Living within the confines of a plastic tote or cardboard box can get boring for baby chicks. Boredom lead to bullying, pecking and all sorts of other problems. Help keep your brooder babies from getting bored with these easy to implement Brooder Box Boredom Busters.
First and foremost, be sure that your chicks have ample room to move around in their brooder and are neither too hot nor too cold. A red heat lamp is is more calming and makes the chicks less conducive to peck at each other. Fresh feed and water is a must. After you've got all that covered, here are some ideas to keep your chicks entertained and occupied.
1. Roosting Bars - as young as a few days old, the chicks will have fun hopping onto perches and practicing balancing. I use thin dowels for them when they're this small, but you can also use small branches as well. They probably won't sleep on the them until they are much older, but the roosting bars keep them busy and active in the brooder.
2. Clumps of Dirt/Grass - Bring the outdoors inside and put some clumps of grass with the dirt attached in the brooder. The chicks love nibbling on the grass and scratching in the dirt to look for bugs and worms. Two added benefits of this boredom buster, the dirt doubles as grit they need to help digest the grass and you're exposing them to small amounts of the pathogens and bacteria outside that they will eventually be living amongst. This helps build up their immune systems.
3. Weeds - Along the lines of clumps of grass, pick some weeds for the little ones to munch on. You can chop them into small pieces or leave them in clumps for them to nibble off short bits themselves.
4. Set up a Dust Bath - As young as a week old, chicks will start squirming around in the shavings on the floor of your brooder, trying to take dust baths. Fill a small container with loose dirt and let them practice taking dust baths. As the chicks grow, give them progressively larger containers to bathe in.
5. Add a Mirror - Go ahead and laugh but before you write me off as crazy, try hanging a mirror in your brooder. You will be amazed at just how much time a chick will spend, just standing and gazing at her reflection!
6. Herbal Sachets - Sew up calming herbal sachets for the chicks using lavender, chamomile and other calming herbs. Not only will the herbs help settle your chicks down for the night, they love to snuggle up to them. Both our chicks and ducklings love to snooze on the sachets.
8. Spend Time with Them - The more you handle and spend time with the chicks, the more apt they are to be friendly, affectionate hens. Don't keep any one chick out of the brooder for too long, they still need to be kept under the heat, so if she starts peeping loudly, she's ready to go back, but make it a point to spend time holding each, talking to them, hand feeding treats etc.
So, say NO to bored chicks! You'll be glad you did. They'll grow up happier and healthier for your efforts.