In the winter months, when the days are shorter and there aren’t as many exciting bugs, weeds, and grasses to peck at, chickens can become bored. Boredom leads to mischief such as feather picking, egg-eating, squabbling, and a miserable disposition. Your birds need space and variety to keep them from picking at each other. Quiet, darkened areas away from the rest of the flock are ideal for the quieter flock members. By providing your hens with activities and mental stimulation, you are ensuring that everyone gets through the winter whilst staying healthy- this is important if you want your girls to lay eggs in the spring/summer.
Here are a few ideas to make life more interesting for your chooks this winter.
- Make a vegetable pinata:
First, choose your ‘pinata’ of choice, some of our favourites are cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli, and use twine to hang it in the coop. Dodging and pecking at the pinata will be a fun game for your flock, and provide them with a healthy boost of greens! To make this even easier, we have two size vegetable baskets, ready to stuff and hang with all your chooks favourite goodies. Chicken Toys – Vegetable Basket – Large and Chicken Toy – Hanging Vegetable Basket Toy – Small
- Make a jungle gym!
A variety of perches- different types, different heights will add to the activities. If you want to get really creative, use pieces of wood, branches or even ladders to make your girls their own jungle gym- boredom is sure to be a thing of the past!
- Add a swing
Some chickens love to perch on swings. You can buy swings made specifically for chickens that can be hung from the coop ceiling.
Or if you are handy, you can make one yourself. Supplies Needed: 2-4cm thickness dowl or log, drill, rope.
Drill a hole at each end of the log, and add a rope for hanging. Hang up your chicken swing and watch your chickens take a swing! Make sure your swing is secure to keep your chickens safe.
- Bale of Straw
Putting a bale or pile of straw in the chicken run will keep your girls entertained for hours – they are not a fan of piles! Watch as they scratch and peck at the straw searching for insects, seeds and other hidden goodies until there is a pile no more.
- Treat Roller Toy
A treat roller toy full of scratch or mealworms will start off a game of hen ‘football’. Once they get the idea that treats fall out when the dispenser rolls, it’s hilarious to watch them. One dispenser per 5-6 hens is what I would recommend.
Or make your own. Take a simple plastic bottle, and punch some holes in it. You want enough holes to let some grain out, but not too much. The idea is to encourage your chicken to peck at the bottle.
Some people put mirrors up for their chickens. Apparently, they love to admire themselves!
It doesn’t have to be huge but if you have a mirror laying around you can prop it up in the coop and run. Even a small hand-held mirror will work great. Fix it securely at their eye level (remember your bantams are shorter) and while they will probably ignore it at first – you’ll catch them carrying on with their reflection at a later date.
- Make a dustbath
Chickens love nothing better than taking a bath in the dirt. If your coop floor isn’t already made of the kind of dirt the birds can bathe in (soft and fine), you can make one from an old tyre or kids pool. Check out how to make a dust bath here!
You can also add some fine food-grade diatomaceous earth to help kill any mites or fleas that might be living on your chickens.
Place the dust bath inside your coop and watch your birds have fun fluttering around in it.
- Pecking Blocks
Chicken pecking bars/bites are another great way to keep confined hens busy.
A hanging solid block packed with grain and other treats, chicken suet provides hours of nutritious fun.
You can buy these blocks pre-made ( Hanging Pecking Block or Health Bar Bite Pack ) or make your own using a variety of grains, seeds, dried fruit or anything else your cooped chickens might like, along with molasses to hold it all together. Or try our health bite DIY kit!