I love compiling my Christmas gift list, and I never forget a little something for my chooks; they’re part of the family after all. I try to recycle or make these fowl gifts, which is even more fun. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what to give your feathered friends.
A hanging perch provides entertainment for birds, and builds muscles and balance. Swings are easy to make, an appropriate piece of wood and strong rope or wire would do the job. However, there is a swing designed especially for chickens that you can order online if you aren’t handy. Who knew?
Look at me
It’s in a chicken’s nature to perch in a high spot so they can survey their terrain. Mine enjoy standing on tree-stump rounds, or you could make a podium using brightly painted concrete blocks. An old ladder or appropriate tree branch upcycled into a multi-level perch will maximise vertical space.
Many podium lovers enjoy preening in front of a mirror too, so if you see one in hard rubbish, whip it home and fix it to the wall of the chook pen.
A treat dispenser will give chickens stimulation as they roll it around to get the grain or pellets to fall out. You can buy chicken-treat dispensers online, or repurpose one for dogs, but I made my own from a recycled 600ml water bottle. I punctured holes around the walls with a corkscrew, filled it with scratch grains, put it in their run, then enjoyed the show. It worked so well I made a hanging version, with two holes punctured in the bottom. Each time they pecked, a few grains of wheat fell out. It kept us all entertained for hours.
Of course you will want to provide your chickens with a festive lunch. Why should they miss out on all the fun? Try hanging up a cabbage or lettuce, or a bunch of grass, kale or spinach for them to peck at. A few grapes and half a cucumber, zucchini or watermelon will keep them busy too.
If you enjoy making Christmas balls, mix scratch grain with molasses and roll in desiccated coconut to create treat balls for the chooks. Just hold the rum!
For dessert, make a frozen cake or cupcakes. Simply fill a cake mould with chopped fruit and water, freeze, then tip out and serve. The chooks will enjoy pecking the icy fruit on Christmas Day while you play backyard cricket with the family.
This year my chooks are getting the gift of music. Inspired by an online clip of hens pecking at a xylophone installed on their pen wall, I picked up a paint-free xylophone at the local op shop. I reckon I’ll have no trouble training the girls to peck at it in harmony, starting with a few carols.
Finally, what to buy the chook lover in your family? If they are anything like me, they’ll answer with, ‘More chickens of course!’
By: Jessamy Miller
First published: December 2016