How to make a do-it-yourself chicken swing

As much fun as eating cornmeal and yelling nonstop, chickens can get bored. Don’t laugh: Bored chickens can cause more havoc than you think. “Other birds can start to develop abnormal behaviors, such as excessively pecking their feathers,” says Dana Campbell, an animal behavior scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Establishment. You don’t want this in your coop.

Fortunately for chickens, providing enrichment is surprisingly easy and can be as simple as adding a rustic wooden swing to their still environment. This kind of structural enrichment has the advantage of being incredibly fun to watch; You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a chicken cackle curiously, rocking back and forth from the hen to the playground. Plus, you can make one out of materials you probably already have.

Statistics

  • Time: 10 to 30 minutes
  • Material cost: $7 to $30
  • Difficulty: Easy

Materials

How to make a chicken swing

1. Find some branches. I collected some branches that had already fallen from the trees and cut an invasive Chinese tallow for others. Chickens can hang on rods of different sizes, but mine was about 2 inches in diameter. I also trimmed my branches to about 1.5 feet long to match the height of my Swedish flower chickens, although some stronger chicken breeds may need a little more space. You may not need to prune your branches at all, or you may find it easier to pull them off by hand.

2. Drill holes in the rods. Where to put these holes also depends on how big your chickens are, but I’ve made swings for several different breeds and drilled holes about an inch and a half from each end of each branch. You’ll want your drill bit to be slightly larger than your string so it can slide. I used a 9/32 inch bit for my swings.

Be sure to grip the rod firmly so that the tip does not slip. Helen Bradshaw

3. (Optional) Sand the branches. If your branches have particularly splinters or rough areas, you can sand them down so the chickens have a better grip on their claws. In the wild, chickens often roost in trees, so there is no need to sand the branches to make them perfectly even. It can actually be more enriching to err on the side of the natural rather than using perfectly smooth sticks.

4. Cut the rope. The length of the rope will depend on where you hang the swing from and how close you want it to be to the ground. Typically, chicken swings do not hang higher than 3.5 feet off the ground, but they can certainly be lower to accommodate your chickens’ age, perch preferences, and familiarity with the swing.

Measure how high you want your swing from the ground where you plan to hang it, then add a few inches so you have plenty of room to tie the rope securely.

5. (Optional) Add some beads. After you cut the string, but before attaching it to the branch, you can slide some wooden beads to add a little more richness to your chickens; your birds may spin the beads or find them visually appealing. Even if you don’t have the most curious chickens, these swing accessories will add color to your coop decor. Once the beads are attached, tie a knot under them.

Eight colored beads (four on each string) on ​​a do-it-yourself chicken swing.
It’s always nice to make a project look good, even if only the chickens will see it. Helen Bradshaw

6. Thread the rope through the drilled holes. This is where a yarn needle can be particularly useful, especially if you’re using a type of yarn that has a tendency to gather, such as jute. Once the string has passed through the holes, securely tie a double knot at the base of one of the holes. Use a scale to make sure the branch is straight, then tie a knot under the other hole.

7. Hang the swing. I tied the top of the string to the beams in the coop, wrapped it over and over and tied it tightly with a few knots. This is quite safe, as the chickens are not too heavy. But if you want extra strength, drill holes in a beam inside your coop, screw in a few metal eye hooks and tie the string tightly to the hooks. Make sure the hooks are the same distance from the two holes in the branch.

8. Let your birds start swinging. It may take time for your chickens to try out a new swing, so don’t worry if your feathered friends don’t appreciate your work right away. You can get them used to the swing by hanging it closer to the ground at first and gradually lifting it up as you get comfortable. Gently placing your birds on the swing and rewarding them with tasty mealworm treats can also help them adapt. And while you can certainly teach an older bird new tricks, your best bet for raising enthusiastic swingers is to introduce them to swing when they’re young. This project can always be scaled down from twigs to twigs to propel the pups on their way to becoming rocking chicken geniuses.

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