Damson Cottage Garden

Chicken Entertainment

I really hate the idea of our hens becoming bored. Ideally I would like to let them have the run of the garden all year round but they enthusiastically eat our plants, especially new shoots and dig up the lawn. Also there’s the aspect of safety, a fox killed one of our hens when they were in the garden. The hens are therefore banished to their run for the majority of the time and let out under supervision for evenings and weekends. I provide our little egg factory with the following to keep them happy:

Dust bath

I underestimated how much hens love to dust bathe – Dusty makes a cooing, purring noise of pure enjoyment when rolling around in the dry earth. When left to their own devices the chickens make a dust bath in the dry areas of the flower beds. In the new run I have filled an old tin bath with a mix of dry soil and wood ash from our wood burner and they love it. If you have heavier soil I would mix in some play sand as well. The hens seem to choose a time mid-morning for a bit of pampering and wallow in the dust together making cooing noises.

Reduce chicken boredom - dust baths

Wallowing chickens

Piles of stuff

Whether it be straw, dry leaves or weeds chickens love to scratch and dig at it to look for any hidden bugs or seeds they can eat. In the autumn I pile dry leaves in their enclosure and after 1 week the leaves are all mushed up and are much quicker to turn into compost. In the summer, when weeding, I fill a bucket with weeds and pile them into the run. The chickens love this, especially dandelions – they eat the majority of them and the rest go in our compost heap when the run is cleared out. I don’t give them nettles as they seem to get stung by them.

Hung Greens

Ahh to be a chicken and get so much amusement out of a bunch of greens hung at head height! I hang cabbage, spring greens, lettuce, celery leaves, bunches of weeds (not nettles), and the tops of beetroot or turnips in the run.

Greens hung in the run

Greens hung in the run

Seeds

Our hens love bird seed scattered on the floor of the run. I am paranoid about attracting vermin so scatter the seed on the floor of a large deep sided tray so that I don’t inadvertently feed the rats! They adore getting seeds and this is their biggest treat. They gallop across the garden when they hear the sound of the plastic bag the seeds come in and hoover up a handful of seeds in seconds.

Chickens munching seeds from the floor of a tray

Seeds spread on the floor

Branches and perches

Our hens like to hop on and off branches in their run. They sit, all in a row, huddled on the same branch and use the wood to clean their beaks, rubbing their beaks back and forth.

Let me know how you stop your chickens becoming bored, Jane

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