This post contains affiliate links. If you buy through these links, I may earn a small commission.
Did you know that bored chickens are unhealthy chickens? Bored chickens fight with one another, pull feathers out and pick and peck at each other.
Bad poultry behaviors often start just because the chickens don’t have enough to do and things like feather picking can really set a chicken back health wise.
Bored Chickens and Chicken Health
And unhealthy chickens can of course, lead to flock illness and fewer (or no) eggs being laid. Sometimes it leads to egg eating, which you don’t want, because once that starts, it is hard to stop them from doing it.
Usually the answer to this is to just let them out of the coop and they will run around chasing and eating bugs.
There other ways to keep your bored chickens busy and that is to put your chickens to work for you! Read on for some ideas for boredom busters for your hens and roosters.
Bored Chickens Need Something to Do!
I mentioned that we do let our girls out to free range and find bugs. But I have a few flower beds and for some reason, that is where they all flock to.
It’s probably because the soil is nice and fluffy and easy for them to scratch at to find bugs like mealworms and other insects to eat.
Next thing I know, they’re ripping leaves with their sharp claws and my nice plants are getting shredded.
I don’t mean they totally destroy my flowerbed, but they do more damage than I like to see.
The other place my chickens seem to end up is on the stairs, trying to come up to the porch. I do NOT want chickens on my porch, thank you.
Chicken crap on the lawn is one thing, chicken crap on the porch is not allowed!
Temporary Fencing for Bored Chickens
An easy answer to this is T-post and chicken wire or field fencing, which I prefer. It’s sturdier so I don’t seem to need as many T-posts when using it.
We just set up temporary fencing wherever we need it and put the girls in there. Using a wooden fence post already in place or the wall of a building as a starting point for your fencing will reduce the number of T-posts you’d need.
Early afternoon, after they’ve laid their eggs, I’ll let them out of their coop and into the area I want them to work on. Well before dark, I open up the fencing and they all run back home.
See the temporary fencing on the right in the picture above? Eli and Jeyna have just let the girls out and are bringing them to the work yard.
Have you noticed that chickens like to go home before dusk? They want to be all safe and sound in the henhouse before it gets too dark.
If they don’t want to go back in, I shake a feed can with a bit of feed in there. They quickly get to know that sound and they come running for food.
Here they are helping me to get all the weeds out of a future garden bed.
Here, the girls are working over some composted manure in what is now the third strawberry bed.
Chickens in the Vegetable Garden
As you harvest areas of your veggie garden, you can run temporary fencing and put your chickens to work. They’ll work on your soil plus they’ll enjoy eating snacks of leftover veggies like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage and pumpkins.
Here, we have put a load of uncomposted horse manure in there. The girls then spent their afternoons breaking up the manure and eating any little seeds they found.
They have powerful feet, and they will break up all that manure till it’s light and fluffy. When you put your bored chickens to work for you, you’ll be surprised what they can do.
Another example of temporary fencing strung up between the pig run (on the left) and the permanent chicken run (on the right).
Here they are working on a big compost pile. I just pounded in T-posts and strung the wire right around the big piles we have down by the barn.
When you’ve got several chickens working this hard, they are enjoying themselves! They are getting hours of entertainment from working away.
Compost piles are a great boredom buster for any flock of backyard chickens. And you will get the benefits!
Lots of fluffy airy composted manure that you can add to your veggie and flower beds.
Dust Baths for Chickens
You will find your chickens love to also just lay around in the dirt, and you may see them scratching and throwing the dirt up under their wings.
They are just having what is called a dust bath and the dirt or sand helps them get rid of any mites or other parasites they may have on them.
Inside the chicken coop, make sure your chickens have access to a good size container containing dirt, sand, some diatomaceous earth (de for short) and even some wood ash, if you have a wood stove or firepit.
This will allow them to have a dust bath even in winter or rainy weather.
If you have an old bale of hay, open it up in their coop. Then throw some scratch grains around and you’ll find the hens will work that hay into smaller pieces while looking for the food.
This can then become nice warm bedding on the floor of their chicken coop. Old straw bales will work too!
Look at this huge bounty of eggs! The smallest eggs are from chickens who was just starting to lay.
The huge egg is likely from a chicken who has been thru a molt, which happens once a year.
After they molt, they will start laying eggs again. Once they start, they may lay fewer eggs than the previous year.
However, the eggs will probably all be larger than they were before the molt.
So, if you’re thinking of getting some chickens, start thinking of some easy ways that you can put your chickens to work, offsetting some of the work you’d have to do.
Better they do your work for you!
Treats for Bored Chickens
Other treats that will help bored chickens include chicken toys such as:
- a chicken swing – like this one
- make a DIY toy like this cabbage tetherball that hangs with twine (a GREAT way to keep chickens busy in winter)
- Hang a few old cds where the chickens can play with them, they love shiny things!
- A chicken jungle gym is a great way to keep your flock entertained!
Remember that bored chickens can lead to general unhealthiness of your backyard flock. By implementing some (or all) of these ideas to keep your flock busy and hard at work, you can greatly reduce any chance of your hens getting bored.
It’s important to keep your flock happy and healthy! So, put them to work and let them help you around your yard and property!
You will not only benefit from the actual work they can do, you will have happier and healthier chickens that will lay eggs for you on almost a daily basis!
Want to read about how we raise meat birds from chicks to 8 pounds….in just 8 weeks? Meat birds are a great way to put a lot of meat in your freezer in short time.
Bored Chickens are Unhappy Chickens! Follow these tips to keep your hens busy.
More Chicken Related Content:
Ever wondered about Straight Run Chickens and when you might want them?
All you need to know about Heritage Chickens for a backyard flock!
Clucking Perfect Gifts for Chicken Lovers!
Answers to chicken questions beginners need to know!
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
Available only to subscribers; join our Newsletter!
originally published 2011; updated July 2022