Why Do Chickens Forage?
If like us you enjoy sitting in your garden and watching your chickens scratch about you may begin to ask yourself what exactly are they doing? They scratch back and forth working a patch of ground over and over, intently concentrating and pecking the dirt. This is a completely natural behaviour that seems to be rooted into a chicken’s DNA…. they are foraging.
Chickens forage as a natural way to find food, they scratch the ground to source goodies such as grubs and insects and to take in grit to help their digestion. The also forage and scratch the ground to create dust baths to naturally keep mites at bay and as a social behaviour.
Foraging for Food
Chickens love to forage, even our little, fluffy back garden buddies, it is a natural behaviour that is essential for a chicken to be happy and healthy. If you’re lucky enough to have a large space your hens will enjoy wondering about, scratching up yummy treats, but if you have a smaller space it is very important to try and create an area they can exhibit this natural behaviour.
You can make a forage patch within their run and fill it with bark, earth, sawdust, gravel etc…. you can even put in tasty treats such as corn and mealworms to give them something yummy to scratch up. Foraging is also a great way to keep their toe nails nice and trim.
Foraging for Happiness & Health
Chickens love to be outside and creating a natural area for them to forage with not only provide them with nutritional benefits such as grit and proteins bit will also make them happy. Being able to exhibit their natural behaviour is very important for overall wellbeing and happiness. Your hens will also need to forage outside to allow them to get a good dose of Vitamin D from the sun, this is so important for laying hens in particular as they need vitamin D to allow their body to absorb calcium properly which is essential for healthy egg laying.
Foraging for Friends
Chickens are very social being, they love the company of others and people, foraging is a natural way that chickens will interact with each other. They will forage together in pairs or groups and work a patch of ground together, they will also bathe together, scratching the ground and making a dust bath as a flock.
it’s important to keep your ladies safe from predators whilst they forage, if you have a large open space then it’s always best to be around while they forage about, especially if you have little fluffy chickens such as Polish or Silkies, these can easily get taken by predators including birds of prey, they can also get lost, not the brightest of birds and with some limited vision due to their pompoms they would be happier with a little forage patch in their run or your garden. Keep them topped up on plenty of Immune Boosting treats and digestive aids, such as apple cider vinegar, multi vitamins with B12 and don’t forget to pop a dab of sun cream on the top of their beaks if you can on very sunny days.