Chickens eating things other than food

Zillaah

Chirping
Nov 2, 2018
40
37
59
Some of my chickens have taken a liking to pecking at and eating the foam pipe insulation and plastic strings of tarps and sandbags (plus the sand inside them) that I have holding down my basketball hoop. Is this dangerous for them? I can’t really remove the pipe insulation because the pipes will possibly freeze and I can’t just pile the sand on the hoop base, so the bags are somewhat necessary. But I am concerned about them eating the plastic and foam because I have seen them actually eat both before I could stop them. Is there a nutritional lacking that may be causing them to eat these things when they have plenty of food and full range of a huge yard and plenty of plants to eat too?
 

coach723

Free Ranging
6 Years
Feb 12, 2015
6,551
10,947
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North Florida
It's probably not a dietary thing, chickens will eat all kinds of things they shouldn't. It's also not a good idea, some things may not pass through them and can cause blockages (impactions) and can sometimes be fatal. In some cases it could be toxic. It's best to keep them away from things like that. For the pipes, what I did was cover the foam insulation with layers of gorilla tape. So far they have not been able to peck through that (mine were eating the foam insulation also, I had no blockages and lost no chickens, but I removed/remedied it as soon as I realized). Strings can be a problem from ingesting or also getting wrapped around legs, toes and feet and cutting off circulation. I would remove them or keep the chickens from that area. Anything that could be harmful if eaten really needs to be where they can't get at it.
 

Zillaah

Chirping
Nov 2, 2018
40
37
59
yikes. I hope what they have gotten to eat before I caught and stopped them doesn’t hurt them too much. I will have to figure out a way to keep them away from those things. They’re pretty relentless. They destroyed my herb garden even despite the deer fencing around it. Apparently chickens are harder to deter. Damn dinosaurs I guess. They will just have to stay in the coop until I can chicken proof the entire yard. Wish me luck!
 

coach723

Free Ranging
6 Years
Feb 12, 2015
6,551
10,947
611
North Florida
Yes, it's a process of learning and experimentation in some cases. I've planted lots of things that were supposed to be 'chicken proof' and my birds ate them to the ground until they didn't come back. If the bits they've eaten are small they will hopefully pass. Metal or glass bits can be more of a problem, metal in particular. That can cause what is known as hardware disease. Prevention is much better than the alternative when it comes to that. My land is an old farm and all kinds of stuff is always coming up out of the ground, so it's a constant thing of picking up and raking. https://the-chicken-chick.com/hardware-disease-in-backyard-chickens/
 

Zillaah

Chirping
Nov 2, 2018
40
37
59
They mostly only peck around in the dirt but some of them like to peck and eat the plastic tarps and pipe insulation. They haven’t eaten anything metal that I’ve seen but I have caught a few of them eating some plastic parts of the sand bags and tarps that are in the yard. Unfortunately they already had them in their beaks and swallowed them down before I could swat it out of their mouths. Dumb asses! I don’t understand why they would eat plastic when they have plenty of food and I also give them watermelons, pumpkins, and plenty of other treats.
 

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