Once you have chickens on your homestead, you’ll find that it’s quite easy to get addicted to watching them. You end up making it your mission to prevent your chickens from being bored, and keep them happy and spoiled all day long.
Watching chickens having fun on their own can be an excellent form of therapy for when you’re feeling stressed. You can’t help but smile when you see happy chooks scratch around and chase bugs without a care in the world.
So, how do provide them with extra entertainment so you can sit back and watch them have fun when you feel like it?
Why You Don’t Want Bored Chickens
First of all, keeping your chickens entertained does more than just provide you with some chicken TV. Chickens aren’t the most pleasant animals in the world and they will often form bad habits such as pecking each other or eating their own eggs when they get bored enough.
If you have young chicks in a brooder or you don’t allow your birds to free-range, or have some boring snow days where they don’t want to venture outside, your chickens are pretty likely going to take their restlessness out on each other. You know how kids get bored on long car rides and start picking fights with each other?
Yep. Turns out kids and chickens have more in common than we thought.
Chicken boredom will start pretty much as soon as a chick hatches. Even in the incubator, I have witnessed an eager chick begin pecking at neighboring eggs while they’re hatching as if they just can’t wait to have a friend. Once your chicks are in the brooder, they’ll get settled into their surroundings pretty quickly and want some excitement in their lives.
1. Grass Chunks
One creative way to keep your chicks entertained is to move a few clumps of grass and dirt into the brooder. Your chicks will curiously peck at the green grass and scratch around in the dirt. If they’re lucky enough, they might even find some small, nutritious bugs to gobble up.
An added benefit of putting grass and dirt in the brooder is the exposure to the outside world that your chicks will get. Sometimes a young chicken’s system will be a bit shocked if they are transported directly from a brooder to the outside world. Gently exposing chicks to dirt and grass will help their immune systems to strengthen and prepare themselves for the transition outside.
2. Stick Perches
Another way to add some excitement to the brooder is by bringing in some sticks to set up as little roosts for your chicks. Gather sticks about the size of your smallest finger so that your chicks will be able to firmly perch on the roost with their little feet. Keep the roosts 6-inches or less off the ground in the beginning while your chicks are learning how to jump up and roost.
Once again this option for entertainment will serve a dual purpose by teaching chickens to roost so the transition to living in a coop will be as easy as possible.
3. Scattered Herbs
I can not tell you how many buckets of herbs I have gathered and chopped with scissors to scatter in the brooder for my growing chicks. Herbs can help boost functions such as the immune and respiratory systems as well as teaching chickens early on that they can eat more than just grain.
Some of my favorite brooder herbs are mint, oregano, and lavender, but there are many herbs that can greatly benefit growing birds. Mint is excellent for respiratory health, oregano is a perfect immune booster, and lavender will calm your chicks.
Keeping herbs in the brooder will not only support overall health and entertain your chicks, but it will also help combat the smell that comes with raising chicks. I don’t know about you, but this is a win-win for me when I’m raising chicks.
4. Live Bugs
While I love all of these methods of entertaining chicks, I saved my favorite for last. If you’ve never dropped a worm in a brooder full of chicks, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. If you have kids, this will likely keep both parties amused for some time. As a little girl, I could spend hours gathering earthworms and running back to the brooder full of chicks to drop them in and watch the chaos that ensued.
I will say, not all chicks are enthusiastic about bugs. When my family brought home 50 Freedom Ranger chicks, they would have an absolute ball chasing each other around and fighting over worms. My laying hen chicks weren’t always quite as enthralled, so I think some of it has to do with the instinct of your chick breeds.
Entertaining Teenage Chickens
By the time your birds have reached the angsty teenage stage where they’re awkwardly feathering out, they’re probably more restless than usual and prove to act out as bored chickens. You’ve probably walked in some mornings to find your birds lined up on top of the brooder if you don’t have a brooder cover.
While many of the same methods of amusement for chicks can apply to teenage chicks, you can add a few new things to their routine.
1. Venturing Outside
On warm and sunny days, nothing will excite a young chicken more than the opportunity to explore a new area. I love taking my little birds out and spending hours lying in the sun with them while writing or reading. However, not everyone has time for that, so you can set them up for some unsupervised playtime outside.
It’s not too hard to locate something along the lines of a puppy playpen which will work perfectly for a portable chicken pen that your chickens can enjoy.
2. Jungle Gyms
Now that your chickens can jump higher, you can make stick perches a little more exciting for your bigger birds. Bringing in branches and leaf matter will give your young birds some fun things to climb on and really practice hopping around on their makeshift jungle gyms.
As your chickens get older, you can gradually expand their palette to include more foods. Cottage cheese makes for an excellent treat that will keep chicks running back to dive in for more cheese curds. Easy to digest fruit such as watermelon is another perfect choice for growing chickens.
Entertaining Adult Chickens
Keeping full-grown chickens entertained is probably more important than entertaining chickens of other ages because they can be fairly destructive when they’re fully grown.
Hens will eat their own eggs and chickens will get out to wreak havoc on your yard and garden. You can buy or come up with thrifty ways to keep your flock happy and out of trouble.
1. Chicken Swing
Okay, don’t roll your eyes too much. Does it sound ridiculous? Perhaps. However, I can testify to the hours of enjoyment my hens gained from their chicken swing.
You can purchase chicken swings or make them yourself with a stick about 1-inch in diameter. Make sure to suspend your swing above the head level of the flock to make sure no one gets whacked by a chunk of wood as a hen hops down.
2. Treat Balls
Another fun purchase that is quite amusing for hens is a refillable treat ball. You can put nutritious treats such as mealworms in the ball and watch your hens happily kick the ball around to eat the snacks that get deposited.
If you want a DIY version, you can take a plastic water ball and poke holes big enough for your treat of choice to fall out. However, this toy may not roll quite as easily and be a bit more cumbersome than a well-designed treat ball.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
One way to provide your hens with loads of excitement is by hanging up a head of lettuce or cabbage in the chicken run. Suspend this nutritious pinata just high enough that your hens have to hop up a bit to snag a treat.
Other delicious treats such as halved pumpkin and watermelon will entertain chickens for a good while. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you’ll be surprised by how little they waste.
4. Add a Mirror to the Run
Due to their competitive nature, chickens will quickly become fascinated by a “new” bird in the run. If you have overly aggressive roosters in your coop, this might not be the best option because they can end up sparring with a mirror, which could lead to a slight disaster.
As long as you don’t have any possible offenders in the run, adding a mirror can provide hours of amusement.
Few things bring a chicken keeper satisfaction than knowing they have a happy flock. Keeping chickens healthy is what we all want, and entertainment is as much part of it as giving them treats, good food, and monitoring their health.
Chickens can be picky with what they’re willing to amuse themselves with, so if one method doesn’t interest them, you can always try something else.
At the end of the day, by preventing bored chickens you will benefit from happy, social, and tame chicks, and you will find watching their antics a wonderful way to relax and unwind. Now, go outside and have some fun with your chicken TV!