Not many people will associate chickens with brains that can appreciate entertainment. As a matter of fact, however, chickens can develop behavioral problems if they grow up not being properly enriched by their environment, much like any other animal. Egg eating, feather pecking, bullying, and cannibalization are some of the issues that can occur in a chicken due to poor enrichment, leading to a dull mental condition. That’s where chicken toys come in.
Normally, chickens can find something to stimulate their minds and avoid boredom all on their own, but there are times when that is just not possible. Chicken toys can be used to provide mental stimulation and enrichment to your chickens in times when they might end up stuck inside their coop for months at a time, like during winter. To better understand these toys and how they benefit your birds, we’ve summarized everything there is to know about chicken toys right here.
Enrichment Activities for Chickens
Enriching your chickens can be done without toys. You can actually provide them the enrichment they’re looking for by doing your usual care or simply by maintaining their coop.
Some of the enrichment activities you can do for your chickens include:
- Hanging out with them while you collect eggs and feeding them by hand
- Cleaning up the coop and rearranging the structure from time to time
- Touching them while you provide your health inspection
- Providing your chicken some of your leftovers as a treat
- Putting lumps of clay, weeds, grass, and fodder in their coop
- Allowing them to run freely within their range
Some of these activities may not be possible to do, however, especially during the winter months when they’re not allowed to leave their range because it’s too cold. It’s also possible that a limited space is what’s keeping you from giving enough enrichment. That’s when you start employing chicken toys. Chicken toys need not be attractive, expensive or complicated. You’re not buying toys for a child, after all. You can even get some of the chicken toys without spending a penny.
Toys for Adult Chickens
Despite how many people view them, chickens are naturally curious animals, and will show interest in the world around them. The primary things that tend to catch their attention, however, are food and glossy things. You should also remember that chickens aren’t like other domesticated animals and aren’t usually inclined to do simple tricks to please you. You’ll need to give them enrichment that they’d actually want to use or would be forced to use based on their individual compulsions.
It can be a good source of food and enrichment for your hens. You can simply create a pile of compostable materials as bedding to allow them to work on it whenever they want. This includes sawdust, dry leaves, straw or shavings. Once they’ve served their purpose, these materials will make great fertilizer.
You can hang certain vegetables like squash, cabbage, spinach, lettuce or kale on a string in the coop. Chickens will want to peck at these vegetables and would find enrichment whenever it swings about as they try to get at it.
Interactive Treat Dispensers
These toys can be converted from dog or cat toys but can also be made from empty bottles with holes drilled in them so that you can fill them with treats for your birds. They will dispense the food while providing fun for your chickens as they play with it.
Birds typically like dust bathing to refresh their mood, and chickens are no exception. You can provide a space in the coop to allow them to have a free dust bath whenever they want. You can make the dust bath from a bin, an old tire or a bucket and fill with dust.
Places to Climb or Perch
If the space will allow it, you can provide them a place where they can perch. Chickens are still birds and would appreciate a place where they can rest at a considerable height. Putting old racks or leaning branches on walls should be enough for this.
Spreading chunky peanut butter on rotting logs or other items across the yard will encourage chickens to peck at them, not only giving them a sort of target to peck at, but also a source of extra protein.
Toys for Chicks
Naturally, chicks have far different needs than adult do. Generally, non-food items are the best toys for chicks as they can get adequate nutrition from the food they eat and giving them enrichment through food might cause you to overfeed them. Here are a few things you can do to provide enrichment for chicks and younger chicken.
Small Pet Toys
Any colorful toy made for kittens, small balls, rattles or fake mice can be a good choice for small chickens to play with. These toys will help meet their need to peck and scratch.
An unbreakable item with a mirror-like surface like an old CD can be hung with a string to allow the chicks to play with their own reflections.
Much like the idea behind the perch, using a piece of rope and a long stick to make a swing for chicks is a great source of enrichment for them. The swing will help them develop their muscles along with keeping them active. It will also provide them additional space to warm up their feet away from the litter.
Much like humans and other animals, chickens do suffer from boredom, and if you’ve ever been bored in your life, you know how mind-numbing it can get. If chickens don’t get enriched or have any source of entertainment, they will cause you trouble in the long run. Bad habits will form, and if you’re not careful, you will end up with a group of unhealthy birds in no time. Chicken toys are a simple and cheap way to relieve your chickens from boredom, and if done right, you’re not only getting healthier chickens in the long run, you’re also having fun for yourself as well.