Yes it’s that time of year again! There are cards and presents to think about, lists to make, food to prepare and families to organize. It can be a frantic and expensive time of year.
Fortunately, your chickens won’t worry about a card or how much you spent on their presents- they are happy just to see you!
However, if your girls have treated you to lots of fresh eggs this year, or if you’re feeling particularly generous- we have gathered our top 6 Christmas presents for your chickens.
Before we get into the presents though, let me start by saying- please don’t get your hens sweaters or any other ‘clothing’. They do not need it and it actually can affect their ability to keep warm. The only exceptions to this would be hens that are practically bald or recovering battery cage birds!
Present 1: DIY Rolling Treat Dispenser
The first present you can make for them is a chicken rolling treat dispenser
To make your it, you will need a clear plastic container (about the size of a water bottle). The plastic needs to be fairly rigid so you can drill through it- I used an old drink container.
First, drill several random holes through your container- make sure the holes are big enough for treats to fall out of (a ½ inch drill bit will do). Then trim the edges of the holes with a craft knife removing any loose plastic pieces.
Next you need to unscrew the lid and fill it with the treat (scratch, seed, and mealworms- whatever you want).
Finally, screw the lid back on and toss it to the birds – once you have shown them that stuff comes out when it’s moved, watch the ensuing ‘football’ match!
Present 2: Treats and Snacks
Food is always a welcome distraction for your girls on cold, gloomy days- and Christmas is no exception!
My girls really enjoy playing cabbage tetherball. It only takes a few minutes to set up and keeps them occupied for a few hours. Just get a screw hook and screw this into the cabbage and then hang this up with some string. If you don’t have anything suitable to hang it from a tree branch will do!
Another fun snack my girls love is a flock block, but they aren’t cheap at around $5 for a five ounce block. Keep your eyes peeled though because in January I will be sharing my very own flock block recipe.
If you’re looking to make a cheap snack for your girls, make sure you read how to make your own mealworm farm. Mealworms are a fantastic snack for your hens and they are full of protein to help your hens lay eggs.
If you are squeamish and don’t fancy getting your hands dirty with mealworms you can buy other insect snacks from pet stores. Try grabbing a bag of worms for your girls – they will enjoy some fresh protein and get a little exercise chasing them!
If you are handy and have an hour or so, you could make a rolling treat dispenser. This will keep them occupied for ages once they discover it has yummy treats inside!
Lastly, chickens in winter need extra protein to stay warm, especially in cold climates. And one of the best ways to give them extra protein is to give them scrambled eggs!
All you have to do is take your surplus eggs, scramble them up and deliver them warm and ready to go. Your girls will go nuts for them!
Hens get an added protein boost from the eggs, and their tummies will be warmed by the fresh eggs.
As an added bonus, you can save the shells, crush them, and heat them up in the oven.
Giving crushed eggshells to your chickens provides them with added calcium that can aid in egg production and give you extra-sturdy shells.
If you’re looking for other snacks to feed your hens read: 9 Healthy Treats Your Chickens Will Love
Present 3: Water Heater
There are a few things other than food that they will enjoy too.
This one is a blessing from Heaven for chicken keepers! There are a couple of different designs out there, and yes, you can even make your own if you are comfortable with electric.
There are heated units which are incorporated into the water font itself. I like these as they can be hung from a chain.
A heated pet bowl is also a great choice. They are perhaps a little tall for bantams, but large birds should have no trouble using them. Needless to say, they are not suitable for baby chicks.
Heated bottom plates are good also. You simply stand your waterer on top of the plate and it will maintain fresh, unfrozen water. Please be sure to change your water regularly, bacteria will still grow despite the chilly air.
A recent idea I came across is a water bowl inserted into an old tyre. The tyre provides insulation and keeps the water unfrozen. I will be trying this method in addition to heaters this winter. I will let you all know how it goes!
Present 4: Automatic Door Opener
This is another present that’s more for the keeper than the flock. If rolling out of bed and wading through the snow and cold isn’t your idea of fun, this could be the best present ever!
It’s not all selfish though, as the hens will like that they don’t have to wait for you to finish your coffee before you bundle up and let them out!
I don’t have an automatic door opener as I’m up early most mornings anyway, but if you find you’re struggling to wake up early during these dark winter mornings- then it’s definitely worth considering.
Present 5: Nutritional Supplements
With the lack of sunshine, we all need additional vitamins at this time of the year, in addition to this, the frozen ground means that fresh green food and bugs are in short supply for our ladies.
There are several different brands of vitamin supplements out there, and your local farm supply store will stock at least one of them. You need one that supplies vitamins, electrolytes and some lacto-bacillus for gut health. The vitamins normally come in a fluid that you mix into their water.
In addition, if you have a green thumb you can make a salad bar for them. Just take some of their favorite veggies and mix them together- my girls really enjoy Broccoli and Kale.
Of course, don’t forget to supply grit and oyster shell for them as well!
Present 6: DIY Chicken Swing
More for the warmer weather I think, but Christmas seems a good time to get one! They cost around $30, but are durable plastic so they should last a good long time.
I decided to save myself $30 and make my own chicken swing- I’ve provided the instructions below.
For this you need:
- A piece of 2×4” wood around 24-30 inches long.
- 2 pieces of equal length rope.
- A drill with ½ inch drill bit.
- 2 eye hooks.
First of all, drill a hole through the wood about 2 inches from each end. Then thread the rope through the holes and tie a knot.
Next you need to secure your eye hooks to a roof beam and thread the rope through the eye hooks.
You can then adjust height to suit your hens and tie the rope off.
Before your girls use it make sure both sides are the same height so the swing is level!
A dust bath area in the middle of winter can help your girls fight off boredom and help them keep up with their regular hygiene routines.
Dust baths help chickens keep their natural oils under control and ward off external parasites, like mites.
All you need is a small corner of the coop, or run, and some Diatomaceous Earth, sand, or silty earth.
Your girls will be looking their best for the Christmas celebration, and they’re sure to provide plenty of eggs for your Christmas egg bake this year.
Do you have to buy something for your hens? – No! They really are happy just to have you visit with them!
They are complex creatures, but simple to please, so don’t feel guilty if you don’t indulge them.
However, if your significant other wants to buy you a heated waterer or automatic door opener….encourage them! Your hens will also be eternally grateful if you treat them to a piece of broccoli or a nice juicy mealworm for Christmas!
Let us know in the comments below, would you get your chickens a Christmas gift?