Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Keeping Chickens Entertained

Big Red and Iris enjoying a drink together
Chickens are constantly on a treasure hunt trying to find the best snack or perch. How do you keep chickens entertained and happy. I can't imagine caging up chickens without access to GRASS. Predators are always a concern but chickens are curious by nature and will thrive if allowed some roam time digging and running.

The following tips will keep chickens occupied. 

Kids playhouse on top of Subaru heading for chickens.
Haul in something for them to climb on. We found a kids playhouse on freecycle and strapped it to the top of our Subaru. They love perching on it after a rain to preen their feathers high off the wet ground. From time to time I bring in some shovels of dirt and toss in the floor of the house - all sorts of near invisible little snacks for them to dine on inside dirt!
Janie our biggest chicken and the leader.

Daily snacks. Each morning I juice oranges and share one half with seven chickens. Too much citrus can give them runny poo so don't overdo it. Also, it's been said crushed seeds and rind are not good for them, fortunately, when you juice, the seeds come out and they only want the interior fiber so all is good. I spear it so it doesn't turn upside down. Little ants and critters crawl in the cup, a chicken delight.

Forage for goodies on your property. Bring 'em some garden worms, cutworms, lettuce, dandelion leaves, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries, or strawberries (if they ignore berries, it's because they are too hard, so squish them and they will come running). They don't always have access to fresh greens in their run so I go and collect a little of this and that for them.

Leave some tall grass around the fence perimeter.
Tall grass & old roof panel, perfect for movable SHADE
One of our best predator defenses is the tall grass that has grown into the base of our fence. It is near 
impenetrable. We've spotted black Ratsnakes taking care of a mouse in the tall perimeter grass. Chickens love to jump up and eat the grass seed that has been allowed to mature. They also love to scratch and claw in the tall grass. We don't weed eat around our fence and trying to get the fence out is near impossible. We've never had anything more than a mouse tunnel its way in.

Make sure you have a soft dirt area in the shade where they can take dust baths. They like loose soil, leaves, or even wood chips. This is a chickens FAVORITE daily activity! Something as simple as digging a hole and mixing in wood chips or leaves will create a bath area that will be fought over!

Movable expansion pen, predator proof we hope.
Enclose a grassy area with a movable pen safe for them to patrol and hang out without fear of predators. My husband lets the chickens out of their coop at 7 am when he goes to work. I wanted them to safely have access to grass before I wake up several hours later. Coyote prowl until 9 am and Hawks are always out and about. I no longer sleep with one eye open from 7 - 9 am.

Old shutters provide light but tons of SHADE & dust bathing.
Section off fence areas and open them as the day progresses. My chickens are enclosed in their "safe zone" most of the day and when I am not home. Around 3 pm they are let out into the broader fenced area until they go up to roost. They love getting out where they can run and flap their wings, flying all about and enjoying breezes. Chickens tend to rest in the shade midday under the coop from 11 - 3 so there is no need for them to have free roam access as a predator could get them.

Provide them with shade zones. We hinged together two old shutters to create a place where they can dust bathe and hide out during the hot summers and even when it snows.

Pool noodles are not just for pools!
Perches, perches and more perches. I was looking for a low perch for my young chickens and decided a soft log might be the ticket. I stuck a bamboo rod through the center of a pool noodle. They LOVE it.
Your chickens will be safer, happier and you too will enjoy watching them have fun!


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