Chickens are lively, playful creatures. They are happiest in a group and usually bond easily with their human families.
Interacting with your chickens is fun. Quality time together also provides other important and practical benefits. Regular interactions:
- Help keep your chickens active and alert
- Help you keep an eye on their overall health
- Help develop a sense of trust between you and your flock — trusting birds are more easily handled during checkups and more likely to enjoy being petted
Developing a relationship with your flock can be tricky. Chickens are prey animals and thus innately distrusting. They are cautious yet highly curious. This curiosity can work in your favor, though, plus the fact that the way to a chicken’s heart is through its beak can work wonders. Encourage your birds with chicken-friendly treats such as raisins, oats, leftover pasta, grapes and berries. Time, patience and consistency are key.
So, let’s take a peck at some easy ways to spend some quality clucky time together.
1. Chat With Your Chickens
Chickens are chatty. So, one of the most obvious ways to interact with your flock is to chat with them. Shy birds, in particular, may even cluck along.
- I like to mimic their many unique clucks, coos, warbles and crows. Some will answer me — Abby always responds. Others stare. Still others simply go about their business.
- Chickens can learn to recognize their names. Greet your birds by name when you visit, and engage them by using their names regularly. It’s a great way to establish a bond, stimulate their brains and encourage them to come to you when you call.
I especially like to watch my hens’ varied reactions. Felicity, my speckled Sussex, typically pauses whatever she’s doing and clucks. My Buff Orpington, Emily, replies with a warble every time.
2. Pet Your Chickens
Encourage your chickens to come to you, comfortably accept gentle touches and even sit in your lap.
Just like cats and dogs, chickens respond well to petting. Silkie chickens in particular are extremely tame and have remarkably soft, “silky” feathers.
Chickens also have a secret sweet spot: Gently rubbing your birds on the back of their necks underneath all their feathery fluff seems to calm them.
3. Experiment With Music and Sounds
Chickens have a keen sense of hearing. In fact, they not only respond to a variety of sounds, but also they actually enjoy listening to pleasant-sounding music.
Are you a classical music aficionado? Share your love for fine music with your flock. In her article from Backyard Poultry, Lisa Steele poses the question, “Does Playing Classical Music Benefit Your Chickens?” She reports that her chickens “are more calm, friendlier, never peck at each other and live more stress-free lives because of the music.”
Experiment with sounds and watch your chickens’ responses:
- Whistling, humming and singing will definitely catch their attention.
- If you play a portable instrument, such as the guitar or flute, serenade your chickens.
Healthier, happier chickens are just a melody away.
Watch these chickens enjoy the beautiful strains of live guitar:
4. Play With Your Chickens
Playdates will help keep your flock healthy. Chickens need stimulation — otherwise, they may become bored. Bored chickens are unhappy chickens, and unhappy chickens can become stressed or pass the time by pecking their siblings.
Here are some ideas that I use to play with my flock:
- Scatter oats or chicken-friendly treats on the ground. Feel free to move around while tossing treats. For more on treats, see the chart on this page.
- Play hide-and-seek: Quickly hide while your birds are busy foraging. Then cluck to them.
- Add a treat dispenser to your chicken run — your birds will go crazy! Several types are available online.
- Set up a nontoxic children’s play tunnel in your backyard or try a DIY version: Cut out the bottoms of cardboard boxes and connect them. Encourage the birds to “crawl” through by tossing in treats.
- Dig a hole and fill it up again so the dirt is piled loosely on top. Hide a piece of red fruit (cored apples only; no seeds) or a red bell pepper inside. Chickens are fascinated by the color red.
- Teach your birds to do tricks. Yes, chickens can learn to do simple tricks. Encourage your friendliest bird to hop up onto your arm when prompted with a treat. You can also train your birds to peck at a colored shape, follow an agility course and more using the same type of clickers as dog trainers.
Interacting with your chickens helps keep them active, happy and healthy. Spending quality time with your flock is also a great stress reliever for you.
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Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a 5-part series on chicken keeping for beginners. The previous articles were The 3 Best Breeds for Beginning Chicken Keepers, 5 Simple Tips for a Healthy Flock of Chickens, 5 Signs of Illness in Your Chicken Flock and Great Supplements for Healthy Chickens, No Matter the Season.