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Chicken Enrichment

Chickens are complex individuals capable of emotions such as boredom. They experience joy when learning, recognize human faces, form bonds, and show empathy towards others.  Chickens can even anticipate the future and demonstrate self-control.


Part of Secondhand Stories' vision is to ensure residents have fulfilled and enriched experiences while living at the sanctuary. We view enrichment as a necessity for care, not as a bonus. 

This is especially true given our climate fluctuation, where chickens may have weeks when both bitter and scalding temperatures require them to stay indoors. And, when chickens are confined to smaller spaces without as many opportunities to exhibit their natural behaviours, undesirable interactions begin to occur, such as aggression, feather-plucking, injuries caused by pecking, and egg-eating, which can lead to cannibalism.


Our enrichment categories are divided by the chickens’ senses and cognition.



Considering how complex our feathered friends are, we aim to provide diverse mental and environmental stimulation activities for the chickens at Secondhand Stories. Have a look below to see what we’re doing!

 

daily

  • Access to extended outdoor run (*dependent on temperature and avian flu risk)

  • Mental: Problem-solving food puzzles (such as SlimCat treat ball, Hentastic treat feeder

  • Seasonal: Replenish water in the shallow kiddie pool for them to cool off and splash around or replenish dust bathe


rotational

  • Scatter scratch grains or seeds in the bedding to encourage digging, scratching, and foraging.

  • Move logs around in runs to change the environment's layout (flip over logs to disrupt insects).

  • Upside-down kiddie pool “greenhouse” to grow sprouts

  • Audio enrichment: playing classical music, hanging up windchimes

  • Visual enrichment: videos on an iPad, hanging up a disco ball, and pinwheels.

  • For a refreshing challenge, alternate between muffin trays with frozen treats, such as mealworms or fruits and bowls of water and fruity ice cubes

  • Pecking opportunities: abacuses, flock blocks, whole apples on a skewer in the ground

  • Use a saved bag of leaves from fall in a covered run on warmer days to encourage foraging

  • Add piles of hay into the coops for them to flatten and dig through

  • Fresh food foraging opportunities include lettuce ball cages and sprouts in a jar

  • Seed covered snowman.


permanent

Additional long-lasting enrichment additions include installing swings, hanging mirrors inside coops, hanging xylophones on the outside run and planting tall grasses and herbs that will last throughout multiple seasons.

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