Home Caring for Your Flock 12 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Entertained

12 Ways to Keep Your Chickens Entertained

by Jamelyn

Chickens are smart animals. In fact, some studies have shown they are smarter than toddlers. However, just like toddlers, when chickens get bored, they can get into trouble. This is why it’s important to have ways to keep your chickens entertained to prevent boredom and keep them out of trouble.

Here are 12 ways to keep your chickens entertained:

  1. Visit with your chickens every day 
  2. Feed crumbles, instead of pellets
  3. Feed kitchen scraps
  4. Make games out of eating
  5. Install perches
  6. Provide kiddie pool
  7. Set-up dust bath
  8. Place mirror in run
  9. Allow free range time
  10. Pick weeds with your flock
  11. Let chickens on compost pile
  12. Try a swing

Keep reading for more details on the different ways you can keep your chickens entertained and prevent boredom.

1. Visit with Your Chickens Everyday

Chickens are social creatures and many enjoy being around people (or rather, they enjoy the food those people bring).

Try to spend at least a few minutes every day with your chickens. They develop daily routines and habits, which is calming to chickens and helps prevent them from getting stressed. Stressed chickens can become bullies to more submissive chickens in the flock, lay fewer egg, and will have weakened immunity.

One way to make sure you visit with your chickens every day is to avoid getting an automatic door opener for the coop. I know this seems like a super convenient item for your coop, but I see there being many drawbacks, including spending less time with your chickens.

When I let my chickens out the coop in the mornings, we have a routine that I try to follow every morning. The same applies at night when they get tucked into the coop.

I’m hanging out with my chickens in the backyard.

As weird as this sounds, it’s totally true, that chickens can go feral if they don’t have enough human contact. The more interactions you have with your chickens, the more friendly and affectionate they will be towards you and people in general.

2. Feed Chickens Crumbles (Instead of Pellets)

Eating takes up most of a chicken’s time during the day when they are awake. Chickens instinctually peck as a way to satisfy hunger and when hunger is satiated too quickly, chickens still have the desire to peck. Pecking, when it is not related to gathering food to eat, can become a problem if it’s directed towards the exposed skin of other chickens or eggs in the nesting box (see this post for methods to prevent chickens from pecking and eating their own eggs).

To prevent excess pecking of other chickens and eggs, feed your chickens crumbles, instead of pellets. Pellets have the same nutritional value per piece so chickens are able to quickly have their nutritional needs met and can then become bored.  Since crumbles are small and it takes more bites of the crumbles to meet the nutritional needs of the chickens, they are more likely to take longer to eat and will not find other things to peck that can lead to trouble.

This is the chicken’s feed; it’s crumbles so it will take them longer to eat.

3. Give Chickens Kitchen Scraps

To keep chickens entertained during the day, give them scraps from the kitchen. Besides kitchen scraps being a healthy treat for your chickens, it will keep them entertained in 2 ways:

  1. Provides a different type of food to eat. Although commercial feed is nutritionally designed for chickens to provide them with all the necessary vitamins and minerals that are required in their diet, eating the same thing day after day can get boring, even for chickens. When they are fed something different, this breaks up their routine, getting rid of any boredom. This is especially good if you feed your chickens something different occasionally. For example, my chickens love to eat tomatoes and squash (the ends that we cut off and don’t eat). I gave them the ends of an eggplant the other day and they were very intrigued. One brave chicken tasted it and was followed by a few more. They decided they didn’t like the egg plant, but now they have that knowledge in their brains that they don’t like eggplants. This was a short lived activity, but it was helpful in teaching chickens about new foods.
  2. Entices food running. When chickens encounter a piece of food that is too large to swallow on the spot, they will take off running with the food with the other chickens in hot pursuit. While this looks like a game of chicken football, it’s actually helpful in breaking up their food when another chicken will tear it out of one chicken’s mouth. This process will break up the food into smaller pieces so the chickens are able to swallow the food (in case you didn’t know, chickens don’t have teeth). When you feed your chickens kitchen scraps, they are more likely to run with the food than if you give them normal chicken treats, like scratch grains or sunflower seeds. This food running and chasing is great exercise for chickens and is a fun activity for you to watch too! Just make sure you don’t bring them kitchen scraps that they will be running with if it’s in the middle of a very hot day. Chickens are sensitive to the heat.
The chickens are food running with an eggshell. They had broken an egg in the nesting box, got a hold of the eggshell, and then took off running through the yard.

4. Make Games With Their Food

This is the 3rd food related activity because a large part of a chicken’s day revolves around food!

Make a game out of your chickens’ food in order to give them a fun activity and to reduce their boredom (especially if they are in an enclosure or run all day).

Here are a few ideas for chicken food related games:

  1. Tether ball. Place a skewer through a head of lettuce or cabbage and hang it from a string that is tied to the top of the chicken run. The chickens might be a bit timid at first, but after your first chicken takes a bite, the rest should join in shortly. Chickens will watch other chicken’s reactions to food to determine if it’s safe to eat. They do this behavior while they are chicks in order to learn from the other chickens in the flock about which foods are safe to eat and which ones should be avoided.
  2. Seed shaker. Poke a few holes in an empty water bottle and add in your chicken’s favorite treats, like scratch grains or sunflower seeds. Let the chickens kick and scratch the bottle to let the treats fall out. You might have to show your chickens how this toy works, but after they realize it has their favorite treat inside they will catch on.
  3. Hand feed. This activity gets you involved with your chickens and is a great way to build a bond with your flock and earn their trust. I like to hand feed my chickens either directly from my hand by pouring the treats in my cupped hand and letting the chickens eat out of my hand. Another way is to hold a sunflower seed in my hand a few inches above the chickens and let them jump and eat it from between my fingers. I have some chickens that enjoy jumping to get food, while others are perfectly fine eating the treats that fell on the ground.

5. Install Perches

Chickens feel safest when they are on a perch and have a clear view around them. The red jungle fowl, the ancestor of modern chickens, would sleep in trees at night. They would pick a branch that was high up and covered by leaves, providing protection from any predators above.

Our backyard chickens still have this instinct, which is why they sleep on roosting bars at night. Give your chickens some perches in their run or the yard and they will enjoy resting on them during the day. I have some chickens that like to doze off in the afternoons on their perches.

We have a small tree stump and medium sized tree branch in the chicken run for the hens to walk and stand on. In the expanded run, we recently added an old wooden sawhorse that came with our house when we moved in. The chickens enjoy sitting on the saw horse and looking around the yard.

Whatever perch you provide for your chickens, make sure their feet have enough grip to hold on and that it's not too slippery, like PVC pipe.

6. Provide Kiddie Pool

A kiddie pool is a good way to prevent boredom for your chickens, especially on hot days. We have a kiddie pool in the expanded run for the chickens, even when the weather isn’t too hot just because our chickens enjoy it.

The chickens enjoy drinking water out of the pool and I also have a few birds that will wade in the water. I make sure to change the water frequently, in case a wader decides to poop in the pool (I’ve never said that chickens weren’t at least a little disgusting).

One chicken is perching on the pool while the other two stand on the ground. They enjoy drinking water from their kiddie pool.

My chickens also like to perch on the sides of the pool, which is an added benefit for them. Since kiddie pools are a seasonal item, make sure to pick one up during the summer. Even when the weather cools off you can use the kiddie pool as an alternative dust bath area (see more about dust baths in the next section) or a large feeding dish for your birds when you toss them a few random kitchen scraps.

7. Set-up Dust Bath Area

Part of a chicken’s grooming routine is to take a dust bath. You should provide your chickens access to a dust bath area, otherwise, they will find their own and you might not be happy with where they choose (like your garden or flower bed).

There are several cute ideas on the internet of what people have done to make dust baths for their chickens. Chickens don’t really care how cute it is though. Just make sure you have loose dirt in which the chickens can roll and shake, and they will be plenty happy.

Some people will also add diatomaceous earth to the dust bathing dirt to help prevent lice and mites. This is a great idea, but keep in mind if the dirt gets wet the diatomaceous earth will need to be reapplied to the area since it looses its effectiveness when wet.

Dust bathes are a way chickens keep themselves cool, so be sure to provide this area to chickens in hot or humid weather. (This post has more ways that chickens keep themselves cool during hot weather.)

8. Place Mirror in Run

Some chickens like to look at themselves in the mirror and peck at the image they see. This can be a fun activity to set-up in the chicken run.

When our chicks were still in the brooder, they would see their reflection in the thermometer and would peck at it all day long. It was cute to hear the little chirps and pecks coming from their brooder.

9. Allow Free Range Time

In general, all chickens need at least some time free ranging in order to be at their optimal in health and happiness.

They don’t need a full acre to free range. Whatever amount of space you have available in the yard will be good, as long as they have access to snack on some plants, scratch up some bugs and seeds in the dirt, and maybe swallow some rocks for grit.

When you let chickens into the yard, it’s not unusual for them to run fly. It’s usually started by one chicken with all the others following suit. They will run, jump, flap their wings vigorously, and fly a few feet before jumping, flapping, and flying a few more feet. This is great exercise for chickens and is especially thrilling when they run fly towards you!

10. Pick Weeds With Your Flock

A favorite outdoor activity Steven and I have with our chickens is to pick weeds with them. Hear me out…

We have a Grampa’s Weeder (I’m not an affiliate for this product, I just really like it–we actually bought 2 so that both of us could pick weeds at the same time). When we pick weeds, the chickens love to dive in after any bugs or worms that come up with the weeds.

Chickens like to help you pick weeds because they get to eat some of the weeds, especially dandelions, which are high in calcium, which is a necessary nutrient for laying hens. They will scratch around on the piles of picked weeds and sometimes throw them in the air and over their backs.

The chicken in the center is throwing the weed in the air and over her back. (The Grampa’s Weeder pulls weeds out by the root, which is why these weeds almost look like carrots!)

After we have collected a bucket of weeds, we toss them in the chicken run for the chickens to further break down. Eventually, the weeds become part of the floor of the chicken run, similar to a composting run.

11. Let Chickens on Compost Pile

If you have a compost pile in your yard, let your chickens occasionally go investigate the pile.

The chickens will pick out any food stuffs they find interesting. During their investigation of the pile, they will scratch the pile, helping to mix the ingredients in the compost pile for you. In addition, their manure is high in nitrogen, which is great for compost.

12. Try a Swing

I have seen several places on the internet that talk about installing a chicken swing. I tried this with my chickens and (unfortunately) it was not a big hit.

We installed a swing made from a long wooden branch strung up from the ceiling of the chicken run. It looked cute but was a bit perilous. I’m pretty sure the rope sides were too long because when a chicken would jump off the swing she would have to duck to keep from getting hit by the branch swinging.

This chicken swing has since been removed from the run because after the first few chickens gave it a try, no one else was interested and it just got in the way. Either way, it did provide some level of entertainment for a few days.

One of our chickens was brave enough to try out the swing.

Essentially, the best activities for your chickens involve you playing with them or giving them simple treats–that revolve around food, of course!

You may also like

Copyright 2021 - 2023 - All Right Reserved. 

Youtube Pinterest