Preventing boredom is essential in all phases of your chicken's life. Much like ourselves, chickens can develop some really bad habits if left with too much time on the "wings". They can start taking out their boredom and restlessness on their siblings! As it turns out, chickens and kids have a lot more in common than you realize!
Here are a few ideas to keep your flock entertained.
1. Grass and dandelion chunks - As an introduction to the upcoming transition to being outside, I give the chicks dandelions and grass chunks complete with roots and dirt. The ensuing chase is always fun to watch!
2. Small container of sand, dirt or fire ash - This helps them learn to keep themselves clean and it's fun to watch them figure out how to use it!
3. Branches - Set up a couple of smaller branches that they can climb and perch on. Keep it no higher than 6" off of the ground for the little ones. This is teaching them to hop and perch and helping to transition them out of the brooder and into the coop.
4. Treats! - I use treats for several reasons. My primary goal is to teach the chicks that mom will have good things to eat! It calms them when people are around and socializes them to their human family. It is so fun to just walk over to the brooder and see them all come running! And if you've never dropped an earthworm into a brooder full of chicks and seen the craziness and chase that comes with it, you're in for a real treat too! Some of my favorite treats at this stage are worms and scrambled eggs.
Amusement for your teenagers will include everything already introduced with a few additions and modifications. You can start to add:
1. Exploring outside - To begin the transition to adult life in the coop you can start taking your chicks outside on warm and sunny days. Set up a play area or if you need to give them some unsupervised outdoor time you can find a puppy playpen and move that outdoors for a few hours. Remember to make sure they have shade and fresh water.
2. Jungle gym - Now that they can hop and fly a little better, bring in larger branches and things like that for them to climb on. Here is what we currently have
3. Treats during this stage can include fruits and vegetables. All time favorites for my flock are cottage cheese, watermelon and lettuce.
This group is probably the most important to keep entertained. When bored, they can begin bullying, pecking and eating eggs. Some great sources of entertainment for adult birds include:
1. Swings - Sounds sill doesn't it? However they love to swing! It doesn't need to be anything real elaborate, a 1' 2x4 suspended from two chains in the run works great. Make sure you hang it a little higher than the birds, that way when someone gets off, it won't swing into anyone's head.
2. Treat Balls - These balls are refillable with mealworms, corn, etc. The hens will kick the ball around and eat the treats as they fall out.
3. Hang food - Hang a cabbage or lettuce head or a corn cob from a rope or chain and the hens will peck at it much like a pinata which makes it swing back and forth while they eat.
4. Add a mirror to the run - Chickens are competitive by nature. They will be very interested in the new chicken! Just make sure you don't have anyone who is overly aggressive, they could end up fighting with the newbie.
Keeping your flock entertained will help keep them healthy, happy and tame. Adding much enjoyment to both their lives and yours.