Tips for Preventing Chicken Boredom In The Winter
I’m aware that there are many resources, articles and videos explaining all about how to keep chickens entertained in the winter. While this article may seem similar to others, it contains factual information about the tips and methods for keeping chickens entertained in the winter that I have found to actually be true, accurate and worth the effort.
Tip 1: Provide Lots of Distractions
Chickens, by nature, enjoy investigating new things and exploring for adventure all day long. In the winter, these natural instincts and habits are more limited, which leads to boredom. When a chicken gets bored, it is prone to: aggressive behavior, cannibalism, being unusually loud and annoying and much more. One of the best ways to combat these behaviors is to provide your flock with plenty of distractions. Some of the best distractions include:
•Stumps, logs, large river rocks or large bricks to stand on
•Dirt or wood ash for long, relaxing dust baths
•Roosts at different levels
•Straw or dead leaves to dig in
•New objects or rearranged living quarters
Tip 2: Give Them Treats
Obviously, you don’t want to overdo your flock’s treat intake just because it’s winter, but making sure they still get their daily goodies is a great way to prevent boredom and bond with your birds. Plus, certain treats can even help keep them warm! Scratch is a wonderful example of this. When fed to chickens in the evening, the scratch will still be in the crop providing warmth once the birds retire for the night. Other great treat ideas to feed in the wintertime include:
•Greens such as lettuce, spinach and beet greens
•Bread, bagel or bun scraps
•Cooked quinoa or rice
•Banquet of different kinds of treats
Additionally, if you hang some of these treats and suspend them just above reach, your birds will exercise and be kept busy for hours. Another idea I have found to be very effective, is a treat ball. You can buy or make these. If you wish to make one, all you have to do is find an empty, plastic water bottle or food can, drill small holes into it, fill it with scratch or other seeds and toss it to your chickens.
Please be sure that treats do not take up more than 10% of your flock's daily diet.
Tip 3: Spend Time with Them
This is the best way to break boredom within the flock. I’ve noticed with my Girls, (who are very friendly and always await my next arrival with eager excitement) will sometimes act bored and cranky until I finally give in and hold, cuddle and talk to them. After I leave, they usually aren’t very loud or cranky at any moment for the rest of the day. As long as your flock receives a little of your attention every day, you can be assured that they will be much happier than they otherwise would be.
Tip 4: Don’t Slack off on Your Chores
Have you ever noticed that when you live in a messy house that hasn’t had its shelves dusted, dishes cleaned, possessions put away, laundry folded and beds made, you tend to be more cranky? Chickens are the same way. If they are forced to live in a messy, dusty coop for long periods of time, they will most likely act bored and irritable. Be sure that the cold, winter days don’t stop you from cleaning the henhouse, filling the feeders and waterers, replacing nesting material and removing dust from the coop surfaces. I admit that I am guilty when it comes to staying on top of my coop cleaning duties in the winter, but let me tell you, my Girls act MUCH happier, perkier and even healthier when their living quarters are clean. So, as much as you probably hate going outside in the winter, please try and stay on top of your chores so that your chickens don’t have to suffer the consequences.
Tip 5: Allow Them Roaming Time or Increase Their Space
I definitely find myself not letting my Girls out to free range as much in the winter because of the cold temperatures, snow and messy conditions. But, on nicer days, even though there is no grass to eat, I let my flock out to run around for at least a half hour. This always brightens their spirits and helps cut back on their boredom. If you cannot allow your flock any free range or roaming time, try and increase their space in their run or henhouse.
And that’s all! These 5 tips will help prevent or treat boredom already existing in your flock—guaranteed!
Remember: Creative entrainment is key when preventing chicken boredom in the winter.
If you have any questions, feel free to PM me or post in the comment section below.