You may look at chickens and think that they’re not particularly complex. However, studies have shown that chickens experience both negative and positive emotions towards people and other birds in the flock. But what about boredom? Do chickens go through and experience it all? This is what the research also says.
So, do chickens get bored? Chickens can get bored and show that they are bored through different behaviors, including pecking at one another and eating their own eggs. However, by adding stimulation to the environment, such as through the inclusion of toys, you can minimize boredom and improve the general well-being of your flock.
Chickens are quite limited in what they can do; especially depending on how we decide to keep them.
For some chickens, they naturally have more access to more land and they may even be in a smaller flock or have a larger coop.
Truth is, not all chickens can be afforded the same luxury.
And days are long.
Chickens wake up at the rise of the sun, and do not look to sleep until the sun sets again.
Its a lot of time to fill.
Boredom is therefore a very real thing in chickens and one aspect of keeping that you certainly must be aware of, and prepare ahead for.
Let us now take a closer look at how chickens display that they are bored, before walking through some practical and effective strategies at keeping this emotion at bay!
How To Recognize Boredom In Chickens
If a chicken is bored, they will often show this clearly through the way in which they behave.
Usually, the first and most obvious indicator to look out for, is whether your chickens are pecking each other….
This is the most common sign your chickens are bored.
Another tell tale sign is that they start pecking at and eating their own eggs before you get a chance to collect them.
Obviously, not ideal.
Opposingly, a healthy and happy chicken will clearly show that they are content.
General movement and activity, preening feathers, relaxing in the sunshine, successful egg production, and nesting/dust-bathing are all good signs.
Of course, there is a lot to making your flock happy.
From access to sufficient space, the provision of food and clean water and good coop ventilation – these are must be in place.
But even with the best setup and environment in the world; chickens can and do get bored.
So, if you do begin to notice feather pecking, egg-eating, or general lethargy and interest for life, then it’s a good idea to look to implement the tips below!
How Do I Stop My Chickens From Being Bored?
Stopping your chickens from being bored is as simple as ensuring they are routinely engaged with something to do. It’s ensuring that their needs are met first and foremost, and then ensuring they are being sufficiently entertained – both physically and mentally.
While this may be entirely easy in the height of summer when you can let them outside to roam, it can prove to be more challenging come the winter, the bad weather and the lack of light.
Either way, the more that you allow a chicken to engage in their natural behaviors, and allow them to continue to do so, generally the happier your flock will be.
Here are some of the best strategies to prevent, or even cure boredom in chickens, to start out with.
The Hay And Straw Method
If you’ve had chickens for a long time, then you know how curious they can be, especially when it comes to exploring new places.
If you want to keep your chickens entertained, one of the best things you can do is place a pile of hay or straw in your chicken coop.
Your chicken’s natural curiosity will lead to them digging through the haystack, looking for insects, and whatever else hides inside.
As well as entertaining your chickens, hay will also help insulate your chicken coop and can be used as a great bedding material.
Get A Swing For Your Chicken
Remember when you were a kid and could stay entertained for hours by swinging on a swing…
It’s the same for chickens.
Getting a chicken swing prevents boredom.
If you’re looking for the best one, then look no further than this highly reviewed one from Backyard Barnyard on Amazon.
It’s made from non-toxic solid wood, meaning your chickens can chew and play on it without becoming ill.
In addition, the size can be adjusted, and is suitable for all breeds of chicken.
Add A Mirror To Your Chicken Coop
Adding a mirror to your chicken coop will have your chickens dancing around in front of it for hours on end.
Some of them may even stare at their own reflection. And they can be happy to do so for a long time…
You can buy mirrors that are specifically designed to entertain birds and chickens.
My favorite is the Vehomy Chicken Mirror from Amazon. There’s a great video on the reviews from a keeper with Bantams. Its worth watching at the very least!
And not only is it a mirror, but it also doubles up as a toy and contains bells, further entertaining your chickens.
On the flip side, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you can find some old CD’s and hang them in your chicken coop.
Chickens love shiny things, and the reflection of the CD’s can be all that you need to stop them from getting bored.
How Do You Make A Chicken Run More Interesting?
While a chicken run is meant to be a place where your chickens can roam freely and enjoy themselves…
If it isn’t interesting, then it’s only going to be another potential source of boredom.
So, here are some ways to make a chicken run more interesting…
Make Sure You Have Dust Bathing Areas
As strange as it may sound…
The way chickens clean themselves is by rolling around in the dirt.
If you want to give your chickens the best chance of living a healthy life, then at least one dust bathing area is essential.
A dust bathing area is an area filled with dirt and soil where your chickens can clean themselves.
If you don’t include a dust bathing area in your chicken run, your chickens can end up with lice, mites, and parasites, stripping them of their health and, in some cases, leading to death.
Add Some Tree Stumps
If there’s one thing chickens enjoy, it’s jumping on things.
Making a tree stump, or placing the run near some, is a great way additional way your birds can stay active.
Make Your Chicken Run Larger
As we discussed previously, chickens love to explore new places.
Extending your chicken run gives your chickens more space and will keep them entertained for a while.
They will eventually get used to the new area.
That’s why it’s important to include other accessories in your chicken run, such as mirrors and dust baths.
Or, if you can routinely move the run around, which some runs are designed to do, this would be better yet.
Just make sure your chicken run is robust, well constructed, and predator-proof. Your run certainly needs a roof or otherwise, you could run into issues with birds of prey, like eagles for instance.
How To Make Your Own Dust Bath (In 2 Minutes)
As discussed previously, one of the most important things you can include in your chicken run is a dust bath.
Let’s take a look how you can build one in as little as two minutes with minimal equipment…
Step 1 – Get A Container
The container you choose for your dust bath needs to be low enough from the ground so that your chickens are able to jump onto it.
It needs to be tall enough so that the ingredients won’t fall out when your chickens are bathing.
If you can’t find the ideal size container, then consider using an old type, small bin, or even a sandbox.
Step 2 – Add Soil
The base of your dust bath needs to be made out of soil for it to function properly.
You can find soil in your own backyard or you can buy some.
I recommend buying some, as the soil in your own backyard may contain clay…
And that’s something you don’t want in your chicken dust bath.
Step 3 – Adding Wood Ash (The Important Step)
Now that you have a base for your dust bath, it’s time to focus on the most important step…
And that’s adding wood ash.
Wood ash is the magic ingredient that will get prevent insects from living in the bath and being passed on to your chickens.
As the name suggests, its literally the ash from burnt wood. You can find it in your wood stove or an outdoor fire pit.
The key is to make sure the wood ash isn’t wet, otherwise it won’t work as well.
Your chickens will have wood ash stuck to them.
If wood ash isn’t an option, then you can also use diatomaceous earth (DE) as an alternative.
Diatomaceous earth is essentially a sand, made from fossilized rock that has been grinded into a fine white power over millions of years.
It a great all-natural insecticide.
Both diatomaceous earth and wood ash will yield the same result; however, DE is easier to purchase online.
Just make sure you get a food grade product, like this one on Amazon. That way it will be completely safe for your chickens.
What Do Chickens Like To Play With?
Chickens like to play with things that allow them to forage, peck and occupy their minds through sounds, colors, or interesting aspects.
This is why specific toys designed for chickens are often recommended, advised, and commonly available.
The best ones will help to promote natural behaviors and are challenging enough to keep the attention of your flock time and time again.
Those that include treats (or rewards), keep them moving, are safe, indestructible and can be used in a variety of ways are particularly effective.
These are the kind of features you should be looking at in a toy, or if you did want to construct your own.
The following toys from Amazon have fantastic reviews from chicken keepers:
And here is why they appear to be so good:
- Bright colors, interesting sounds,
- Easy to install, can be hung in the run or the coop,
- Allow your chickens to feed and be enticed to use through potential treats,
- Promote activity, pecking, and scratching,
- Strong, durable, and robust even after extended use,
In terms of DIY projects, nothing beats the hanging cabbage!
Here is all you need to do to make a simple, nutritious and entertaining cabbage-toy to your coop:
How To Hang A Cabbage For Your Chickens
- Begin by purchasing a large, fresh cabbage.
- With an electric drill, drill a hole all the way through the middle of the cabbage.
- Run some rope through the hole, and tie a knot, so it sits like a swing.
- Hang the cabbage in your chicken coop or run, at a height that is low enough for your flock to peck at (and get a taste for it!)
- After they have pecked for some time, shorten the rope by a small amount so that they can still reach it without needing to jump.
Boredom is absolutely a real thing in chickens. It does and can occur; although it certainly needn’t have to, or arguably shouldn’t at all.
Unless of course, you want your flock of chickens pecking at each other, eating their own eggs, being more lethargic and being generally unhappy.
But who wants that?!
So, be proactive about keeping your chickens entertained.
It is your responsibility as a keeper, after all.
And dont forget, you need to consider both the coop and the run, too.
And, your efforts may need extra attention in the cold, dark winter months – where boredom is increasingly likely as your birds cannot roam as freely outside.
Or for very long at least.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.