Ideas for Toys and Activities to Entertain Your Pet Chickens
Why Toys for Chickens?
Chickens need entertainment so that they won't cause trouble. Like all animals, they can get bored and develop bad habits if left unoccupied. Not all chickens can be allowed to free range, but even free-range chickens crave fun activities to do. Luckily, chicken toys are all around you, waiting to be used for lots of fowl fun. It's also entertaining for us to watch them play.
- Chickens are curious and interested in the world around them, but the main things that will catch their attention are food and shiny things.
- It's important to realize that birds are not like dogs, so they aren't likely to do things simply to please you. Nor are they like cats that will chase after most anything.
- Food is the main driving force for chickens. Toys that involve eating are going to be the most popular, and therefore, the most useful.
- Even chicken scratch can be used as a toy if it's tossed in their bedding or in a compost pile where they can dig around for it. This can be a dual purpose activity: the chickens have fun looking for the bits of corn and grain, and they're also mixing the compost or bedding for you.
- Even when playing with the birds in a way that doesn't directly involve food, you can make them interested by giving them a treat for doing what they're supposed to.
- Rewarding them for pecking at a piano key will quickly make them realize that pecking on the piano will get them food.
- Chickens are not the smartest animals. Be willing to work with them and be patient while waiting for them to figure things out.
It's important to remember that moderation is key. Don't force your chickens to perform all the time to get their treats. Once a week or twice a week for non-strenuous activities is good, but you don't want to stress your birds.
It's not good for chickens to constantly run, jump, and chase stuff. Too much jumping can negatively affect a hen's laying. Making a heavy bird jump too high too often can also lead to leg problems. Make sure they're going to have a safe surface to play on. A heavily pitted area should not be used for jumping or running, and a slick surface can be dangerous as well.
Squabbling can break out if there is too much competition and some of the chickens don't ever get treats. Flocks will often compete anyway, but if it crosses the line into overly-aggressive behavior, you will need to make an effort to play with everyone equally or play with only half the flock at a time so everyone has a chance.
Just use common sense and everyone can have safe and rewarding fun.
Ideas for Toys Made of Fruits and Veggies
Most fruits and vegetables make great toys, especially ones that roll. Almost all fruits and vegetables are safe for chickens to eat, with the exceptions of potato peels, onions, and avocados.
- Hang a head of cabbage from a rope so they can jump up and rip off pieces.
- Get their attention and then throw a piece of fruit, such as a peach, across the yard so they can run over there and eat it.
- Toss small items like berries and green beans into their bedding so they have to dig through it to find the treats.
- Roll peas across a flat hard surface, such as a patio, so the chickens can race to get them.
- Pack an old rotting log with banana.
- Place frozen peas into a small kong-type toy that you'd normally use for a dog. Then show the chickens that if they roll it around the peas will fall out.
- Hang leaves of lettuce from a clothesline.
- Toss small pieces of fruits and vegetables into the air so the chickens can jump and grab them.
- A pumpkin or other squash broken open in the yard is fun for them to dig through. It also naturally attracts worms. Once they are used to broken squash, you can place whole ones in the yard for them to peck at.
- Cut a watermelon in half. It rolls as they try to eat it. You can also cut it into rings and tie them up so the chickens have to work to get at them. Frozen cubes work great here too.
- If you have a bag of frozen cranberries, roll the bright, shiny berries all over the ground for them to chase.
- Dangle a cucumber with a rope through it so they can jump up, peck at it, and eat it.
- String several harder fruits and vegetables onto a rope and tie both ends up to make a shish kebab for your chickens.
Baked Goods Toy Ideas for Chickens
Leftover baked goods or ones you make specifically for your flock can be a lot of fun. Just be cautious because bread that is too soft can be a choking hazard.
- Baked, hard rolls roll really well and are fun for the chickens to chase.
- Throw hard rolls and the chickens will play fetch, but don't expect them to bring anything back to you.
- A loaf of french bread threaded onto a rope and hung from the ceiling makes a fun target to jump and rip bites off of.
- Small rolls studded on their fence are great for them to peck at.
- Bagels and non-frosted donuts are good to hang around the coop. You can also hang them from the ceiling or roll them across the ground.
- Bake some cookies to hang around the yard. A simple batter such as that for biscuits or cookies without sugar works well. Incorporate some peanut butter, seeds, and grains and bake until cooked through. If you cut holes in the middle before cooking, they'll be easier to hang.
Other Food Toys for Chickens
Bread and fruit are not the only food items that make good chicken toys. There are all sorts of items you might have in your kitchen that they might enjoy.
- You can spread chunky peanut butter on items around the yard, such as rotting logs, to give the chickens something to peck at. Peanut butter also provides them with extra protein.
- You can spread cooked rice on rotting logs as well.
- Cooked pasta, depending on the shape, can be hung in low bushes for the chickens to jump and peck at.
- Roll hard boiled eggs across the lawn for them to chase and tear up.
- Pour yogurt into a bag and poke a small hole in it. Then hang it up to let the yogurt drip. The chickens will try to catch each drip that falls to the ground. You can do the same thing with a punctured milk carton.
- Meaty bones are fun for the chickens to clean up. They can also drag them around the coop when playing keep-away.
- Sprouts are a special favorite. Scatter them across the coop bedding for a game of hide-and-seek.
- You can spread cornmeal, oatmeal, or grits on logs for the chickens to scrape off. They will enjoy pecking at the food in all the little nooks and crannies.
- You can string cereal, like Cheerios, and hang them in the coop or on the fence line. You can also scatter it around for them to find.
- Roll a pine cone in peanut butter and then dip it in bird seed. Hang the pine cone in a place where the birds can peck the goodies off.
- Make suet out of used cooking grease, seeds, and peanut butter. Hang it for them to jump at.
- Freeze some larger treats inside a block of ice. It's a great way for chickens to cool off on a hot day.
Re-Purposed Kiddie Toys for Chickens
Often, baby and toddler toys make great toys for chickens. The bright colors and interesting textures and noises are designed to attract.
- Shiny, kid safe mirrors can interest the birds for a while. Make sure that they won't attack it hard enough to break it.
- You can coat plastic rings of keys with peanut butter and toss them to the flock, or hang them from a low spot for the birds to peck at.
- Set up plastic kiddie gyms for the chickens to play with. Wrap some kind of food around it for lots of entertainment.
- For something a little more challenging, stack colored donut rings, and then hide something in the middle for them to find.
- Chickens also like wind-up and walking toys.
- You can keep the birds occupied by tossing a lightweight ball into their pen for kicking around.
The moment I saw this at our state fair, I felt I had to do it for my flock of chickens, turkeys, peafowl, and guineas. What you need to do is fill the bed of a remote-control truck with scratch and release the birds. You then put the pedal-to-the-metal (in this case, put the joystick-to-the-plastic) and away they all go! Can you picture an entire flock of chickens chasing down a toy truck?
Other Ideas for Chicken Toys
Think outside the box when it comes to chicken entertainment. What do your chickens like to do? What makes them happy? Here are some other fun ideas.
- Hang a sunflower in the coop.
- Give them parrot toys.
- Scatter insects and bugs, such as worms and crickets, in their coop for them to chase.
- Old CDs cast interesting patterns on the ground when the sun reflects off of them, and they also move in the wind.
- Sprays of millet hung about the coop are fun for jumping and grabbing, and then chasing if they manage to get a spray loose.
- Give them a chunk of sod with the dirt and roots attached. They will dig and scrape through it looking for little tidbits.
- A rotten wood log stuffed with whatever you have available makes a fun toy that will keep your chickens occupied for hours.
- Let your chickens play around in a pile of fallen leaves by hiding bugs and other yummies in it.
- Take a handful of weeds that are safe for the chickens to eat and tie them up for the birds to jump at. You can also just toss them over the fence.
- A suet cage stuffed with whatever treats are handy makes a nice little piñata.
- Take so plastic Easter eggs and poke holes in them. Then fill them with seeds and roll them around. The seeds will fall out as the chickens chase them. You can also use a sturdy container, such as a plastic tub or coffee can with holes poked in it.
- Cricket tubes (tubes designed to release only one cricket at a time) will give the chickens hours of entertainment as they wait for each of the yummy creatures to venture forth.
- Layer some bird seeds in between sheets of newspaper, so the birds have to work to get it out.
- Put tree stumps in their area for the chickens to sit on top of. A good view makes a world of difference.
- Perches inside their pen will make the chickens happier as well. Remember to change them up occasionally. A different view makes the same old area into a different world.
- Find a nice large branch with several branches coming off of it. Then stand it up inside their yard. They'll love to perch on the branches, so make sure it's sturdy.
- Put some sand in a box for them to use as a dustbath.
What's Your Favorite Chicken Toy?
What do you think of the ideas on this page? Are going to try some of these ideas? Do you already give your chickens toys? Share an opinion, a recommendation, or a story in the reader feedback section below.
Questions & Answers
If chickens aren't supposed to jump, why do the activities ideas in your article include jumping?
Jumping is a natural part of chicken behavior. In the wild, they might jump to get a bug, etc., but domesticated chickens have been bred to be heavier, which means jumping can put too much strain on their legs. Jumping needs to be done in moderation. Don't put things too high or make them do it too often. Understand your chicken's breed as well. Lighter breeds and banty chickens are safer to jump than heavier breeds such as Orphingtons or meat birds. Just as you could jump a little to grab an apple off of a tree and would be fine, but doing a high jump could hurt you, chickens can jump for treats but only in moderation. Keep their body type in mind.
© 2009 Alisha Vargas