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How To Keep Your Chickens Entertained In Winter! 4 Chicken Boredom Busters

Chicken Winter Boredom Busters! How to Keep Your Hens Happy During Winter Blog Cover

The cold, gloomy days of winter are here and everyone can get bored, even chickens! Boredom leads to mischief such as feather picking, egg eating, squabbling and a miserable disposition.

We have put together some ideas for helping to relieve boredom for your flock and to help them to live together harmoniously throughout the winter months.

The number one cause of mischief is lack of space for everyone. We all need personal space, some need more than others.

The more timid members of your flock would certainly appreciate some quiet, darkened space to escape the more pushy members of your flock!

I have the luxury of coops within a barn, so there is plenty of space for everyone, but for those of you not so fortunate, here’s some easy tips to keep your ladies happy and busy during winter.

How To Keep Chickens Entertained In Winter

Food and Water Boredom Busters

The first thing you can do to keep your hens active during the day is to make sure they always have access to feeders and drinkers- the more dominant hens will ‘guard’ the feeders if they are feeling particularly crabby that day.
Here are some great ways you can use feed to keep your hens busy:

  • A treat each day such as a handful of scratch, will keep them busy for a while. They love to scratch around finding little food nuggets; it’s like a treasure hunt! Make sure you spread it well so everyone has a chance to find some.
  • Warm oatmeal in the morning. A good way to start the day for humans and chickens! I mix the oatmeal with water and stir in a big dollop of natural yogurt once cooked. Make sure you stand back when they attack the oatmeal- it flies everywhere!
  • A rolling treat dispenser full of scratch or mealworms will start off a game of hen ‘football’. Once they get the idea that treats fall out when the dispenser rolls, it’s hilarious to watch them. One dispenser per 5-6 hens is what I would recommend.
  • A flock block to peck at will also help to relieve boredom. If you hang it inside the coop they can peck away when they get the urge. The fats’ contained within the suet and seeds will also help to keep them warm over the winter night.
Break Boredom with Flock Block
Help Break Boredom with a home made Flock Block
  • Pumpkins- you don’t want them anymore so give them to the girls. I cut mine open (I also bake them in the oven for an hour) to entice them to peck away at it.

Exercise Boredom Busters

In addition to food you can also encourage them to exercise as a way to keep active.

They need to get some exercise over the colder months.

Although they are very reluctant to walk on snow and ice, if you shovel a path and throw down straw, leaves, pine needles, etc. they will not only walk on it, but check it out for tasty morsels too!

Chickens Eating Straw
The girls inspecting freshly laid straw

Here are some great ways to get them to exercise:

  • Cabbage tetherball is a good way to get a little exercise. In the winter months hang the cabbage just above beak height, that way they have to jump a little to get some greens!
  • A variety of perches- different types, different heights will add to the activities. I have several girls who use them like they’re having a day at the gym!
  • Placing logs or tree stumps around the coop adds interest for them, especially if they can pry off the bark and check it out for insects.
  • Old ladders and step ladders can provide exercise and personal space.
  • Dust bathing- mine have the barn floor, but you can easily make an inside dust bath for them.
  • Make a hay/leaf/straw pile- the ladies will spread it far and wide in their quest for bugs or seeds! When I clean out their coop, I simply put down the straw in a pile and have them arrange their ‘furniture’!
  • Mirrors- some people put in mirrors for their chickens. Apparently they love to admire themselves! Perhaps not a good idea if you have a rooster – he may think there is an intruder in the camp.

Coop Boredom Busters

If you can provide different levels on which they can roost, it helps tremendously.

When the big girls start to pick at my bantams, the bantams simply fly up out of reach!

By providing this you are ensuring that the smaller ones can get out of the way- it also gives them some much needed exercise.
Chicken Exercise
If you can set up some sort of quiet, dark areas for the more timid members, that would be beneficial.

Some chickens like a bit of ‘alone’ time and a peaceful place to do it in.

A ‘quick and dirty’ quiet spot could be a pallet angled against the side of a coop or a small tarp arranged similarly.

You also need to provide variety in bedding or scratching areas- this is why I collect the pine needles and leaves in the fall. I will dump a bag into the run and let them pick through it- it keeps them busy for ages.

If you can spend extra time with them, it’s beneficial- to them and you. My chickens are unpaid psychotherapists- I know they will keep all my secrets!

Dust Baths

An often overlooked activity that chickens love to participate in is dust bathing. Consider it the spa treatment of the chicken world.

Chickens take dust baths to keep themselves parasite free, to control their natural oils, and well, and to relax.

If you’ve ever seen a chicken take a dust bath, you know what I mean. They roll and flap around, and at times, they look as though they are ready to fall asleep.

Giving your girls a dust bath is like therapy for your chickens, so make some room for the new spa in your coop.

How To Keep Chickens Entertained In Winter: Summary

Winter can be a terribly boring time for chickens… but it doesn’t have to be!
Your birds need space and variety to keep them from picking at each other. Quiet, darkened areas away from the rest of the flock are ideal for the quieter flock members.
Scratch grains or cracked corn sprinkled on the floor is always a reliable attention grabber. Please remember when giving treats- everything in moderation. Fat hens are not healthy hens.
By providing your hens with activities and mental stimulation, you are ensuring that everyone gets through the winter whilst staying healthy- this is important if you want your girls to lay eggs in the spring/summer.
If you have a trick or two for keeping them occupied, please share them with us! We would love to hear from you!
Read Should I Free Range My Chickens? Learn What’s Best for Your Hens

19 thoughts on “How To Keep Your Chickens Entertained In Winter! 4 Chicken Boredom Busters

  1. My girls love the straw and the leaves. Every fall, I get a minimum of three bales of straw and cut the cords on them periodically throughout the winter. This not only helps insulate the coop (we do deep litter method), but also gives them something to do in breaking up the bales of straw. (It usually takes them about a week or so to break apart the straw, then they pick through and scatter the straw throughout the coop.) I will also dump a huge garbage bag of dried leaves I’ve collected (and usually mulched) in the run every few weeks. The first few times I did this, they freaked out and were scared, but now when I haul the bag in, I have to shoo them out of the way before I can dump the contents.

  2. thanks for the advice. I piled hay up and in just a few minutes there wasn t a pile, of course they played king of the hill for the first few minutes. Then put a pile of dirt in and off they went to check it out to take their dirt bath.

    1. It’s a great way to keep them happy isn’t it Ambrose!
      Glad they liked the suggestion 🙂

  3. We rake the moss out of the lawn, they love it! I agree that anything new scares my girls, even a different coloured plastic bag to collect the moss in sends them flying. Hilarious to watch though. Thanks for suggestions as one of my chickens has started to take feathers from the other two and winter’s not started yet.

  4. It’s spring and we’re having pecking problems. They recently moved to a larger coop and run. We’ve upped their protein. We’ve given them more to do. I’m super worried that it doesn’t seem to be helping as of yet and they never do t when we’re out there so I don’t know if there is one bully, the one barely missing feathers, or if they’re all sort of doing it. I know it can be flock contagious. I’m running out of ideas and my kids love these girls and I don’t want to cull the flock. I know this thread is old, but I’m taking all of your suggestions to heart and would love it anyone had more

    1. Hi Mary,
      Have you tried using an anti-peck cream? This will help stop the pecking and identify the culprits!

  5. I live above the arctic circle in northwest Alaska.
    This winter, it was -30 below for about 6 weeks straight during January and February, and our average wind speed in town is 22 mph a day. (We have a wicked wind chill factor here) We only had 4 layers in the coop, but it seemed to be big enough for this winter. They never went outside though. The snow drifted over the entire coop, so I tried to get them to come out of the “people” door, but no dice. We have 7 more chicks in the brooder for this year so I assume we will need to have more things for them to do. I have not really found a good “This is what you do when you actually live where it’s cold” advice, but keeping them not bored helps.
    My sister and I both raise chickens, as do several other people in town. Store bought eggs are over $5 a dozen. Amazon Prime ships feed for free so it’s cost effective to raise our own chickens.
    Anyway, it’s 24 hours of daylight now, so I’m trying to find ways to darken their nights! We have enough bugs to keep them scratching at the ground all summer.

    1. Thank you for this comment from Alaska. My neighbour and I are sharing chickens and decided to keep them for the winter. It is -40 degrees Celsius right now and your comments have reassured me that they will survive. They are well insulated with no drafts, but proper ventilation. Plenty of fresh water and food. They won’t come out of the covered run which I circled with snow like an igloo, but seem okay without any added heat source. We do make sure they have sunlight from above so they don’t get too depressed being “cooped up” for four months.

  6. We got our girls a xylophone like a toddler plays with…hung it on a board and wired it to where they could reach it…they now have a little music that they make themselves….:) I love my girls! and love your info…thanks a lot!

    1. I freaking LOVE this idea!! ? I am going on a toy search tomorrow! This is my first year with chickens of my own (grew up with them) and at just 8 weeks in my whole family is hooked!

  7. I purchased some coastal hay for my pullets to play in, they are 8 weeks old now. But then I read a scary article that included pictures of an impacted crop, so I removed it after only a few hours of putting it in their run. Is this something I should be afraid of? I’d love to put a small bail in their run for them to spread around. I’d love to hear some thoughts?

  8. I give our hens a bucket of gravel when they start eating eggs and I spray a mixture of water and Keyes fluid in a spray can and go in late at night when they are perching and I spray their tails with th mixture seems to work give them the ashes from the fire also they mess in it I think it kills the mites maybe not

  9. So many great ideas. So far I have added these entertainments to the chicken run: 1) leaned a wooden trellis inside the run to give them a variety of perches to hop across, 2) made the scratch dispensing plastic bottle for them to kick around, 3) suspended a string of three shiny CDs like a wind chime for them to peck at, 4) installed a mirror 5) tacked up a tin pie pan for pecking and reflective purposes. But these are all in the chicken run. My coop is very small, and I worry about boredom within the coop when they are closed in with the light on (for daylight extension). Anyone have ideas for inside a very small coop? So far I have tacked up another shiny CD on one wall, and put in a small orange rubber ball with a jingle bell trapped inside it. I don’t think there is room for a large seed block. Do you think it would be okay to use a suet block as for woodpeckers?

  10. I am totally new to having Chickens. Road Island Reds. 5 Hens 1 Rooster. Small Coop which I didn’t realize how small when I bought it. It does have 3 roosting boxes and a fairly large area for them to roam. My question is how do I get these little girls to stop eating my Flowers. I put up a small fence, but my co-chicken owner won’t let me clip their wings. Will they be ok if I clip their wings and still be protected by predators?

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