Lockdown Learning Activities: Happy Chickens
When caring for animals in captivity, it is important that all of their needs are met; this includes making sure they have a good diet, fresh water, company (if appropriate), veterinary treatment when needed, shelter, and safety. One of the most important things we have to consider is their ability to perform natural behaviour and how we can encourage this to make sure that they are both physically and mentally happy; not scared, lonely, or bored!
When we change an animal's environment (their home) to do this, we call it Environmental Enrichment. Enrichment encourages animals to use their natural abilities and behaviours to interact with their environment. To be able to do this we have to first learn about the animal, what their natural habitat is like, and what they would spend their time doing in the wild. We can then use this information to create an enclosure and activities that stimulate their senses and encourage these natural behaviours at the sanctuary too.
Think about the things that make YOU happy. Is it your favourite food? Your family and friends? A favourite toy or activity? Now remember, animals are just the same. They are all different but they will all have likes and dislikes, things that make them happy, things that scare them, favourite foods and foods they don't like, other animals they like to be around, activities they like to do... and they even play!
Research chickens and what they need to be happy and healthy. What do they like to do? How do they behave? What do they need to live?
Using what you have learned, imagine that you have been put in charge of designing a new Chicken Enclosure at the sanctuary: What would it look like? How big would you make it? How would you make sure that your chickens were happy living in it? We’d love to see your designs and why you think they would be good for our chickens! Key Points to remember for your enclosure:
It needs to be secure so that predators such as foxes cannot get in.
Our animal keepers need a door to be able to get inside and care for the chickens.
As well as an outdoor area, the chickens need somewhere warm and dry to sleep and rest in - don't forget some cosy nest boxes for them.
Sanctuary visitors need to be able to see the chickens from outside - what will you build your enclosure from that they can see through?
In the videos below you can see some of our rescued chickens at the sanctuary using their dust bath, and scratching/foraging for seeds and insects.
Due to Avian Influenza (Bird Flu), some of our chickens have been brought inside from their usual enclosures to shield them from contact with wild birds and the risk of contracting the virus and becoming sick, and so enrichment is now even more important to stop them from becoming bored while they’re inside.
Using your research, we want you to design or make a toy/activity to help keep the chickens occupied and stop them from becoming bored while they are inside. Bear in mind the things you have learned that chickens like to do. Use your imagination! We’d love to see your ideas and why you think the chickens would like them. Hint: Search "chicken enrichment" and see what other people have made for their chickens. What ideas do you like and why? What do you think our rescued chickens at the sanctuary would like? We might be able to use your ideas here!
Sometimes the simplest ideas can be just as successful, such as this basic food enrichment - cabbage hung up on a string for the chickens to peck at. As you can see, they loved it!
We'd love to hear what you've learned about chickens (feel free to ask us any questions you might have) and don't forget to show us your work if you take part in the activities! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave us a comment on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Brockswood.CotwallEnd