Keeping your chickens entertained might not be at the top of your priority list, keeping them alive and laying eggs are much more important than fun and games right?
But winters are long and it can be very boring to get stuck inside all day. Around here it’s fairly likely that we’ll have a few months with several feet of snow on the ground. The ducks and geese don’t seem to mind but the chickens rarely venture out in it.
Most days I can open the doors on both sides of the barn to let light in and give the chickens to option to make snow angels but when we get storms I keep everything locked down.
Having a light on a timer in my coop is the number one thing I do to keep my chickens sane and healthy in the dark months but there are a few other things I like to do to keep the girls happy. These are all things I tend to do in the winter but you can whip out any of these ideas all year long.
My birds are all free ranged, during the spring, summer and fall they eat lots of bugs and plant matter. Especially anything they can get to in my garden.
They obviously can’t do that when the ground is covered in snow so I help them out. I recently found a bargain grocer near me where I can buy giant bags of spring mix and leafy greens for next to nothing.
I hit that grocery store every couple weeks and then head out to the barn to serve up some salad. The chickens, geese and guineas all enjoy the change of pace and the fresh snack.
I don’t get fancy with it, the salad mix gets dumped in a bowl and the chickens go to town. At this point the whole world is a refrigerator so it will last for a while on the off chance that it doesn’t get devoured immediately. I like to use large black rubber bowls, they’re sturdy and work for food and water.
Along with salad greens I’ve also found my chickens enjoy a nice cabbage or pumpkin. It’s too easy to let them just peck at something so I use an eye bolt to turn it into a game.
It doesn’t take much strength to screw the eye bolt into the cabbage stem and then you can hang it up. I use bailing twine, is there anything bailing twine can’t do?
This one takes more effort than the others. Fodder i this case is a sprouted mat of grass, wheat is the most common. You feed the whole thing, roots, shoots and leaves to the chickens.
I have tried in the past to grow fodder on a large enough scale to keep up with my geese and chickens but I’ve always failed.
It’s not traditional fodder but I also throw my spent Pea Shoot Spout Trays out to the birds. My coop has a dirt floor and I use the deep litter system so a little bit of dirt isn’t out of place at all.
Make a Pile
Chickens hate piles. All you need to do is rake your bedding into a pile and walk away. The chickens will quickly scratch their way though it dispersing it all over the place.
I use a mix of wood shavings, straw and dry leaves in my barn. I spread the bedding out for the alpacas but the chickens are on their own. It’s a great way to save time on chores and the chickens get to have some fun!
I’ll either toss a flake or two of straw or dump a pile of shavings in the coop and they’ll start scratching through it and throwing it all over.
Occasionally you’ll find large holes in the dirt, most often where you’ve planted something you’re excited about. They probably aren’t trying to make you cry, they’re just dust bathing and taking advantage of the disturbed soil.
I almost had a heart attack one day when I walked out to find all of my silkies sprawled out in the dirt like this. They all jumped up and walked away quite bothered by my intrusion.
If you don’t have a soft dirt floor for them to dust bathe in you can make your own dust bath. I like to set up a kiddie pool that got retired when it started to leak.
It’s a good size, big enough for a few birds, and deep enough to keep most on the ‘dust’ inside. I fill it up with a mix of peat moss, sand and a bit of wood ash. Dust bathing is more than just entertainment, it helps keep the chickens skin and feathers clean.
Don’t forget to pin this to your chicken board!
What do you do to keep your chickens entertained in the winter or when they can’t get outside?
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