Approved by Dr. Luqman Javed

Any chicken owner knows that their birds aren’t feather-brains! Chickens are intelligent and curious birds who love to explore the world around them. Chicken enrichment is all about giving them what they need to stay stimulated, both mentally and physically. Bored chickens are more aggressive and less healthy, so providing enrichment gives real benefits to your flock.

Here are a dozen ways you can give your chickens the enriching experiences they deserve.

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The 12 Chicken Enrichment Ideas

Habitat Enrichment

Meeting your flock’s needs starts with a good habitat. Your chickens should have plenty of space, clean water, and good food. Chickens are also social creatures that are happiest in flocks of three or more chickens. Generally speaking, as long as food, shelter, water, and space are abundant, more hens added to your flock isn’t an issue. Roosters, however, are territorial and will fight each other (unless they’re raised together in a coalition).

You might think of enrichment as entertainment, but it’s really about meeting all your chicken’s physical and mental needs, starting with a good habitat. Here are some more ways to make your chicken’s habitat stimulating.

1. Chicken Tractor/Moveable Habitat

chicken tractor
Image Credit: Natalie Board, Shutterstock

One of the best ways to keep chickens’ environment interesting is by letting them explore new places. In many areas, it isn’t safe to let chickens range freely, but a moveable habitat or “chicken tractor” is a great compromise. Moveable habitats let your chickens explore different places around your property and have some variety from day to day without exposing them to danger. There are many different DIY and store-bought options to make a flexible chicken space.

2. Nesting Boxes

chicken nesting box
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Nesting boxes might be associated with laying eggs, but they’re also generally good for environmental enrichment. Chickens love to have hiding places, and a variety of nesting boxes can let your chickens retreat to a safe space to lay eggs and give them space to explore. You can also get creative with the boxes. For example, many cat houses, (clean) covered litter boxes, and climbing trees can be repurposed into interesting and engaging nesting boxes. You can also create play tunnels that serve a similar purpose.

3. Dust Baths

chicken playing in the soil
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Chickens of all ages appreciate dust baths. These have distinct health advantages, helping chickens keep their skin clean and spread natural oils through their feathers, but they also provide space to play and an enriching environment. Dust baths require an area of loose dirt or sand for them to play. You can create this in different ways. For example, an old tire filled with sand makes an interesting raised dust box.

4. Perches

chickens perching
Image Credit: Luiz Laurentino Leite, Shutterstock

One easy way to add temporary habitat enrichment is through live greenery. If you get a live Christmas tree, consider cutting the branches off and adding them to your chickens’ space once the holiday is over. Alternatively, you can add branches from yard work or pruning in the spring or summer.

The branches will provide lots of interesting texture to explore and your chickens will enjoy pecking at the bark and exploring as the branches compost.

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Toys, Exercise, and Entertainment

Chicken toys and exercise equipment aren’t just for fun. They’re also a great way to keep your chickens occupied throughout the day so that they’re not bored or understimulated. Toys also keep your chickens exercising so that they’re happy and healthy. Here are some common types of toys.

5. Music

The University of Bristol in the United Kingdom completed a study in conjunction with one of the largest egg producing companies 1 to see what kind of effect music has on chickens. For 8 weeks, researchers played music at different times throughout the day in the hens’ nesting boxes.

The study determined that chickens enjoyed music, with classical being the favorite genre. They also had better egg production when provided with musical enrichment.

6. Ladders

chicken standng on the ladder
Image Credit: EF Photography, Shutterstock

Ladders are some of the most common exercise toys for chickens. Although chickens spend most of their time on the ground, they also will go up and down slanted ladders. Ladders can be made of finished wood or natural branches. You can also make a “jungle gym” with a mix of ladders and perches at different heights and angles. You may have to use treats to coax your chicken to explore at first.

7. Chicken Swing

chicken resting in swing
Image Credit: Alexandre Rovarotto, Shutterstock

There are lots of different styles of chicken swings out there, and all of them provide a great place to explore and exercise. The swing should be secure and wide so that the chicken doesn’t feel unsafe when exploring. They should also be low enough to the ground that your chickens can jump on them without trouble. Putting multiple swings near each other can add even more interest.

8. Chicken Seesaw

Chicken seesaws are another type of toy that is easy to find online or make. These allow chickens to play alone or together as they explore the shifting structure. Seesaws might be a little scary at first. Placing some of your flock’s favorite treats on the seesaw can help coax them into trying it out, but once they get going, the treats shouldn’t be necessary.

9. Repurposed Children’s Toys

Another source of fun for chickens is to repurpose children’s outdoor toys such as slides, bridges, and play structures. Toy sandboxes can be filled with dirt or an inch or two of water. You may want to glue grippy materials to plastic toys in order to give your chickens better traction as they play.

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Food Enrichment

Chickens also like a variety of food and a variety of different foraging options. Even if your chicken has a good quality feed already, occasional treats will add variety to their diets. This is a great way to use up food waste, provided it’s chicken safe. You can also use various strategies to mix up your chickens’ feeding routine.

10. Treat Balls

Treat balls are balls with holes in them that can be filled with treats. Some types of treat balls are great for sticking grains into and will release them a few at a time as a chicken rolls it around. You can also find balls with larger holes or a lattice-like structure that allows chickens to peck at the holes and pull out bits of food.

11. Feeding Puzzles

Puzzle feeders are usually marketed towards cats and dogs, but they can work well for chickens too. These feeders usually stick food in hard to reach places or require some exploration to unlock. There are lots of different styles and puzzles of varying difficulties, so you can find the puzzles that make reaching the treat an exciting challenge. Over time, your chickens will master their favorite puzzles.

12. Hanging Treats

Instead of leaving bigger treats like fruits and veggies on the ground, consider hanging them up by a string instead! This gives your chickens a chance to exercise as they feed and provides a nice challenge. You can also use a treat ball as a hanging treat to make a fun treat pinata.

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Whether your chickens are livestock or pets, providing them with the tools to be happy and engaged will keep them healthier in the long run. An enriching environment has lots of benefits, including reduced aggression and better egg production. As you can see, chickens are naturally curious birds and it’s not hard to catch their interest. We hope these ideas help you build a more exciting environment for your own flock.

Featured Image Credit: Jckfreder, Shutterstock