Keeping chickens entertained in the coop is not a difficult task to accomplish, but it is a facet of raising chickens that not many are acquainted with. I mean, don’t they keep themselves entertained? Yes, they do… they peck each other, pull each other’s feathers, steal each other’s food, etc. Left to their own devices, chickens will usually find some sort of shenanigans to engage in. So how to keep chickens entertained is what I am going to discuss in this article.
What Does Entertaining Chickens Mean?
Entertaining chickens means providing mental and physical stimulation to your chickens so that they are distracted from doing activities that stress the flock.
I let my chickens roam free during three seasons and most of the fourth. As long as the snow is not too deep, they are welcome to come and go as they please. They don’t need to be entertained while they are free-ranging. During those winter months when frostbite is a potential problem, my little ones have to stay inside with the heat on. Those are the times when chickens need some toys and other distractions to keep them occupied.
Encouraging chickens to “play” is a good idea because play is a boon to their mental and physical health, it reduces stress, and it reduces boredom.
Setting Up the Coop
If the yard that chickens range in is their playground, then the chicken coop is their home. A home isn’t just a square room with a closet and a coat rack. A home has rooms, closets, stairways, kitchens, game rooms, and, of course, inhabitants. Inhabitants don’t want to sit around and stare at each other all day. They want to engage one another, play, get a snack… So it is with chickens. How do you make a chicken coop a home? I’m glad you asked.
Typical chicken coops have the basics – bedding, nesting boxes, roosts, vents, windows, and doors. Add a feeder, and a waterer and you have enough to keep a flock alive. This is a safe and comfortable space that satisfies a chicken’s basic needs. To make a chicken’s home fun, these are the moves you can make to really spice things up.
Chickens are curious characters. They like to poke around in dark, hard to get to places. I once had to jack up my coop to pull out about 26 eggs. I knew my hens had started laying, I just didn’t know where! You can see the back of the speed-jack in the photo.
Adding a couple of cardboard boxes or a few bales of hay to the coop creates new spaces for the gang to explore, perch on, nibble on (especially if you can get a bale of alfalfa), and jump off of. You can imagine the fun they could have with these items, and they can be rearranged every few days to add even more variety.
Contractors tubes are also a fun space for your chickens to hide in, walk through, and perch on. Anything that gives a chicken a different point of view of their world is interesting to them. Add a couple of new perches to the coop, or move the existing ones. This only takes a couple of minutes with a screw gun.
Hanging items from the rafters can add a playful aspect to snacking. There are cakes, or bars of chicken snacks that can be dangled by rope to create chicken tether ball. Some vegetables serve the same purpose. Cabbage, cucumber, squash, or an ear of corn are great toys as well as a tasty supplement to a chicken’s diet.
Add a ladder or a ramp to the coop. This gives them the option of looking at things from many points of view. Throw a swing into the mix. Chickens try to perch anywhere and everywhere they can, so you’ll be surprised to find that they will actually use the swing. Keep the seat low to the ground to avoid too much chaos in the coop.
Chickens have to be kept in coops under certain circumstances like in an urban setting. I understand this. But what could the harm be in opening the doors of the run to the great unknown just before roosting time so the chickens could get a look at the world outside of their usual confines? It would be fun for you and your chickens. They naturally want to go back inside to roost, so there would be no chasing them down involved. C’mon, live a little.
Play with your chickens. Toss them treats. Get to know them. When I get home from work each day, my chickens come running toward my truck because they know it’s scratch time. Sometimes, it’s like walking through an obstacle course to get to my can of scratch because the chickens are around my feet, on my feet… They love it when I get home. The relationship is a give and take. I take good care of them and they give me eggs.
Cleaning the Coop
Cleaning the chicken coop isn’t much fun for the cleaner, but the chickens love it. My bedding comes in bales that are tightly compressed, so if I do it right, the bales come out of the packaging in roughly the same rectangular shape that they started in. After I muck out the coop and put the litter in compost piles, it’s time to add the new bedding. I leave the bedding in bale shapes because the chickens love to jump up on the bales and start digging into them. In a hours’ time the flock will have the shavings spread out all over the coop. They are such good little workers. Throw some scratch into the bedding and they will peck and scratch for hours. I don’t recommend this for a dirtier coop.
So, entertaining chickens isn’t a monumental task, it just requires that you exercise those creativity muscles. They are like children in that they like to have new happenings going on in their lives all the time. Add some rooms to the coop. Add some toys. Socialize with your birds. Toss them treats. They’ll love it, and you’ll have some happy chickens.
Thanks a lot for reading. I would really appreciate a comment if you’d like to leave one. If you have any questions, or an opinion, let me know below. See ya ’round.