A tip for bored chickens . . .


Yet more ideas from the poultry seminar I attended last week. Behavioral specialist Richard Blatchford of UC Cooperative Extension had a great idea for entertaining hens like ours that are confined to a run: give them a bale of straw and don’t even undo the strings. I used to cut the strings and toss them the bale in sections. Keeping it intact keeps them occupied for a much longer time. They’ve been obsessed with the bale for days now and are slowly breaking it down and spreading the straw.

Leave a comment


  1. Meets my criteria for both lazy and better! Is there a word for this sort of delightful alignment? Besides efficient, I mean. That just doesn’t have much zing to it….

  2. I’d do this for my Alaskan Husky, but she needed 2 bales. It gave her a workout/entertainment and she’d spread & pile it up the way SHE wanted it. Great article..

  3. Hi, suspending things is great for chickens – I made a wire-netting basket for loose leaves, plus a suspended circular wire. Er. Wire loop about a foot across? (all wire is circular at least in cross section!). I stick the pointed end through various green-grocers waste, old apples (usually I have to slice off a little bit of skin before the chooks get the idea), cabbage heads, baked potatoes which are an absolute rave. You need to be a little careful you don’t encourage them to eat too much “junk” so they still get more than half their calories from their pellets which have the concentrated feed for layers plus their vits and mins.

    • Deborah,
      Thanks for the tip. And, yes, the vets at the conference recommended giving them vegetable scraps only in the afternoon after they’ve had access to pellets.

  4. Hi Eric,

    Do you have straw for chicken bedding, the garden or both? I have heard (but don’t know if its true) that straw is not a great bedding for chickens because the hollow nature of it is a hideway for lice and such. I’ve always used pine shavings instead… I recently bought a big bale of straw for my garden (mulch), but like the idea of having it out for the chickens. Also, any comments at the poultry seminar about nutrition? I find if I feed my girls really well I see less pest problems.

    • Hey Julie,
      We use straw in the run and wood shavings in the coop. At the conference they recommended rice hulls, but noted they are hard to find right now because of the drought. And I’ve never seen rice hulls in SoCal, but maybe I don’t know where to find them.

      As to nutrition, the vets recommended finding a high quality feed. They said that the feed company should have a nutritionist on staff. Even if they are free ranging they will need access to feed due to the micro-nutrients they need to stay healthy.

  5. For many years my Grandmother kept a few traditional Rhode Island Red hens for the eggs. She always used to hang a cabbage stump in the run at slightly above hen head height so that they could amuse themselves by jumping up and pecking at it.

    However, she made the fatal mistake of naming each hen. When a hen’s laying days were over, she could not bring herself to kill her and eat her, so she came to an arrangement with the local butcher. He would take the hen and do the dirty deed, then give my Grandmother a different dead hen of a similar size. Everyone knew that my Grandmother was getting her own hen back, but nobody told her. Looking back on it, I expect she really knew but convinced herself otherwise.

    Recently, our local grocery store has been selling ex-laying hens cheaply. They take a long time to cook, but are very tasty. Much better than the pallid juvenile chickens that they normally sell. We have been referring to this as the “egg-laying hen retirement scheme”.

  6. There are other folks who seem to think the pellets aren’t as big a requirement as the vets suggest–Harvey Ussery has a few articles and this video about Karl Hammer’s operation in Vermont especially (longer version at Geoff Lawton’s website behind an e-mail subscriber wall) make me think the bagged feeds aren’t intrinsically necessary, even if they make it a lot easier on a backyard-scale operation.

Comments are closed.