Lisa Steele recently spoke with Fowl Play Products owner Jennifer Connell, inventor of The Chicken Swing. It turns out they were kindred spirits, in that they worry about chickens being bored. OK, so maybe that isn’t something that keeps you up at night, but when Jennifer started talking about feeling badly keeping her backyard chickens locked up in their chicken run (to keep them safe from chicken predators), Lisa could relate.
Jennifer spent hours watching her chickens’ behavior and even more hours watching them swing on various chicken swing prototypes she came up with before developing and patenting The Chicken Swing. She shared some pointers with Lisa, just in case you are considering making your chickens a swing to keep them busy on long winter days when they can’t get outside.
Lisa Steele: What are some of the chicken swing materials you would recommend, and which should be avoided?
Jennifer Connell: PVC piping and metal pipes should all be avoided because they are too slippery. Our chicken swing is made of plastic, but there is a textured surface and a special shape, that allows their feet to get a good grip. Your chicken needs to be able to grip the swing in order to feel safe swinging. A board such as a 2-by-4 is also not recommended because it’s too wide. A branch or log with smooth cut edges is probably best for a DIY project.
One disadvantage of using a log is that it will be heavy and not only make it harder for the chickens to actually move the swing (it will become sort of a hanging perch instead), but when the chickens kick off the log, it can create a lot of force and possibly knock another hen in the head, which you clearly don’t want! If you do choose this type of design, please check it often for wear and hang it in a large outdoor coop.
It is best to provide stability to the perch. If it rolls too much they will not use it. Picture kids using the backyard swing: we have hands that grip onto the chains, although cute in a cartoon, chickens do not grab on with their wings, so you will need to add stabilizers to the perch of your swing to help them balance. A good way to do this is to use long eyebolts that extend up from the perch about 4 inches. Then attach your rope or chain to the eyebolt. Putting a flex point above the perch of the swing will help them keep the swing moving. For added safety, you could cut a 10- to 12-inch piece of tubing to go cover the rope or chain to prevent it from looping, which could entangle your chickens.
Lisa: Any advice about the type of rope? Can a chain be used instead?
Jennifer: A lighter weight chain can be used. I prefer a durable marine quality rope with UV protection of at least quarter-inch diameter with a weave resistant to wear. It’s also a good idea to regularly check your rope to be sure it’s not wearing or fraying. A rope not made to handle outdoor conditions can wear out pretty quickly. Also, check the chicken swing itself. “Green” wood will naturally dry and shrink as it ages and you run the risk of your eyebolts pulling out, or knotted rope slipping through if you don’t use large washers on the underside. A chain can add unnecessary weight.
Lisa: Are there different size chicken swings or is it a one size fits all?
Jennifer: I designed my swing to be an appropriate size for days-old chicks all the way up to full-grown hens and everything in between. A long-hanging swing in a brooder will fill up with baby chicks all swinging in a row and is just the cutest thing to see! As far as having a swing for two or more adults, they tend to get the push me/pull me thing going on and are not able to really swing. It is better to add another chicken swing. So a perch of about 15- to 18-inches long will work best for average sized chickens. I like using the same swing from chick to adult. Some chickens can be cautious of new things, and this strategy helps them swing on through adulthood. But any swinging or toy exposure at all with chicks will increase their interest in swinging as adults.
Lisa: Is it best for it indoor use inside the coop or outdoors?
Jennifer: The chicken swing can be used inside the coop or outside within the run. I like to have one inside for inclement weather and one outside. One caution, though, when you position your swing. I think the goal of some of my birds is to make a big impression on their dismount. Allow room for the swinging motion, but also consider the dismount your chickens make, because there is a fair amount of kickback. Several good smacks against the back wall can damage a poor design.
To learn more, visit www.fowlplayproducts.com. Lisa Steele is the author of Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens … Naturally (St. Lynn’s Press, 2013). A fifth generation chicken keeper and herbalist, she lives on a small hobby farm in Virginia which she shares with her husband, two horses, a flock of assorted chickens and ducks, their two dogs and a barn cat. She is an avid gardener, baker and knitter. A frequent contributor to various chicken keeping publications, she writes about natural chicken keeping online at FreshEggsDaily.com and on her Facebook page Fresh Eggs Daily.
Originally published in 2015 in Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.