You’ve probably heard the phrase “busy as a bee”. Not to knock how productive bees are, but have you seen how busy chickens can be? If your chickens have access to a large area to free range, you probably know that they’re up before dawn and they don’t stop wandering around, scratching and searching for food until the sun goes down. They’re naturally very active animals. The only time the stop for rest is at night.
Chickens that are kept in a coop still have that same desire to be busy. Without something to do, chickens can become bored. Bored chickens can develop health issues, become stressed, and even start bullying one another for fun. One of the best ways to keep your cooped chickens occupied is to provide enrichments for them. We’ve rounded up some chicken-tested enrichments to easily add to your coop.
What is an enrichment?
Have you been to the zoo recently? If so, you’ve probably noticed that the monkeys have jungle gyms to climb on. There’s usually tires and large balls in with the big cats. These are enrichment items. An enrichment item is something that your chickens can use or play with in their coop.
Enrichment items can help satisfy the physical and mental needs of your chickens. This is important for their health when they are in a coop. Chickens aren’t going to play with a big ball or tire like a lion would, but there are some simple things you can provide for your chickens to entertain them.
What can you use as an enrichment?
Chickens are naturally curious and active. If you’ve ever let your chickens out of the coop for an extended period of time, you’ve probably watched them spend their day walking around, dust bathing and looking for food. You can play off of their natural instincts to find items that you can add to the coop that will keep them entertained.
Food as an Enrichment
Chickens love a good treat. Who doesn’t, right? While the majority of your flock’s diet shouldn’t come from treats, you can use them as a fun enrichment. Chickens naturally spend the majority of their day searching for food. Chickens that are cooped up can easily get bored because their food source is always there and it’s easy to find. There’s no work or searching involved.
Try adding treats to the coop that your chickens will have to work for. You can find treat dispensers or you can make your own. There are a lot of ways that you can whip up an easy treat that your chickens will have to work for.
Pop a few kernels of corn into the cells in an ice tray. Cover them with water and freeze. Remove the frozen ice and add it to your chicken’s waterer. They’ll enjoy pecking at the floating ice to try to get to the corn. This is a fun treat for them in the hot summer months.
Cabbage can be a great treat for chickens and you can turn it into a fun toy for them easily. Simply take an eye hook and screw it into the bottom of the head of cabbage. Tie a piece of string to the eye hook and hang it in the coop. Your chickens will enjoy pecking at the hanging cabbage.
Take a clean plastic bottle and cut holes in it in various places, making holes all around the bottle. Fill the bottle with scratch grain and put the lid on. Lay the bottle on the ground in the coop. Your chickens will enjoy rolling the bottle around to get the scratch grains out.
Toys in the Coop
You probably don’t think about your chickens playing, but there are some enrichments that you could add that they would enjoy. Enrichments should be safe and incorporate a chicken’s natural curiosity.
Chickens love to roost. In fact, the higher a chicken sits on the roost, the higher social standing that chicken has. It’s a natural desire for chickens to roost high. If your run doesn’t have roosts and your roosting space is only located in the coop, add some roots in the run. You can add cut tree branches as a fun roost for your flock. They’ll enjoy hopping up onto it during the day.
On a similar note, you can add chicken swings to your chicken run. These miniature swings are the best entertainment for you and your chickens! You’ll enjoy watching them hop onto these moving perches and try to balance on them.
Dust baths aren’t really considered a toy, but they’re a great enrichment that your flock will love. Chickens dust bathe themselves for hygiene and to socialize. Provide them with the ultimate dust bathing area by mixing up soil, wood ash, diatomaceous earth and herbs. They’ll love it!
If you haven’t added enrichtments to your coop yet, what are you waiting for? Your flock will thank you!