Bringing home baby chicks is a lot of fun, but depending on your brooder it’s normal to wonder if your baby chicks are going to need some entertainment or something to do. Do baby chickens need toys – or to be entertained?
Baby chickens (chicks) and adult chickens don’t need toys as long as they have enough space, variety, and natural change to keep them occupied. If there aren’t enough things to do, then they will need toys to keep them from becoming bored and destructive, especially in smaller spaces.
Thankfully, chick toys don’t have to be fancy, expensive, or even store-bought. In fact, they usually work better if they’re homemade! In any case, keep reading, and let’s talk about toys and entertaining your chicks – and your adult chickens.
Baby Chicks and Adult Chickens Need Activities, Not Toys
Chicks and chickens don’t usually need (store-bought) toys. Let’s just get that out of the way. Are there some exceptions to that generality? You bet. But generally speaking, most chicks (and chickens) won’t need any fancy toys or dedicated enrichment activities. They just need normal activities.
They’ll keep themselves occupied with foraging, scratching, spending time with their flock, taking a dust bath, looking for treats, eating, drinking, and being a chicken. So as long as your chicks have access to enough space, feed, water, and dust (for both bathing and grit), then they’ll be just fine.
Even so, let’s go through a few times when they will need more than just the basics.
|Toys Not Needed||Toys May Be Recommended|
|Chicks are raised by their mother with the rest of the flock.||Chicks are raised in a small, dedicated brooder.|
|Chicks are in a brooder, but they have enough space and friends to keep occupied.||You’re only raising a few chicks and they get lonely, bored, or destructive.|
|Behavior and socialization are going well.||Destructive behaviors (pecking or pulling feathers, bullying, aggressive displays of dominance) are an issue.|
|Chicks in a small brooder have frequent handling or access to a larger space for a change of scenery.||Space is limited and human interaction is infrequent – and you want to increase socialization.|
|Chicks living in a large enough space (coop, run, and any pasture space).||Insufficient space between the coop, run, and pasture (if any).|
|The flock is well integrated and socialized.||You’re integrating two flocks, and you want to make sure it goes well.|
Depending on the type of brooder you’ve got for your chicks, you may want to install a few extras or toys for them. Later in this article, I’ll give you ideas for 26 homemade chicks (and chicken) toys you can pick from. You won’t need to use all 26 ideas. You can just use 1-2 and it’ll generally be just fine.
Now, we’ve raised two sets of 6 chicks in brooders so far. The first set of chicks grew up in a kiddie pool with cardboard walls. It was a huge mess, but the chickens had plenty of room. Our kids played with them regularly, and the chicks didn’t need any toys. We did end up building a smaller brooder (out of a large plastic tub) and moved them into that after a near-miss with the dog.
Even so, we kept interacting with them regularly. We also installed a perch, which is a toy option. Finally, we also regularly changed the litter. That’s not a toy, but it provides a change of scenery, which is almost as good as a toy for chicks.
For our second batch of chicks, we skipped the big brooder entirely. We kept them exclusively in the small, lidded brooder. We didn’t want to risk them being eaten by our new kitty! Even so, they had a perch, regular human interaction, and enough to do that it wasn’t an issue.
So even though we used a smaller brooder (it got quite crowded right before we graduated each batch to the coop), our chicks still did just fine without any store-bought or fancy toys. Chicks just don’t generally need toys.
How Can You Entertain Your Chicks (and Chickens)?
Entertaining chicks and chickens don’t have to be hard. Seriously. Just give them enough space and they’ll handle most of it on their own. Then, give them a few things to do from the homemade chicken toy list, and you’ll be absolutely set.
Again, you don’t have to give them all 26 ideas at the same time. Our chickens have access to a few of the ideas on an everyday basis. Then, for special occasions, we give them another 1-2 things. Then, they’re plenty occupied and happy for hours (if not days).
26 Homemade Chicken Toys and Activities (Chicken Approved)
Ready to make some homemade chicken toys to keep your flock active and occupied? Let’s do this. These ideas will work for chicks or chickens. Just read the notes along with each idea for more information as needed. We’ve tried each of these – and found varying levels of success.
- Design and build an interactive feed or treat dispenser. I used a 5-gallon bucket, an eye bolt, and a piece of a dowel rod. The chickens peck the piece of wood to release their feed.
- Give your chickens some table scraps. Stick to safe for chicken’s food options – and go easy on any foods that could affect egg flavor if your chickens are laying.
- Install climbing areas or perches. These can be made out of almost anything – from tree branches to PVC pipe to dowel rods.
- Hang up a head of cabbage (or other leafy produce) with a skewer and some string. Let them peck, scratch, destroy, and eat it. Just keep an eye on things depending on how exactly you hang the treat up, as it could become a strangulation hazard for your flock.
- Set up a dedicated dust bath area. For a long time, we used a small kiddie-sized pool full of sand. Our chickens used it as their dust bath and as a grit source.
- Give your chickens some small pet or pet bird toys. They don’t have to be purchased new – feel free to recycle toys leftover from other pets.
- Set up a mirror to entertain your chicks. Just make sure you secure it well! You don’t want it to break if it falls.
- Or skip the mirror and tie a few scratched-beyond-use CDs up. They can double as mirrors and exciting things to inspect.
- Make some tunnels made from an empty oatmeal container or cereal box. Toilet paper or paper towel rolls might work with small chicks as long as you watch them carefully. You don’t want them getting stuck!
- Make a chicken swing. Again, use what you have on hand. If you’re worried about strangulation risks, skip the twine. Use a couple of dowel rods to create a stiffer, strangulation-free-zone style of swing.
- Are you pruning your trees? Throw one of those tree branches in with your chickens. They’ll eat any leaves or bugs on the tree branch – and then use it to climb.
- Give them some newspaper to shred. Shredded paper can also make a great, recycled bedding option – it’s what my sister-in-law uses.
- Give your chick (or chickens) some live crickets to hunt down and eat. This can be uniquely entertaining in a brooder!
- Give your chickens a pumpkin, squash, or melon that’s smashed enough to open it up. If you have picky chickens (like I do), they’ll enjoy the seeds and insides. But then you’ll have to clean up what’s left of the rind.
- Did you grow sunflowers in your garden? Give your chickens one of the sunflower heads with seeds still attached.
- Want to make the table scraps more entertaining? Put them in a fruit basket and put it somewhere they’ve got to climb to get to it. They’ll find it.
- Got some leftover spaghetti noodles? They’re a fun treat for chickens.
- Build a DIY bird feeder with scratch grains or BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds). A pine cone bird feeder with peanut butter is a great option. Just be prepared to make several so that your chickens don’t fight over it!
- Freeze some herbs in ice cubes to give your chickens. It’s a great treat for hot days.
- Speaking of hot days, freeze some leftover fruit (or other table scraps) to feed to your chickens. It’ll help keep them cool and entertained.
- Set up a mister or a mini sprinkler system. Not only will it entertain your chickens, but they’ll also enjoy the cooler temperatures.
- Throw some chicken scratch into their bedding or onto the floor. Seriously – this will entertain them for a while. It’ll also encourage them to naturally turn over their own bedding, which will make doing a deep litter so much easier!
- Give your chickens some mealworms. You can buy them at the store or raise them yourself. Personally, I’m going to opt for buying them.
- Have your kids catch bugs from around the yard and feed them to your chickens. This can entertain both your kids AND the chickens for HOURS. Plus, it’s an absolute hoot to watch!
- Let your chickens into your compost pile. You’ll get compost everywhere, but they’ll help it compost faster.
- Let your chickens into your garden. Only do this after you’ve harvested everything you want. You don’t want them to eat your food! But let them in to handle tilling for you (via scratching and foraging). They’ll also take care of any unwanted pests. It’s a great way to keep them entertained while helping you with fall garden cleanup.
If you don’t want to let your chickens into your garden or flower beds, make sure you read my article on keeping chickens out of gardens (of all kinds). It’s a great read.
Again, chicken toys don’t have to be fancy. They almost work better if they’re not! Here are our chickens (at varying ages) with some toy treats.
The apple was pre-bitten, courtesy of my daughter, but the chickens loved it anyway. They also loved the smashed pumpkin. It had been a Halloween decoration. And they also enjoyed the sunflower seeds to an extent. Most of the seeds were hollow, so next time I know not to grow mammoth hybrid sunflowers. They have too many sterile seeds.
More on Chicks, Chickens, Activities, and Toys
Now, just in case you’ve still got some questions on chickens, toys, and all that’s involved, let’s go through a few specific (and frequently) asked questions.
Do Baby Chickens Get Bored?
Baby chickens have a lot of growing to do, so it’s really hard for them to get bored. This is especially true if they’ve got friends to keep them company – or doubly true if they’re being raised by their mom.
That’s not to say it can’t happen, though. Bored chicks can happen – and they can become quite the creatures of destruction. Bored chicks usually manifest as bullies who peck at the other chicks. They may also start pulling feathers (either their own or from some poor chick further down on the pecking order).
So if you start noticing a boring behavior, give your chicks something extra to do to curb that destructive behavior. Make sure you read the list of 26 homemade chicken toys that’ll help you manage that destructive streak successfully.
Do Adult Chickens Get Bored?
Adult chickens, like baby chicks, can get bored in the right circumstances. I guess it’s the wrong circumstances, but still. They can get bored. And if they do, they’ll start being bullies, pulling feathers, or being a nuisance.
Adult chickens generally only get bored, though, if they don’t have enough space to forage. So if you give them more space, they’ll be a whole lot calmer and keep themselves occupied all day long.
When we kept 6 chickens exclusively in our run, we noticed that they were mostly okay. They did, after all, technically have more than the usual recommendations for total space. However, once we gave them access to a small area of our backyard, too? Their overall happiness rose dramatically.
So if you can give them access to more space, do it. They’ll be happier. Happy chickens forage, don’t get bored, and they lay great eggs.
Do Adult Chickens Need Toys?
Even as your chicks mature and grow up, they still won’t need a lot of toys… unless you notice a lot of destructive behaviors. Then, you may want to provide a few distractions for them to curb bad behavior.
Bad chicken behavior is most likely to happen if your chickens don’t have enough space. So if they’re cooped up, get them something to do, explore, or play with. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Again, we’ll go through a list of ideas later in this article.
Even if you have a large chicken run, I’d like to point out that your chickens may start feeling cooped up if you have several days of inclement or bad weather (whatever that means for your area).
Despite a covered run, I know my chickens can start feeling cooped up after a few days of snow. So on snowy or rainy days, I try to check on them more regularly. That way, I can provide a treat or a toy for them before any destructive behavior starts – rather than after the fact. I also make sure they’ve got access to their run, and that it’s staying as dry as possible in case they do want to go outside at all.
Do Chickens Like to Play Toys?
Chickens play with toys as other birds do. So if you’re expecting them to play with toys as a cat or a dog does? Well, you’re going to be disappointed.
Chickens will play with toys by pecking at them, trying to eat them, and seeing what they do. They don’t usually play fetch, do tricks, or perform on command.
However, you can train them to do a few things – with enough time, patience, and treats. The only thing I’ve trained my chickens to do so far is to come when called. And that only works because they know I’ve got treats!
Don’t go buy chicken toys. Or any toys, really. Just build a few perches, a DIY feed dispenser, and give them some treats. Then, go play with them on a regular basis.
My kids like to play with dinosaurs with the chickens. Sometimes the chickens are the dinosaur prey, and sometimes they’re part of the dinosaur herd. It’s crazy entertaining for everyone.
Chickens will also snuggle and be held if they know and trust you. My 5-year-old boy loves to pick up and hold his chicken. She enjoys it. Or maybe she just tolerates it and has a good poker face. Either way, simply living your life in your backyard homestead will usually create enough entertainment for both you and your chickens.
That way, you can enjoy watching your chickens while you read this article next: Do Chickens Make Good Pets? And yes, there’s at least one Paw Patrol reference in there, so see if you can find it.
When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs? Chickens grow from a chick into a pullet, at which point they may start laying small, pullet-sized eggs. This can happen between 16-20 weeks old, though I’ve had pullets start laying as early as 15 weeks old. For more information on small eggs, read my complete Pullet Egg Guide here.
Why Do Chickens Eat Rocks and Stone? Chickens eat rocks and stones (called grit) to help them better and more efficiently digest their food. They don’t have any teeth to do the chewing for them, so grit is especially helpful in mechanical digestion. For more information on chickens and grit, read my article on it here.
What Can I Do about a Muddy Chicken Run? First, see what’s causing the run to become muddy. That way, you can fix the underlying issue, whether it’s drainage, a soil absorption issue, or a roofing issue. To read more about each type of issue (including easy fixes), read my article on fixing muddy coops and runs right here.