20+ Winter Boredom Busters for Backyard Chickens!

Whenever chickens are suddenly confined to spaces smaller than they ordinarily enjoy, boredom and behavioral problems such as feather picking, and egg-eating can result. By having some go-to boredom busters up one's sleeve in lousy weather, chickens can be kept busy, entertained and happy until Mother Nature gets her act together.
Snowy, sub-zero winter weather, hurricanes or severe weather of any type poses serious challenges for chicken keepers. Once the chickens’ safety has been secured from the elements, their safety from one another becomes a concern. Whenever chickens are suddenly confined to spaces smaller than they ordinarily enjoy, boredom and behavioral problems such as feather picking, and egg-eating can result. By having some go-to boredom busters up one’s sleeve in lousy weather, chickens can be kept busy, entertained and happy until Mother Nature gets her act together.A cautionary note about edible boredom busters: Limit edible treats to no more than 2 tablespoons per day per chicken and don’t offer edible treats every day. Treats dilute the complete nutrition in a chicken’s diet, reducing their ability to be optimally healthy, productive and live long lives. When I refer to treats, I mean anything they eat that is not their chicken feed (fruits, veggies, mealworms, scratch, table scraps, etc.)
Whenever chickens are suddenly confined to spaces smaller than they ordinarily enjoy, boredom and behavioral problems such as feather picking, and egg-eating can result. By having some go-to boredom busters up one's sleeve in lousy weather, chickens can be kept busy, entertained and happy until Mother Nature gets her act together.When personal space and normal pecking opportunities are limited by inclement weather, cabin fever can set in and chickens can get on each other’s nerves. That can lead to aggression, feather picking, injuries and cannibalism. Any of these boredom-busting activities and strategies can help prevent behavioral issues from developing.

IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL ROOST

Chickens have a natural instinct to roost and perch up off the ground. Provide them with a variety of things to roost on and move them around from time-to-time to keep things interesting. By building up, the total square footage available to the flock is increases.


TREE BRANCH ROOSTS
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost and perch up off the ground. Provide them with a variety of things to roost on and move them around from time-to-time to keep things interesting. By building up, the total square footage available to the flock is increases.
OLD CHAIRS
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost and perch up off the ground. Provide them with a variety of things to roost on and move them around from time-to-time to keep things interesting. By building up, the total square footage available to the flock is increases.
LADDER ROOSTS
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost and perch up off the ground. Provide them with a variety of things to roost on and move them around from time-to-time to keep things interesting. By building up, the total square footage available to the flock is increases.
GAZEBO FROM TREE TRUNKS AND GRAPEVINES 
(plans for this gazebo are available in my book, The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens)
Chickens have a natural instinct to roost and perch up off the ground. Provide them with a variety of things to roost on and move them around from time-to-time to keep things interesting. By building up, the total square footage available to the flock is increases.TREE STUMPS
CHRISTMAS TREE JUNGLE GYM
Don’t recycle that Christmas tree until the chickens have had a chance to use it as a jungle gym!
Don't recycle that Christmas tree until the chickens have had a chance to use it as a jungle gym!Don't recycle that Christmas tree until the chickens have had a chance to use it as a jungle gym!

NOVEL DUST BATHING AREAS

Chickens care for their skin and feathers by dust bathing, which is as much a recreational and social activity as a functional one. Providing a variety of containers filled with potting soil, (without vermiculite or pearlite) peat moss or good ol’ sand breaks up the monotony and keeps things interesting. Large flower pots, buckets or tubs are all big hits with my chickens.
Chickens care for their skin and feathers by dust bathing, which can be as much a recreational and social activity as a functional one. Providing a variety of unique containers filled with potting soil, peat moss or good ol' sand breaks up the routine and keeps things interesting.Chickens care for their skin and feathers by dust bathing, which can be as much a recreational and social activity as a functional one. Providing a variety of unique containers filled with potting soil, peat moss or good ol' sand breaks up the routine and keeps things interesting.SCRATCHABILITY
MIRRORS
Add a mirror to the coop or run, making sure it is securely attached to the wall and cannot fall or break.
MENU PLANNING
FREE-FEED

Make feed available to chickens all day long instead of rationing their food several times per day. Being allowed to pick up small amounts of feed often throughout the day eliminates competition for feed and provides the opportunity for a normal chicken activity with a purpose.
SIZE MATTERS
Provide feed in crumbles form instead of pellets to extend the amount of time birds spend pecking up feed to satisfy their appetites.
Provide feed in crumbles form instead of pellets to extend the amount of time birds spend pecking up feed to satisfy their appetites.TREAT ‘EM RIGHT
TREATS OR SNACKS 
Treats can be employed as an occasional distraction, but should not be relied upon as a primary form of entertainment. No more than 5% of a chicken’s daily diet should consist of treats. Improper feeding is the main cause of the obesity epidemic in backyard laying hens.
Treats or snacks can be employed as an occasional distraction, but should not be relied upon as a primary form of entertainment. No more than 5-10% of a chicken’s daily diet should consist of extras other than layer feed. Improper feeding is the main cause of the obesity epidemic in backyard laying hens.KALE CRANBERRY WREATH
Make a Kale Cranberry wreath for the chickens with a 44″ x 10″ piece of chicken wire. Roll the chicken wire into a tube and connect the ends. Bend back any protruding wire to prevent anyone from being poked. Stuff the wreath form with kale and cranberries and serve. My chickens loved it!
Make a Kale Cranberry wreath for the chickens with a 44" x 10" piece of chicken wire. Roll the chicken wire into a tube and connect the ends. Bend back any protruding wire to avoid anyone getting poked while pecking. Stuff the wreath form with kale and cranberries and serve.GROW SPROUTS
Provide several containers of sprouts to ensure everyone gets some.
ALFALFA CAKE PROTEIN TREATS
This Alfalfa Cake Protein treat recipe provides chickens with a variety of protein sources while keeping them entertained and active.
PEEPS’ PUMPKIN PIE
Peeps’ Pumpkin Pie is a vitamin-packed, nutritious treat that can be made in large batches, frozen, thawed and served any time of year.
Peeps' Pumpkin Pie is a vitamin-packed, nutritious treat that can be made in large batches, frozen, thawed and served any time of year.A single pumpkin can provide hours of entertainment for a flock of chickens.PUMPKIN IN THE RAW
A single pumpkin can provide hours of entertainment for a flock of chickens. Remove it from the chicken yard before the birds have each reached their 2 tablespoon limit.
A single pumpkin can provide hours of entertainment for a flock of chickens.ALFALFA SOUFFLé GARLAND TREATS
This protein-packed Alfalfa Soufflé Garland is a delicious way to offer molting chickens several protein sources in one treat while keeping them entertained and active!
This protein-packed alfalfa soufflé recipe is a delicious way to offer molting chickens several protein sources in one treat while keeping them entertained and active!HOMEMADE FLOCK BLOCK SUBSITUTE
Get the recipe for my nutritious, Homemade Flock Block Substitute here!
Get the recipe for my nutritious, Homemade Flock Block Substitute here!FLOCK BLOCK ON A RISER
Turn a galvanized basin over and place a store bought Flock Block on top to keep it cleaner. As always, remove all food from the run after the flock has gone to roost to avoid attracting rodents.

Turn a galvanized basin over and place a store bought Flock Block on top to keep it cleaner. One Flock Block will last my flock of ~50 chickens approximately 10 days. As always, remove all food from the run after the flock has gone to roost to avoid attracting rodents.
Nobody told ellen deHeneres that Flock Blocks are not for roosting!

HANGING EDIBLES
Different hanging foods can be a fun and nutritious boredom buster for the chickens in lousy weather.
*STRING WARNING*
If a chicken ingests string, it can get tangled up in their digestive tract, creating a medical emergency and death. When offering chickens treats attached to string, always use a thick material such as this sisal string or wire that will not easily break, secure it well so it cannot come loose from the structure it is attached to, remove it from the chicken yard as soon as they’re done with the treat and closely monitor the chickens while enjoying the hanging treat- you do not want to miss a minute of it!

CUCUMBER TETHERBALL
When offering chickens treats attached to string, always use a thick material such as this sisal string that will not easily break, secure it well so it cannot come loose from the structure it is attached to, remove it from the chicken yard as soon as they’re done with the treat and closely monitor the chickens while enjoying the hanging treat- you do not want to miss a minute of it!KALE BOUQUET
Tie up a bunch of kale, mustard greens or collard greens and let the chickens have at it!
When offering chickens treats attached to string, always use a thick material such as this sisal string that will not easily break, secure it well so it cannot come loose from the structure it is attached to, remove it from the chicken yard as soon as they’re done with the treat and closely monitor the chickens while enjoying the hanging treatHANGING CABBAGE
Securely tie up a head of cabbage and hang it at chicken eye level for hours of swinging fun!
Securely tie sturdy string around a cabbage and hang it securely at chicken eye level for hours of swinging fun!LET THE GAMES BEGIN!
TREAT BALL
Buy a Treat Ball chicken toy, fill it with layer crumbles and let the games begin!
Buy a Treat Ball chicken toy, fill it with scratch, mealworms or other dry treat and let the games begin!CHICKEN CRICKET
Purchase live crickets online or at a local pet store for a game of Catch-Me-If-You-Can!
CHICKEN CRICKET Purchase live crickets online or at a local pet store for a game of Catch-Me-If-You-Can!CHICKEN CRACK BOTTLES
Use a 1/2″ drill bit to drill holes in empty plastic bottles, add chicken scratch (aka: chicken crack) OR, better yet, layer crumbles, and watch the fun break out! Provide several bottles to the flock at once to avoid conflict & fowl penalties.
CHICKEN CRACK BOTTLES Use a 1/2" drill bit to drill holes in empty plastic bottles, add chicken scratch (aka: chicken crack) and watch the fun break out! Provide several bottles to the flock at once to avoid conflict & fowl penalties.CHICKEN CRACK BOTTLES Use a 1/2" drill bit to drill holes in empty plastic bottles, add chicken scratch (aka: chicken crack) and watch the fun break out! Provide several bottles to the flock at once to avoid conflict & fowl penalties.CHICKEN CRACK BOTTLES Use a 1/2" drill bit to drill holes in empty plastic bottles, add chicken scratch (aka: chicken crack) and watch the fun break out! Provide several bottles to the flock at once to avoid conflict & fowl penalties.In the event best efforts to keep chickens from turning on one another fail and an injury does occur, separate the bird from the rest of the flock to administer first aid and to protect the bird from being pecked by other flock members. Read much more on this topic here.
http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/01/chicken-first-aid-kit-sick-bay-be.html

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Comments

avatar
Karen Niznik
Guest

Gotta try some of these. My poor Loretta (black star) has a bare chest and looks like the Araucana (did I get that right?!) with no tail…she was always kind of higher in the “pecking order”, is it unusual she would be the one getting picked at?

Karen Kitchen Turner
Guest

Help!! I have a young chicken that has wilted feathers on her tail. When I looked close I could see mildew on some of the feathers. What is the cause and what can I do? I am the lady with all the questions that you met in Spartanburg, SC.

mariepp
Guest

Are chicken scratch and meal worms to be considered as treats or food?

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