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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

20 Inexpensive & Creative Ways to Keep Your Chickens Entertained and Happy

Just like any other animal, chickens need stimulation and entertainment to keep them happy and healthy. Boredom can lead to negative behaviors like pecking and aggression, so it's important to provide your flock with plenty of activities to keep them occupied. Here are some simple and fun chicken enrichment ideas to try.

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Why is Chicken Enrichment Important?

Chickens are intelligent animals and when they are bored or under stimulated, they can engage in negative behaviors such as pecking other chickens, pecking eggs, chasing, feather pulling, and other aggressive/bullying behaviors.

Enrichment offers a variety of activities your chickens can engage in to keep them auditorily, nutritionally, physically, socially and visually enriched. While mental enrichment is crucial for chickens, it is already incorporated into these other categories.

Buff Orpington and other Chickens Foraging while Free Ranging

Auditory Enrichment

Chickens can get enrichment from a variety of different sources, and it has been shown to soothe them.

Auditory enrichment can be as simple as noises from other chickens in their flock. Alternatively, it can be more complex such as bells, windchimes, or a xylophone they can peck for music.

A free form of auditory enrichment is talking to or singing to your chickens. We often practice this one ourselves, even calling them by name. Is adorable to see your chicken perk up and turn its head to listen when you are talking to them.

For more info on teaching your chickens their names check out our article.

When electricity is available by your coop, or via a phone. Some chicken owners play the radio as auditory enrichment. Note it has been shown that chickens can become stressed by classical music, this genre should be avoided.

Nutritional Enrichment

As foragers, chickens enjoy enrichment centered around finding and obtaining food.

Nutritional enrichment can be as simple as placing treats in a wiffle or treat ball or it can be as complex as a dog puzzle.

One of our favorite sources of nutritional enrichment is freezing fruits and vegetables in large ice balls or Tupperware containers. This not only cools your chicken down but also gives them a delicious snack.

Many chicken owners hang cabbage or lettuce from a string and allow their chickens to peck at it like a piñata. Just be careful that your chickens don’t get caught in the string.

Allowing chickens to forage will provide them a great deal of nutritional enrichment. One way to do this would be to free range (supervised or unsupervised). If you are unable to free range due to predators or local regulations, we recommend a chicken tractor as a safe and contained way to allow your chickens to explore.

Physical Enrichment

Providing your flock, a dynamic living space that they can explore and interact with will help keep your them healthy as well as physically and mentally stimulated.

Surfaces for your chickens to climb and perch on such as ladders, stumps, and ramps will entertain your chickens as they explore their run-in new ways.

These don’t have to be expensive additions, simply securing a branch in their run will suffice as a perch.

In fact we have noticed a huge difference in our hens after adding perches to the run, and we now consider them to be an essential item that all chicken owners should have for their flock. To learn about other recommended essential supplies read our article.

We added a chicken swing from a branch in our yard, that is secured by twine to the roof of the run. Our chickens utilize this enrichment often, sometimes more than one of them at once.

It is recommended to have a roofed run as or areas your chickens can hide, not only for shade and staying cool on warm days, but also so they safe from predators exploring their enrichment.

Whether you have made a place to dust bath or not, it is likely your chickens have created their own area to do this as ours have. This is good physical enrichment for them as well as a way to get clean and cool down.

We also added a tub with bricks in the bottom and a little water to allow our chickens to cool their feet on hot days. This doubles as a new surface for them to perch on.

Any combination of the above can make for even more enrichment. An example of this would be two upright stumps with a ramp connecting them.

Barred Rock Taking a Dust Bath

Social & Visual Enrichment

Visual contact with other chickens is important as they are social animals. Due to this they should not be kept alone as chickens can become stressed, bored, and lonely.

If you don’t have more than one chicken or they are isolated due to aggression or medical reasons, adding a mirror or CD’s can be a great way to increase their social meter.

For more visual enrichment add objects that move such as pinwheels outside their run. They will enjoy watching these move in the wind.

To help keep our flock happy and healthy we often go out to the coop and pet and hold our chickens. Some breeds are cuddlier than others such as our Orpingtons.

20 Ideas For Chicken Enrichment

Here is a concise summary of enrichment ideas:

  1. Bail of Straw to climb on

  2. Bushes to hide under

  3. Dog Puzzle with treats

  4. Dust Bath to cool down.

  5. Foraging such as a chicken tractor or free ranging

  6. Frozen Treats

  7. Keep more than 1 chicken

  8. Ladders to perch on

  9. Mirrors or CD’s

  10. Obstacle Course

  11. Perches

  12. Piñata of cabbage

  13. Pinwheels

  14. Ramp connecting two stumps

  15. Shrubs to hide by

  16. Spending time with your chickens

  17. Stumps to climb on

  18. Swing to perch on

  19. Treat Ball

  20. Other Toys

  21. Wiffle Ball with treats

Final Thoughts

Just like any other animal, chickens need mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Chicken enrichment is a great way to provide your feathered friends with a stimulating environment that encourages natural behaviors and reduces stress. In this guide, we covered everything you need to know about chicken enrichment, from the benefits to the different types of enrichment activities you can provide.

Enriching your chickens lives can be as simple as talking to them and providing branches to perch on, or as complex as a chicken playground with bells, swings, ramps, and frozen treats.

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