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How can I enrich my chickens’ run?

It’s essential to offer lots of run space with plenty of enrichment. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, you can use items from around your home and garden to create lots of fun and entertainment for your chickens.

Here are 10 easy run enrichment ideas.

  1. Create a dust bath. Cover a section of your run to keep out the rain and create a dust bath, you can use old tubs, sinks and even tyres. Fill them with kiln dried sand and DE powder, this will allow your hens to bathe in the sand and offers a natural boredom buster and mite prevention, it also encourages natural social behaviours and allows your hens to feel happy. Some chickens will prefer it if you sink the bath into the ground so it is flush to the ground level, some hens will not want to climb into it.
  2. Make a jungle-gym. Using old pieces of wood, logs and branches you can create climbing frames, perches etc… flight chickens in particular love to climb, perch and be up high, if you have a walk-in run you can utilise the vertical spaces by creating high ledges and perches. If you have flightless chickens you can use log rounds and branches to create jungle-gyms and climbing frames, you can also have areas underneath for cover and tunnels, they love this kind of enrichment as it’s natural and fun. Make sure you disinfect the wood before using and spray often with disinfectant and cleaners.
  3. Pecking blocks and fat balls are a great inexpensive run enricher, you can buy these and hang them in the run or you can make them at home with coconut oil and a mix of corn, grains, seeds, herbs etc... They are very high in fat so only offer these every now and then.
  4. Healthy Veggies, chickens love veggies and fruits, you can make fruit kebab sticks and hang them from your run, you can use a mix of apples, cucumber, cabbage, strawberries, melon etc…
  5. Bales of wood shavings. Simply opening a fresh bale of wood chippings or shavings and leaving it in the middle of the run offers hours of entertainment, the chickens will climb on it and slowly start to forage it down and spread it around the run. You can also put live mealworms in and around the bale, this adds another level of fun to their foraging as they hunt for the grubs and will be good for them too.
  6. Create a swing. Flight birds will love this, we have even known Silkies to get involved with ones hung low to the ground. Very easy to make, you get a solid stick or branch and hang from inside the run with string or wire. Could not be easier and they really enjoy it. Again, with natural wood ensure you disinfect it thoroughly before adding to your run and clean regularly.
  7. Mirrors. By simply adding a mirror to your run you can offer enrichment, chickens can see their own reflections and find the light reflections from a mirror or shiny surface fascinating. If you don’t have a mirror, try hanging old CDs around the run.
  8. Bells. Hang small bells close to the ground, chickens love making them ding and will peck at them, this is a great way to relieve run boredom.
  9. Create an area for foraging. Chickens love to forage, it is not only good for their wellbeing as it promotes natural behaviours and communal behaviours, it also has benefits for their health. Chickens need a certain amount of grit in their diet to enable them to digest their feed properly, by creating an area within your run for foraging you will allow them to display this natural behaviour and it’s a great way to offer grit. Dig a section of your run and lay in it loads of gravel, bark and grit, it should be about 6-10 inches deep. You can then sprinkle into this area treats like corn, live grubs etc… this will encourage them to forage in it. It is also a great way for your hens to keep their beaks and toe nails trimmed naturally.
  10. Nesting boxes, chickens like to have areas where they can lay eggs safely, if you have a large run and a smaller house you may only have 2-3 nesting areas within your house, offering your chickens additional nesting areas will help egg production and also keep them happy, they will pop in and out of the extra boxes throughout the day and may even sit in them for shelter from the elements, it’s a very easy way to add a little extra enrichment to your run area.

You can mix up the enrichment by alternating the smaller ideas, this means they will have new things to look at, explore and do every time you switch one out for another.

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