Sunday, August 3, 2014

Life Hacks - 40+ Boredom Busters for Chickens and Chicks

We speak highly of free ranging on this blog. There are so many benefits for the chickens and for your feed bills, but the truth of the matter is that free ranging is not always possible for many flock owners. Whether one lives in a suburban setting or a rural setting with plentiful predators, there are many situations where flocks must be kept in limited spaces.

 Recent studies on chicken intelligence (yes - money has been spent on this, apparently) have determined that chickens are as clever as human toddlers. (See the study HERE.)  Capable of understanding basic concepts of logic, mathematical reasoning and physics, chickens are much smarter than many folks give them credit for.

So what would happen if you were to put six toddlers in a pen measuring 12' x 6' with food, water and a bit of shade?

This doesn't conjure up a very attractive visual, does it? With nothing else to do, chances are the toddlers would eat, drink and be scary! I've never tried such an experiment myself (I think the authorities might frown on that brand of child care), but there is a good chance there would be a lot of crying, boredom, bulling and biting.

Many chicken owners have had the misfortune to witness the same kinds of behaviors in their non-free-range flocks. Without anything else to do, chickens may become obese or resort to bullying each other for entertainment.

So what can you do to help eliminate boredom and poor behavior?

Here are more than 40 ideas to keep your chickens happy and entertained. The following photo links are marked as "Product" for items that are easy to purchase, or "How-To Article" from great blogs and websites all over the internet! Enjoy!

Many of the following photos are LINKS to articles or products that can help keep your chickens happy!

The Chicken Swing (Product) 
Young chicks love to swing, and if introduced to swinging at an early age, will enjoy this wonderful toy for years.

Round Treat Ball (Product)

Just place a head of lettuce or other treats in this ball, hang it in the run 
and watch them go crazy!

DIY Grazing Frames (How-To Article)

DIY Chicken Jungle Gym (How-To Article)

Or Buy an Activity Center (Product)

Create a Wading Pool (How-To Article)

Give Them a Dust Bath (See description below photo.)
Easily create a dust bath from a baby pool or container filled with dirt, sand and wood ash.

DIY Suet Cakes (How-To Article)

Suet Feeder for hanging your home made suet cakes (Product)

DIY Protein Patties (How-To Article)

DIY Chicken Toy (How-To Article)

Or buy one (Product)

Sprouting Seeds/Fodder for chickens (How-To Article)

Peck and Play Mobile Chicken Yard (Product)">Peck and Play Portable Chicken Enclosure
DIY Mobile Chicken Yard (How-To Article)

Edible and Decorative Hanging Treats for Chickens (How-To Article)

Pumpkin Soup for Chickens - a natural de-wormer (How-To Article)

Apple Treats for Chickens (How-To Article)

DIY Flock Blocks (How-To Article)

DIY Chicken Feeder/Black Soldier Fly Habitat/Composter (How-To Article)

DIY Meal Worm Farm (How-To Article)

Or buy live Meal Worm, Crickets, Dubia Roaches and Wax Worms via these photo links (Products):

And why not try some toys not just meant for chickens? Here are a few interactive toys designed for dogs, but there is no reason they couldn't be filled with scratch. You will have to train your chickens to use these, but it won't take long! Leave these toys partially open the first few days so the chickens begin to understand there are treats hidden in them... then close them more and more so your chickens have to scratch and manipulate them more and more to get the goodies.

Kyjen DG40113 Star Spinner Treat Toy Dog Toys Scent Puzzle Training Toy (Product)

Kyjen 2406 Jigsaw Glider Treat Toy Dog Toys Scent Puzzle Training Toy (Product)

Kyjen 2404 Tennis Slider Treat Toy Dog Toy (Product)

Boredom Busters For Chicks:

Sod in Chick Brooder (How-To Article)

Portable perch (Product)

Suet Cakes (How-To Article)

Chime Toy (Product)

Bird Mirror (Product)

Surrogate Mommy for Singletons (See description below photo.)
Line a small plastic container with a Swiffer duster refill and glue it in place. 
Chicks love this fluffy place to hide!

Other ideas from around the web:

  • The more perches, logs, stumps and other obstacles in the run, the better!  Check out Martha Stewart's chicken run on the left. My own (on the right) isn't quite so fancy. 
  • Play a radio in the coop.
  • Hang a piece of charred native wood in the coop. Charcoal is a natural detoxifier.
  • Hang a key ring with bells, keys and other shiny objects on it in the run.
  • Hang old CDs and DVDs in the run for rainbow effects.
  • Freeze treats into a block of ice.
  • Hang uncooked ears of corn in the run - you can tie a string on the shucks for hanging.
  • Toss piles of hay, leaves or dried grass clippings into the run and sprinkle scratch over it. The birds will dig through it for hours looking for missed treats.
  • Freeze long slices of squash, zucchini, watermelon etc. and then toss into the run on hot days. These can be tossed in fresh on cold winter days.

  • Weeding? Toss all those delicious weeds into the run.
  • Hang whole squashes and melons in the run. Cut a few holes through the rind to help the chickens get started, then stand back and watch the fun! 
  • Toss tasty treats into the run one at a time and in all different directions for your chickens to chase.

And if you still doubt the intelligence of poultry, here is a short video of our Production Red hen that my 10-year-old daughter trained for science project. Penny knows she has to peck the picture of the yellow star to get a reward.

Please take a moment and leave a comment and let us know what your birds enjoy doing! The more ideas we get out here, the better!



  1. Great ideas, I had never thought of throwing my weeds in there or hanging old cd's/dvds in the coop.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Anyone have a link to the study instead of just an article that talks about the study?

    1. Hmmm... Upon further research - it was not just one study. Christine Nicol, is the Bristol University professor of animal welfare who reviewed 20 years of research on the topic to come up with these results.

  3. Fantastic ideas, thanks! .....the best use I've found for those 'Keep Fit' CDs!

    1. I am not Anonymous, my name is Linds. (new to this site and having problems with profile)

  4. Our Dominique Bantams live in a cage in the family room and enjoy watching TV. They also like it when I sing to them or talk to them.

  5. Chickens are incredibly intelligent, equivalent to toddlers. I don't eat toddlers, so I don't eat chickens. Nothing has to die for me to live, and I spend my time rescuing spent hens that humans have deemed 'useless'.

    1. I love all of my pet chickens :) I get very frustrated when people joke about eating the -.-

  6. Very great ideas! Definitely will use the CD idea and the hanging veggies!

  7. Great ideas, that chicken activity center is really neat. It's always sad seeing chickens with tiny areas and nothing to keep them happy.

  8. Wonderful ideas to keep hens happy. Some I already do but brilliant new ideas

  9. Hens are very clever and need a good environment to thrive. These ideas are brilliant

  10. Some fabulous ideas there. Thank you!

  11. my girls will love these


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