How to have happier chickens, 11 tips to make it easy! My flock is a happy little bunch and it makes my day to sip my coffee and enjoy their shenanigans. I love their happy little noises as they search for bugs, dust bathe and wait for treats. I think most of us with backyard chickens tend to spoil our hens anyway but I have some tips to guarantee your girls are the happiest chickens on the block.
How to Have Happier Chickens 11 Tips
The first key to happier chickens is making sure you provide enough space for them. I know if you’re a backyard or urban chicken keeper this can be a daunting task; but it is vital to the health and happiness of your flock. You’ll read that chickens need about 4 square feet per bird; I disagree. This may be minimal for supporting life but it won’t make for a happy bird. I would say they need about twice that with coop and run.
Keep a clean coop
After you have the space issue covered you want to make sure you keep your coop and run clean. Let’s be honest, chickens are indiscriminate poopers (aka they poop EVERYWHERE); but they don’t necessarily like to be dirty. A clean coop prevents a lot of diseases in your flock and your neighbors will appreciate it too.
Check out How to Clean a Coop.
Chickens will eat just about anything, but they need a good quality feed that offers them full nutrition (especially if they aren’t allowed to free range). We offer our girls an organic feed that is made of a co-op that we belong to but there are many good organic feeds on the market. Remember their making your breakfast, so what goes into them comes out in your eggs (and eventually meat). We keep our feed in a Grandpa Feeder to keep rodents out; we’ve had it for years and wouldn’t use any other feeder!
Clean water is another daily essential for happier chickens. Remember they aren’t the cleanest animal; I’ve seen mine stand on their water and poo right into it. Your best best, beyond fresh water daily it to get a contained system with nipples. You will need something to support that system, it can’t just be placed on the ground. But a contained system will not only keep your chickens from dirtying the water, it will keep pests out of it too.
Dust bathing is essential to the health and happiness of your hens. I remember when I first started raising chickens and saw this strange “bath” – I was sure she was dying! I dust bath helps to prevent parasite infestations and will help them cool off in the summer time. If you don’t have some available dirt, and would prefer that they don’t use your garden for their bathing, you can put together a dust bath in a baby pool. Check out Keep Your Chickens Healthy With a Custom Dust Bath.
Free Ranging / Roaming
One of the easiest ways to ensure happier chickens is to allow them to have some free range or roaming time outside of the coop. This will allow them to forage for some healthy greens, bugs and even small rodents. Living in Phoenix most of my neighbors have scorpions outside and sometimes in the house; we’ve never seen one in 8 years! Free ranging will give you healthier eggs too, with rich orange yolks – that’s a win-win in my book. If you can’t or don’t want to leave them running free all day in your yard then try giving them 30 – 60 minutes in the morning and evening when you can watch them. You’ll find they pick up on the routine pretty quickly and will return to the coop with a little training (or treats).
Consider Their Environment / Safety
Chickens that feel safe and protected are happier hens. Make sure you’re offering a coop that is free from pests and predators. This also means you’re keep your dogs and cats away as well. My chihuahua will chase a chicken given the opportunity. Now he’s 13 can practically toothless so he’s not going to kill one, but it still stresses my girls out to run away from a little dog with a Napoleon complex. The calmer and safer their environment the better off they’ll be. I’ve noticed when my girls get stressed they won’t lay or lay their eggs in hidden places. Check out Top Chicken Predators for Backyard Homesteaders.
Just like us, chickens love a good treat. Our job is to make sure the treats we give them are healthy for them. My girls love the innards from a squash or pumpkin, some cool watermelon in the summer and their absolute favorite things are meal worms. They’ll never love you more than when you bring a handful of dried meal worms out to them! You can also grow your own meal worms and offer them fresh to the flock.
Most of the time your feed will cover all the basic needs of your flock. But if you want optimal health there are a few supplements that can really improve their overall well being. My two favorites are garlic and apple cider vinegar. You can read more about that in my article here. Other supplements you may want to consider are diatomaceous earth and herbs. If your flock is free ranging they won’t need much in the way of supplements.
Introduce New Members to the Flock With Care
Your happy little flock can turn into the “mean girls” in a quick-hurry when a newbie tries to join the clique. In all seriousness if you want happier chickens then you need to be careful and cautious when adding new birds to your current flock. Never put chicks into the coop with your girls – they will most likely kill them. I wait until new hatches are about 16 weeks old before I start to integrate them. I never just throw them in and hope for the best. My preferred method is to keep a separate and closed coop for the younger girls and allow the big girls to free range around them. This gets them used to the idea that there are new members around but keeps the pullets safe from harm. But you have to realize no matter how much care you take before letting them all be together there will be pecking; it isn’t called pecking order for nothing. IMPORTANT: if you’re bringing in chicks or pullets from an outside source you need to keep them quarantined for a few weeks to ensure they are healthy and will not spread disease to your current flock!
Toys & Boredom Busters
Not to beat a dead horse but the best boredom buster is to allow your flock to free range or roam. But if that is out of the question, or limited, you can offer a few things that will keep them entertained.
*Hanging cabbage or lettuce. This simple thing can give your flock entertainment and nutrition.
*A chicken swing. I know it sounds crazy, but they seem to really enjoy it. You can buy a pre-made swing but there are a lot of tutorials on making one for free as well.
*Old tree stumps or hollowed stumps
Having happier chickens really comes down to allow them to be chickens, keeping them clean, protected and healthy.