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Winter Boredom Busters for Chickens


Bored chickens are not happy chickens. Bored chickens often get themselves into trouble.

Bored chickens can get cabin coop fever and often will start pecking at each other or themselves, resulting in feather loss or worse.




Bored chickens harass each other - and squabble. No different than people "cooped up" (pun intended!) in close quarters for long periods of time.

Boredom can also lead to a very bad habit called egg eating.  Once one hen discovers that what's inside an eggshell tastes good, the others often follow suit.

And I've never read anything to prove it, but I also think that boredom can result in more broodies being broody longer.

If there's nothing going on outside that they feel left out of, why NOT just sit in a nesting  box all day long?  And that's just not healthy.

Chickens need to be outside getting fresh air and sunshine and exercise - just like we do.


Winter Boredom Busters


Don't let boredom set in. It can take some doing, but chickens aren't the most complex of creatures and are pretty easily entertained.

I have never had issues with pecking between our hens, other than the occasional rap on the head that says "hey, remember your place in the pecking order!" because I give my chickens things to do in the winter.

Naturally, boredom is more prevalent in the winter when there aren't weeds and grass to munch on, bugs to eat, butterflies to chase or dirt to bathe in and sun themselves.

Boredom pecking is more likely to happen if your coop and run are too small and the chickens don't have adequate space, so don't be stingy, let those girls have as large a run as possible, and try not to keep them confined to their coop except on the most frigid, blizzard-y days.

Of course treats help keep chickens occupied, but too many treats aren't good for them, so some non-food ideas for keeping your chickens busy during the long, cold winter months are important too.

Boredom in your chicken flock caused by being cooped up can be easily alleviated using some of these simple boredom busters.

1.  Outside Roosts, Ladders or Perches 


Chickens LOVE to hop up on things and get a "bird's eye" view. Especially when it's muddy or snowy. But really any time, a chicken will generally seek high ground if possible.

Outdoor roosts can keep them occupied, if not for hours, for at least a little while!

You can use boards, branches, ladders, any variety of things to create a multi-leveled chicken jungle gym of sorts.


2.  Stumps or other Things to Stand On


Chickens also love to hop up and stand on things. It has the added benefit of getting them up off the cold, icy ground too.

Next time you cut a tree down or lose one in a storm, cut it into a few stumps of different lengths. Lined up along the run fencing, this is a favorite area for our chickens to stand in a row and watch the world by by.

(And as added bonus, if you move the stumps periodically or turn them onto their other end, the chickens will have great fun finding the bugs the collect during the warm weather.)

Nailing a board horizontally across two stumps to make benches works well too.

Don't have any stumps, wooden crates or pallets are other options.


3.  Piles of Leaves, Straw or Hay


Try putting a pile of dried leaves, pine needles, corn stalks or even just dirt (we call it worm dirt around here!) or a bale of straw or hay in the run and see how long it takes for it to be leveled.

Chickens HATE piles!  They will scratch and kick whatever you give them until the pile is flattened.

And try tossing a few handfuls of cracked corn, sunflower seeds or scratch grains into the pile for added fun and incentive.

Great fun for the afternoon!


4.  Hang a Mirror 



Have you ever tried putting a mirror in your coop or run?

Chickens, being the preeners that they are, have a great time looking at themselves in the mirror.

Trust me on this one.

It's well worth a trip to Goodwill to pick up a cheap mirror. Just be sure it's well secured so it can't be knocked over as the girls shove each other aside to check themselves out.

(One note: if you have a rooster, you might want to pass on the mirror - many roosters wouldn't take kindly to another roo in their flock...!)


5.  Anything New and Different


Don't have a mirror or any stumps? No worries. Just find SOMETHING new to put in the run.  A rake, a stepladder, some branches or a small fallen tree (our chickens love when we put our Christmas tree in the run after we take off all the ornaments) ... anything.

The chickens will naturally come over to investigate.

6. Set up a Sheltered Dust Bath Area


Dust bathing is not only a great way for the chickens to spend an afternoon, but also a very important way that they keep parasites at bay.

If the chickens' regular bath area is covered in snow or mud, try setting up a bath in a sheltered area for them, even in a large tub or kiddie pool that you can put out for them on nice days.

7.  Supervised Free Range


Even when there's snow on the ground and it's freezing cold out, wrap yourself up in your long johns, coat and mittens and head outside to supervise some free range time.

The chickens will appreciate being able to stretch their legs, as long as there are some bare patches on the ground where they don't have to walk in the dreaded white stuff!

When we get a lot of snow, I shovel paths for the chickens and then lay down straw for them to walk on.

Fresh air is good for you both! Just be super vigilant because predators are hungry and food sources are scarce this time of year.


8.  Enlarge your Run Area


If you don't free range, or even if you do in the warm months, but can't in the winter, rethink your run area. Maybe you DON'T need that much lawn, maybe you COULD extend the fencing a bit more off to one side.

And if your run isn't covered, be sure to shovel the snow inside the run to give your chickens as much room as possible.

Providing your chickens the largest area to roam that you possibly can so they have enough space to get away for some "me" time once in awhile.


9.  Spend More Time With Them


Spending time with your chickens is so beneficial in so many ways for you both. Not only do I find it therapeutic, but it gives me time to give them all a good health checkup.

The more handing of them that you do, the easier it will be to catch and hold one when you NEED to due to illness or injury.

Also time spent with your chickens helps you understand the flock dynamic a bit better, identify any bullies (although with proper management bullies should never be a problem) and is just downright relaxing!

It's easy in the summer to spend time outdoors, but make it a point to bundle up and head to the coop for awhile each day all through the winter as well.


10.  Build them a Swing!


Chickens love to swing. Whether you build them a swing or a swinging bench, they're sure to love swinging once they get used to it.

It's super simple to make your girls a swing out of a log.

And one nice thing about swings, benches and perches is that if a chicken is being pestered, she can hop up to get out of the way and get a break from the harassment.


11.  Seed and Suet Treats 


Homemade or commercial seed blocks or suet cakes cakes can help relieve winter boredom and also provide some extra nutrition and energy on cold days.

Some of my favorite homemade winter time treats include a Seed and Nut Wreath, some Suet Cakes or a Flock Block Knockoff.

12.  Make a Lettuce Pinata 


Lettuce and cabbage heads are great wintertime snacks. You can drill a hole through them and thread a rope through to suspend it from your run roof, or simply find a tiered fruit/veggie basket from a secondhand shop or Ebay and fill it with all kinds of leafy greens!

Winter crops such as kale, collards, spinach and other leafy greens are often on sale through the winter and make a nutritious, fun treat for your chickens.




We're counting down the days until spring...but at least we know that bored chickens aren't a problem. We work hard at keeping our chickens too busy to get bored !

And if you raise ducks as well, I'm sure you're wondering what you can do to keep your ducks from getting bored.

They'll enjoy the lettuce pinata and piles of things to rummage through. Besides that, a tub of water to dunk their heads in and they'll be fine.



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