Chicken keeping is becoming increasingly popular across the country. This popularity surge has led to the invention of new chicken accessories for small and large flock keepers alike. Whether you’re looking at different options for chicken feeders and waterers, or to dress your hen in a tutu for some laughs, the choices are endless.
I raise laying hens year round as well as meat chickens throughout the spring and summer months. Mornings and evenings are busy tending to them in addition to the other animals. So for me, the best chicken accessories are the ones that save me time, feed, and enrich my flock. Because my hens free range all day, their needs may be different than those limited in their ranging, or confined to a run completely. Regardless, the accessories mentioned below are relevant to any flock.
Some of the best chicken accessories, whether your flock free ranges or not, are general boredom busters. On a cold or snowy New England day, my chickens hide in their coop and run rather than venturing out to brave the elements. If it lasts for any significant period of time, cabin fever sets in which can lead to some unsavory behaviors. Distracting them with treat squares, a head of cabbage, or peck n’ play balls filled with scratch and mealworms is a great way to reduce boredom. Just like in humans, moderation is key when it comes to treats. This should only supplement their diet and not be a primary source of food. Treats consisting of more than 10 percent of their diet can lead to serious health issues. There are other sources of entertainment aside from treats. Designated dust bath areas made of an old tire filled with dirt, sand and wood stove ashes is a great way to satisfy their natural urge to bathe even in the cold and snowy winter months. The addition of a chicken swing to the run also provides entertainment value while giving them a place to escape the ground or another hen. These can easily be made at home with a couple of materials lying around or purchased as well. If you’re trying to figure out how to stop your chickens from pecking each other, start adding some boredom busters as restlessness is usually the root of the problem. Behaviors such as scratching, pecking, roosting, and dust bathing are all instinctual for a chicken. Accessories that satisfy these basic needs will prevent a lot of behavioral issues and headaches for you.
There is nothing more devastating than going out to your coop at dark or in the morning only to discover your flock fell victim to a predator attack. Sadly, it happens. Chickens have a lot of natural predators: coyotes, fox, raccoon, and weasel are only a few on the list. Some predators are smarter than others and are either able to work at a faulty latch for half of the night to gain entry to the coop or find small cracks or holes to slip through. Even if your coop has the security of Fort Knox, what about those nights when you aren’t able to get out right at dusk to lock them in for the night? As small as a window of opportunity it is, the flock is still vulnerable.
I don’t think anything beats a good guard dog, but if that isn’t an option, fortunately, technological advances have been made. There are several brands that make nighttime solar lights, but they all have the same basic concept. The unit is solar, with a rechargeable battery to power it through the night. When the light sensor detects diminished daylight at dusk, it starts emitting a flashing red light until the sensor detects daylight at dawn, shuts off, then recharges throughout the day. This flashing red light cuts through any snow or rain and deters predators, by mimicking the look of another predator’s eyes at night keeping them away. These are water and weatherproof, so they can be hung on the side of your coop or mounted on a post.
There are also various urine sprays and granules that are designed to keep predators at bay. Animals mark their territory with their urine which cautions other animals (including other potential predators) to stay away. By spraying or sprinkling urine around the coop, you can trick them into thinking it is in another predator’s territory. This option requires a little more work on your part, as reapplication is required as the scent fades.
No Crow Collars
If you have a rooster there is one inevitable fact: it’s going to crow! I personally love the sound of my roosters crowing hours before the sun comes up, and the constant back and forth throughout the day. Not everyone shares my opinion on the matter or has the luxury of not having a neighbor within earshot. Whether you don’t appreciate the crowing or have a complaining neighbor, although you can’t stop it completely, you can quiet the sound.
When a rooster crows, it is releasing all of the air in its lungs and air sacs at once in one bellow. The no crow collar fits snuggly around the neck, limiting the amount of air that can be released. As a result, the crow is quieter. After fitting the collar, inspection of the coop and run should be made to be sure there is nothing it could get snagged or hung up on. Careful attention should also be paid to properly sizing and fitting the collar, as well as periodic inspections making it safe and comfortable for the rooster. When fitted correctly, the collar will not impede normal activities such as breathing, eating, mating, and dust bathing.
Saddles and Aprons
There are numerous benefits to having a rooster in your flock, but sometimes they can inadvertently cause damage. If you only have a few hens to one rooster, or he has a favorite, frequent mating can break or pull the feathers right off a hen’s back exposing her bare skin. At this point, he can cut up her back or leave her vulnerable to attacks from more dominant hens. Saddles or aprons as they are also referred to, are functional and fashionable chicken accessories that protect the hen. The saddle is designed to fit snuggly on a chicken’s back secured by elastic straps around the wings while still allowing free movement. The material is non-slip, so it still allows a rooster to mount the hen, but it will leave her feathers intact and protect her back from his claws and spurs. If fitted properly and periodically checked, the saddle will not disrupt the hen’s normal activities.
The chicken accessories mentioned above are by no means an exhaustive list. They are a few of the many useful ones widely available that are relevant to a flock regardless of its size and ranging abilities. Which chicken accessories are your favorite for your flock? Have you ever tried any of the chicken accessories mentioned?