The best way to keep hens busy is to keep them doing what they do best: Scratching or eating. Here are my favorite boredom busters, from least favorite to what I consider the ultimate chicken boredom buster:
4. Flock Block. At nearly any feed store (or via Amazon), you can buy Flock Blocks. These are brick-like pieces of grains suitable for chickens. The key here is these blocks are hard and take a while for chickens to eat through. The downside is there will inevitably be waste - and Flock Blocks aren't cheap! Alternatively, you can make your own Flock Block. These may be more affordable, depending on local prices, and have the added advantage of being easy to hang from a longish string. (Trust me, hanging, swinging things are highly amusing to chickens!)
3. Miscellaneous Vegetables and Fruit. It's always a great idea to chuck weeds, grass clippings, and vegetable waste to your chickens. However, this won't keep the hens occupied for long - unless you have mountains of scraps. Some people try to prolong the boredom busting quality of veggies by giving their hens apples - but I find my chickens aren't very interested in these. Better bets include watermelons and winter squash. Despite the photo to the left (taken after a watermelon eating contest!), these foods will be better boredom busters if you cut them in half and make the girls work a bit for their food.
2. Cardboard. A better way to keep the girls active is to cover a portion of land with cardboard. It won't work to put it in the chicken run, because they will instantly start scratching at it - and that defeats the purpose of the cardboard. (Plus it'll make a mess). Instead, choose an area outside their run where you don't mind them scratching around. Lay down the cardboard and wet it well. After at least a month, lift up the cardboard and let the hens at it. The area will be filled with bugs, and will keep the girls happy for days.
1. Hanging cabbage. In my opinion, this is the ultimate chicken boredom buster. That's because the cabbage isn't just food - it's a game. And it's cheap! One hen pecks the cabbage and all the hens notice it swinging. Another hen pecks it, and it swings some more. It doesn't take long for the entire flock to enter into a rousing game of tether ball. An added bonus: A large cabbage takes hens quite a while to eat through. My six hens usually take at least three days to get through a large cabbage.
What are your favorite ways to keep your hens occupied?