When winter arrives and the safety of the lush green trees is gone, our chickens lose their outside time. See, when the leaves are down the risk of hawk and falcon attacks are so great, we choose to keep them in the safety of the barn. Though they can move about the barn and perch upon the stalls, boredom still sets in leaving them needing winter activities.
Here are a few tips I can provide you to keep your flock happy and entertained even when they must be all “cooped up”.
Chicken swings are easy to make from a spare piece of lumber or even a cut branch. All you will need is a piece of wood and some rope or bailer twine. Simply drill holes at either end of the wood and string the rope through the holes and hang it up. Add a few at different heights to accommodate different breeds. Not a do-it-yourselfer? That’s ok; you can buy them too!
Flock blocks are available everywhere or you can easily make your own. They can be hung or set upon the ground. The ability to purchase or make them in all different shapes and sizes is half the fun. Have an old bunt cake pan lying around? Well, great! They work perfectly to make a wreath shaped suet cake to hang in the coop. If you want to make your own all you will need is some scratch grains, gelatin, and some delicious treats. I like to use raisins, mealworms, blueberries, strawberries, and even sunflower seeds in mine.
Hang heads of cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, or even cauliflower from their coop. I use whole heads to entertain them for hours if not days. You can also buy other chicken toys and hangable treats at most farm supply stores. This is one of my girls’ favorite winter activities.
Warm them up with a fabulous warm treat. Making a big pan of warm oatmeal won’t just warm them up, but also will give them a hit of extra protein. I like to add sunflower seeds, raisins, and mealworms once again to mine. Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) is a great addition as well, they love it and it helps to maintain their digestive systems. Disposable aluminum trays work great, easy to clean or as they become worn out to simply to recycle.
Why is it important to keep your flock entertained? Well, that is a simple answer, otherwise, they pick on each other, get stressed, or can even become depressed during the long dark winter days. The constant pecking and bullying can become a problem especially if blood is drawn and the rest of the flock joins in on the pecking as well.
Follow Carrie on Facebook, Instagram, her website, and Twitter. She also writes for Grit Magazine, Mother Earth News Magazine, Homestead Hustle Blog, Chickens Magazine, Hobby Farms Magazine, and The New Pioneer Magazine