If you have stumbled upon this post after searching for ideas for hen nights, back away now. No plastic penis necklaces, T shirts with rude slogans, inebriated women or male strippers, are anyway involved in the following post. The hens I am referring to, are of the feathery, scaly dinosaur variety. If this description still sounds applicable to your fellow ‘hens’, then I really think you need to assess your attitude to your friends and acquaintances.
When I first got my hens, I didn’t really have to give much consideration to their entertainment. They were free ranging in a large garden, the destruction of which kept them occupied for ages and they were able to find lots of ways, to keep themselves busy. After the fox attack which killed all my girls, we decided to confine any future hens to a run, for their safety, as well as a chance to reclaim the garden. They have a fairly big run, as hens are busy little creatures. Bored hens can be quite nasty to each other, with pecking and bullying behaviour resulting. Any hen scuffles can be kept to a minimum, if you keep your hens content.
Chickens are very food orientated. I’m sure if I dropped down dead in the hens run, by the time my offspring noticed I was missing, ( around dinner time ) then the hens would have pecked clean to the bone. Hens like to be active, they are curious ( nosey ) beasts, so you need to make the area your hens live in interesting for them. A happy hen is less likely to bully or injure other hens, they are fearsome beasts when they want to be.
They love to dig and scratch, discover tasty bugs lurking in old logs, wallow in dust baths of their own making and have the chance to stretch a wing out in the sunshine, indulging in a bit of sunbathing. ( weather permitting of course)
Some people hang c.d’s up in the run or give them a ball to peck at, they soon lose interest when they worked out there is no food involved. You can hang vegetables such as cabbage, sweetcorn cobs, or lettuce on a string and dangle it for the hens to peck at.
You have to be careful about hens jumping for food, as although this is quite funny to watch, they can sometimes injure themselves through constant jumping. Not that they paid any attention to this advice when leaping up to the blue berry bushes, to remove all the fruit. If you grow vegetables in the garden, then giving them the ones that have perhaps bolted or gone to seed. Mine loved the triffid sized spinach plants, at the end of the season, getting very excited as they prepared to rip them apart.
My hens have a treat everyday, not because they are spoilt, but because they are growing girls. Cooked pasta, they aren’t fussy what kind, spaghetti is fun as it has the added advantage of them playing hen tag, as they chase each other for bits of spaghetti, despite there being plenty to go around. Rice, rice and mashed sardines goes down very well. I make them a porridge using water, sometimes adding dried fruit, fruit and seeds to the mixture. I stay with them when they get treats, to ensure everyone gets a chance to have some. So greedy hens, like Nelly, don’t try to eat a whole flocks worth of food.
Each day they get a vegetable or fruit, as well as their layers pellets and corn morning and night. Greenery is very important in a hen’s diet to keep them healthy, as well as producing delicious eggs. They eat most vegetables, mine particularly love cabbage at the moment, descending upon it like a plague of locusts, until the hard stalks are all that remain, scattered on the ground. Corn on the cob keep their little beaks occupied carrot peelings, cooked potato, chopped green beans, apples ,grapes, pumpkins, in fact the only vegetable that I can think of that mine won’t eat is parsnips.
You could bake them special breads, with different varieties of seeds in. Making it with a whole in the middle, so you can hang it up for pecking purposes. String up Cheerios or popcorn, bringing a little festive feel to the hen run. I cover pine cones in peanut butter (yes it’s very messy) then roll them in bird seed. You can hang them up in various parts of the run, or use a dog toy designed to put treats inside, such as a kong. You can also fill it with sardines and rice, which will keep them busy for a while. Hiding corn or a treat, such as sunflower seeds or meal worms under a pile of leaves, will entertain them for ages, as they give it a very thorough scratch through.
If your run is small, then just bring in piles of leaves or straw to hide the treats underneath. Mine like nothing better than grubbing through the compost or ‘helping’ me in the garden. I deliberately chose to include the composting area and also included a large area for soil. I use it for layering into the compost bins, they use it to grub and poke about in.
There is nothing like having a bunch of hens helping you turn and re layer a compost pile. I will sometimes just go and turn over a little patch of soil for them and they love it. They adore being able to scratch around to their hearts content. If they don’t have access to a large area to dig in the run, you could always use a large gardening tray and bring in some freshly dug soil into their run. They will adore the chance to scratch and investigate.
Little treats spaced throughout the day, keep them busy, plus helps them to get to know you. There is nothing better than the sight of a stampeding mob, of feathery winged footballs, charging towards you, keen to greet you and the contents of the bowl you’re carrying. The way to a hen’s heart is via its bottomless pit of a stomach.