Kelly Tomlinson – Vet Nurse.

Chickens are becoming more popular as backyard pets.
They are intelligent and can become bored easily just like pet dogs or cats. It is important to consider environmental enrichment to keep your pet chickens healthy and happy. Environmental enrichment is as important as appropriate diet and housing for the health of your chickens.

Environmental enrichment does not have to be expensive but can make a world of difference to the mental health of your feathered friends. The following will give you some simple ideas that you can easily try at home.

Chickens love bugs and meal worms so hiding some in some straw or a thin layer of dirt will encourage the natural behaviours of digging and foraging. This activity will keep them occupied for quite a while.

Providing a change in the area the chickens are kept, especially if they can’t free range, is a good way to keep their interest in their environment. Some options for a change may be a new hay bale, perch, swing or kids plastic play gym set. The chickens will enjoy the stimulation of a change and enjoy exploring. After a couple weeks change the position of these things again and continue to change them.

A favorite pastime of chickens is dirt “bathing”, they love to roll and lay in the dirt. It’s a nice relaxing thing for them. Having a large plastic container like a kids sandbox filled with loose soil is perfect.

Another way to provide environmental enrichment is by recycling an old plastic bottle and putting some small holes in it. Fill the bottle with seed and put the lid on. You can then tie the bottle with string and hang it above the ground or lay it on the ground and the chickens will have a great time trying to get the seeds out.
You can also hang appropriate vegetables, like broccoli or corn, on a string and let the chickens peck at them.

The important thing to remember with any environmental enrichment that it must be safe for the pet. Keep a check on any toys/bottles etc for wear and replace as necessary. Also make sure that any treats or food items are safe for that species of animal before using them. Environmental enrichment is an important part of caring for your pet and you can both have a lot of fun with it.