Boredom and weekends away: What to do with your backyard chickens
Keeping your chickens busy
Chickens are naturally foragers. They love to be kept busy and free-range and peck at bugs, weeds, and grasses.
But, for many chicken owners it's not safe or possible to have them free ranging in the backyard all day.
The problem is that sometimes enclosed chooks can adopt some destructive behaviour, such as bullying.
Your ladies are happiest when they’re not only eating but when they’re active. So you may be inclined to dish out some treats to fix the boredom on days with undesirable weather.
But over spoiling them with treats isn’t so good for their health.
Luckily, you can do many things to create an outdoor entertainment system for your feathered friends to keep their brains and little bodies busy.
Here are a few examples.
Hanging food plants from the roof of your backyard chicken coop gives chickens something to do and keeps them active. You can also fill old hanging baskets with weeds and greens. This will keep chickens entertained for hours.
Put those old CDs to good use
Make a rope of CDs using old bale twine (aka hay band, which comes off bales of straw). Tie a few CDs together, so they make some noise when they clang together. Chickens like to peck at shiny objects, especially if they move.
Straw, hay & lucerne bales
Stack small bales of straw, hay, or lucerne into stepped pyramids. Most breeds of chickens love heights and will jump on and off and chase each other around the base. This is entertaining for chooks locked up over the weekends. Throw a handful of mixed grains over the bales for some extra entertainment.
Free-range poultry farmers discovered that chooks love to play football. Birds are attracted to colourful objects - such as balls. The chicken pecks the ball, it moves, and they go at it again. This toy will tap into their instinct to hunt moving objects and their curiosity for shiny things.
What to do with your chickens when you go on holidays
Just because you have chickens in the backyard doesn’t mean you’re tied to your home and can’t leave on a well-deserved break. With a bit of planning, you can have the best of both worlds. Happy chooks and a holiday away.
If you’re only going for the weekend (say, Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon), backyard chickens can be left at home alone — but only in mild weather.
If a heatwave or storm is forecast, I don’t recommend leaving them unattended. Want tips for chicken care during a heatwave? See my survival guide.
The main things to consider are that they always have access to shelter, food and cool, clean water.
Some things to consider when you go away:
- Have a friend or pet-sitter visit at least every second day in cool weather and twice daily on hot days
- Make sure your birds are familiar with their house and run
- Make sure your chicken coops and run are predator and vermin proof
- Invest in a good quality chicken coop feeder. A self-feeder or automatic chicken feeder can be a great investment. Check out my recommendations for the best automatic chicken feeders. If using a pedal feeder, ensure your birds know how to use it, before you go away.
- Always have at least two drinkers in case one gets tipped over or blocked
- Leave enough feed for the time you’re away
Keeping your ladies active and out of harm's way will see them stay happy and healthy. Do you have any boredom-busting tips for your flock? Drop a comment below, tag me on Instagram or Facebook, or send me an email - email@example.com.
Want your chickens to be the healthiest and happiest they can be? I offer backyard chicken workshops, online programs, phone coaching, and in-person support to families, schools, and free-range egg farmers. Visit my online shop for natural, tried-and-tested poultry supplies in Australia.
Grab my free guide, The First 8 Steps To Naturally Healthy & Happy Backyard Chickens now!