pipinchick image

How To Add Enrichment and Boredom Busters To My Chicken Run?

Homemade Boredom Busters For Chickens

Avian Flu Restrictions Causing Boredom

​With the current guidelines in place across the U.K. regarding to the Avian Flu restrictions, back garden chicken keepers may be struggling to keep their hens busy in a smaller and enclosed area. Due to a few recent confirmed cases of Avian Flu we are being requested to keep our chickens in a covered run or building to help stop the virus gathering momentum.

Although necessary at the moment this can cause some issues, chickens are creatures of habit a change to their normal free ranging or garden time routine can create stress and boredom and this can result in some strange behaviours.

​There are some very simple ways you can create fun and entertainment in a small space for your chickens to receive their boredom.

How Can I Tell If My Chicken Is Bored?

Chickens do talk…!
​Perhaps not in a language we are familiar with but by watching their behaviour you can learn a lot about how they feel and their wellbeing. By watching them you may see some of the below signs that your hens are bored and frustrated.

​Top 5 Signs Your Chicken is Bored.

  1. PacingChickens will repeatedly pace up and down the perimeter of their enclosure when bored. This repetitive behaviour is not only a sign of boredom but a sign of anxiety and stress.
  2. Feather PeckingThis is a very nasty trait, some chickens when bored, stressed or frustrated will resort to entertaining themselves by pecking theirs or their flock mates feathers out. There are other reasons chickens may feather peck each other but if you can rule out thirst, hunger, aggression etc… then this is usually due to boredom or anxiety.
  3. LethargyChickens really are very susceptible and sensitive to their surroundings. When they become unhappy, believe it or not, they can sink into a depression, this can make them very lethargic, hunched over and still. This can even result in them going on a food strike, so be careful to ensure this does not happen. There are illnesses that can cause this but with no other symptoms then boredom could be the main cause.
  4. NOISE!!!Oh, my goodness, some breeds especially Pekins Bantam Chickens, Polish Bantam Chickens, Modern Game etc.. will let you and your neighbours know all about it if they are unhappy. They will shout and cluck and generally be very vocal about their dissatisfaction.
  5. Over PreeningChickens can over preen when bored, this will result in bald patches on the bird where they start to over worry a specific area. If you cannot see lice, mites or some kind of skin irritation but you hen has developed bald spots and is preening more regularly then they are BORED!

What Can I Do to Relieve Run Boredom in My Chickens?

​If you are not able to open up the garden and your hens are not having their normal foraging time then there are a few things that you can do that will help relieve their boredom and frustration with being cooped up, (pardon the pun)!
Adding enrichment to your run does not need to be costly and you can utilise everyday items you have lying around or can forage yourselves from a lovely woodland walk.

  1. Hanging things from your run. You can hang different items from the top of the run using string, items can range from healthy treats, i.e. corn on the cob, a cabbage, whole apples (make sure you core them before as the seeds can be poisonous), large chard leaves and so on… this will create a fun swinging feeder and your girls will be busy for hours pecking at it. You can also hang shiny objects such as old DVDs or CDs again, they will love the shiny light reflections and spend hours pecking them to make them swing and change the light reflections.

2. Logs and Sticks. Yes, simple logs and sticks, if you go to your local woods, you can probably forage some branches and maybe a couple of logs etc…  you may already have these things lying around your garden. Gather them up and you can then create some really fun obstacle courses in your run of jumps, walkways, perches and multiple levelled climbs. They will enjoy jumping up and down, walking under them and perching, even the flightless birds will enjoy this as long as you don’t make it too high. They will also love pecking the bark, you should probably disinfect them first with a Virkon sprayer or a hot disinfectant wash to ensure you don’t bring in any wild bird poo etc…

3. Tunnels. You can use hollowed out logs or giant card tubes to create fun tunnels and walkways, they love going inside and popping out the other, just be aware that some card can be toxic, and as chickens do they may peck it so try and use something natural like giant bamboo!

4. Swings. Easy to make and they love them you just need some string and a stick. Hang them from the top of your run and even the flightless birds will jump up on them and swing away… hours of fun.

5. Sand Baths. This is a great way to offer a distraction, if your run is well covered then add a sanded area for the hens to bathe in, they love doing this and it also will help prevent mites and lice naturally.

6. Mirrors. Believe it or not chickens love to look at their own reflections, attach a mirror to the inside of your run and they will spend hours gazing at themselves. It’s wonderful to watch as well.

7. Herbs. Plant some herbs around your coop, lavender is great they like to peck them and they also offer lots of additional health benefits from anti-inflammatory, B12 vitamin boosts and even calming the hens with lavender. Be prepared to replace them every so often as they will gobble them up. We recommend herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley, lemon balm and lavender.

8. Old Tyres. Perhaps not the prettiest things but pop them in your chicken run and your girls will love them, you can haphazardly stack them and they will jump on them, run under them, sit in them, be careful to ensure they won’t fall though so you may need to tie them together. You can even fill them with soil and herbs and again the girls will love it.

9. Fresh Sawdust and Bark. Add new sawdust and bark regularly, this is a very simple and great boredom buster idea, we sometimes use this in our rearing sheds. Get a large bale of sawdust, open it up and just leave it in the middle of the run, they will love jumping on it, scratching it up and spreading it about... it’s so simple but can offer hours of entertainment.

10. Upside Down Flower Pots. So, so simple but great fun, you can get multiple sizes and create walkways with them on different levels.

​Hope this has inspired some great ideas, there are so many ways you can easily add some fun to your chicken run, have a go at some of the above and let us know how you get on.

Back to Feed

Helpful Tips

Helpful Resources