We have a lot of trees around our house and just cut a few branches and put them right into their coop. Free and effective!
If you want to get more creative, you can also add a swing to their run. It can be something as simple as a 2×4 with rope tied to either side and secured to the roof.
Birds love mirrors! It’s just how they’re programmed and chickens are no exception to that rule. We were able to find a mirror on clearance at Target for $4.95, which we added to their run. They totally enjoy it and interact with it frequently. It’s really cute to watch them turn their heads and look at themselves in the mirror. Adorable! 🙂
This is our favorite way to keep our chickens entertained! It’s free, easy and there are also some substantial health benefits to allowing them out of their run and into your yard to explore. But for us, the most important benefit is that it makes them happy. It also provides them with an opportunity to interact and bond with us. They are very curious and often come over to watch what we are doing, craning their heads comically to see better.
They are not interested in flying over the fence or getting too far away from their coop, which is good because their wings are not clipped. They mostly scratch around the grass and forage for grit and bugs. They are a little bratty when it comes to our garden. They LOVE to get in there and nibble on our greens. But they will take direction and leave when we shoe them away.
As for the health advantages, chickens digest their food in their crop and this requires grit. If you free range them often enough, then they scratch and forage for their own grit. Otherwise, they need it in their feed on a regular basis. Free ranging saves us the hassle of worrying about grit and also ensures their overall health.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips to keep your chickens happy and entertained. If you have any you’d like to share, please feel free to comment below. We are always looking for way to improve out hens’ quality of life. If you’re interested in reading more about raising backyard chickens, please check out our other posts: Baby Chick Care Guide, Chickens are Cheap, Coops are Not & Chicken Breed Matters.