Boredom busters are fun for both you and your chickens – you get to watch them do something cute, and they get mental enrichment. It’s a win-win! These types of toys are necessary to your backyard chickens’ mental, physical, and emotional health. With so many options to choose from, there’s a boredom buster for every flock size/ budget!
What is a boredom buster?
A boredom buster is exactly what it sounds like – a ‘toy’ for your chickens that alleviates boredom & stimulates their minds. Boredom busters can come in many forms, but they all serve the same purpose: to entertain and stimulate your chickens. Properly enriched chickens are not only happier, but less likely to develop behavioral issues if they have healthy outlets for expressing their natural instincts including scratching, pecking, foraging, and perching.
Why bother with boredom busters?
1.Happy, enriched chickens lay more eggs!
According to this article by Dr Kotaiah at PoultrySite.com, “The live animals react to the environment in which they are living. Less number of deaths, faster growth and more eggs per hen show that the birds are happy, the way they are living and with the food they are getting. A flock of chickens living in filthy environment die of diseases, do not grow well, peck at each other in disgust and stop laying eggs.”
2. Chickens who are often bored are more likely to become sick
According to this article, “Egg eating, feather pecking, aggression, even depression – standing still staring into space, for example – are all examples of what can happen if chickens can’t express natural behaviors”.
3. Bored chickens lose weight
According to HobbyFarms.com, “Bored chickens can develop bad habits, such as fighting, feather-picking and cannibalism, so you’ll need to provide alternative activities.”
23 Low-Cost Boredom Buster Ideas for Your Backyard Chicken Flock
1. Chicken Swing
Nope, it’s not just a hanging perch. The chicken swing was designed for hens + roosters to actually be able to pump the swing, making it fun and interactive for them.
2. Trick Training
Just like dogs, chickens can be trained to perform certain tasks. Not only is it fun to show off to friends, but trick training is good for your flocks’ mental enrichment, too!
Trick ideas to teach your chickens:
- Jump for a treat
- Come when called
- Give hugs
- Colors + Shapes
- Figure 8
3. Roosts, Ladders, & Perches: Vital Boredom Busters
These boredom busters are vital for the happiness and well-being of your flock. Roosts provide a safe, comfortable place to rest. Chickens will perch on their roost(s) day or night.
Without one, your flock may become anxious, which can lead to behavioral issues.
In addition to the emotional comfort that roosts bring to your birds, they also help to strengthen your flocks’ leg bones, reduce the chances of your adult hens laying floor eggs, and develops their perch-clinging abilities.
4. Piles of leaves, dirt, hay, etc
Fun fact – chickens LOVE to level piles of just about anything. If you’ve ever had a dog, this is kind of like a snuffle mat. It is enjoyable for hens + roosters alike to peck and scratch at the pile of debris until it is flat. For added enjoyment, throw in some treats for them to forage.
5. Bale of hay
Leave a bale of hay out with chickens, and you’re not likely to see it in one piece again! Your flock will have a blast destroying the bale of hay until it is no longer standing.
Word of warning: if your hay bale is bound by string, either remove it first or replace the string with sturdy metal wire. Your chickens may accidentally ingest bits of string, which could result in health issues.
Mirrors can create random light glares depending on how the sun hits it – and your chickens love to chase after them! Think of it like a cat chasing a laser toy.
They also like to check themselves out – seriously! It can be entertaining for your chooks to simply stare at themselves in the mirror or get confused by their own reflections.
7. Designated Dust Bath Area
Dust baths are another natural chicken behavior that is great for the physical & mental health of your flock. Dust baths help alleviate your chickens’ feathers from oil, mites, and lice. Just like a clean shower makes us happy, it makes your flock happy, too. It’s also a great way for them to get out of the coop and explore their environment.
Having a designated area for this behavior will be more beneficial on your end, since dust baths create holes in your yard. Sectioning off a specific space for this will keep things neater & will help your yard be safer to walk around!
8. Free Ranging
We won’t get into all of the benefits of free ranging here (there are a ton!), but it’s safe to say that it’s great for your flock. Free ranging lets your chickens go farther than they would in a run, which helps them build up more muscle. They also tend to get more sunlight this way, which also leads to happier hens!
9. Old Chairs
Do you have an old chair lying around that you don’t want anymore? Donate it to your chickens!
Chickens love to be up high, and chairs are a perfect place to perch. Depending on the type of chair and how big it is, they may also enjoy crawling under the legs of the chair.
10. Tree Stumps
As mentioned with chairs and roosts, chickens love hopping up onto high places. Tree stumps are no exception, and your girls will love hopping up and down from the stump.
11. Christmas Trees
This one is only relevant for a small part of the year, but it packs a big punch. Chickens enjoy the taste of pine, and love breaking down big piles (as mentioned above). Let your flock take out the tree this year and give it to them as a holiday treat!
Make sure your Christmas tree hasn’t been sprayed with colorant or fire-retardant spray before placing it in the coop with your chickens.
12. Homemade Treats
Ever heard of flock block? Essentially, it is a big ‘cake’ of seed, scratch, and grains. There are a ton of recipes online that teach you how to make these delicious treats at home for your ladies. They can peck at this for hours and hours!
Another fun homemade treat you can make to keep your girls entertained is frozen fruit, a favorite of backyard chickens in the Summer heat.
13. Treats on a String
Take those homemade treats, and put them on a (safe!) string, preferably made of metal wire or thick rope. Your chickens will put in hours of work jumping, flapping, and pecking at the hanging treats.
For an added challenge, place the treats in your egg collecting basket (or lock them in this treat basket).
14. Treat Balls (or Bottles)
If you’ve never seen your chickens go crazy over chasing a treat dispensing ball toy or homemade bottle, you are missing out! Your chickens will love figuring out how the toy works, so it’s great for stimulating their brains.
15. Musical instruments
Yes, your chickens can play instruments! Try hanging up a xylophone or two in the coop or around the yard. Your chickens will peck at it, creating beautiful music and entertaining them for hours.
If you have an old Jack o’ Lantern (that’s not moldy) or an extra watermelon laying around, you also have a chicken toy!
Your flock will have tons of fun cleaning out the pumpkin or melon. It is seriously impressive just how much they clear ’em out. Seeds, guts, all of it!
17. Merry Go Round Bike Wheel
This might be the most adorable boredom buster on the list. Yes, you can make a merry go round for your chickens! All you need to do this is a tree stump (or something similarly sturdy) and an old bike wheel.
Your chickens will perch on the outer rubber ring of the wheel, and may even be able to spin.
18. Parrot / Parakeet Toys from the Pet Store
At the end of the day, chickens are really just another type of bird. If you’re not interested in making your own DIY chicken boredom busters, you can find toys that they’ll love at your local pet store. This one requires minimum effort!
19. Hang old CDs
This is pretty similar to hanging up a mirror, except you can place them up on strings to dangle!
As mentioned above, chickens like to chase glaring lights that reflect off the mirror’s surface. They also enjoy checking themselves out!
20. Plant a chicken garden: The Double Boredom Buster
If you haven’t noticed, chickens love to forage. Planting a garden with a few of their favorite treats can be really fun for them to explore and dig through.
Plus, depending on how experienced of a gardener you are, this could function as a boredom buster for you, too!
Chicken tunnels, sometimes called ‘chunnels’, are great for a number of reasons! For one, a system of chicken tunnels is a good alternative for folks who don’t have the time or resources to truly free range their birds.
It doesn’t just have to be a free-ranging alternative, though! Chickens also thoroughly enjoy walking through play tunnels (usually made for cats).
22. Play music for them
Your chooks don’t just like to play music, they like to listen to it, too! Throw on some calming tunes for your flock and see how they respond. Play around with genres, singers, and volume setting. You might just find your flock’s favorite song!
23. Snowy trail
If your flock is going stir crazy being cooped up in the Winter, digging out a snowy trail for them can be a good way to let them stretch their legs.
It is adorable watching them trek through your homemade trail, pecking and foraging as they go. It’s a great way for them to soak up a little bit of sunlight and get some exercise when it’s cold.