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Digital Subscriptions > Chickens > Nov/Dec 19 > POULTRY Playgrounds

POULTRY Playgrounds

Keep your birds active by making their coop, run and yard a place to play.

Our grandparents’ chickens spent their days walking around pastures scratching and pecking for breakfast, lunch and dinner; they consumed few, if any, treats and racked up the miles in search of meals. Many modern-day chickens are confined to a much more limited space due to the risk of predation or legal restrictions; if they wore tiny pedometers, their daily totals would pale in comparison to grandma’s birds.

Whether free-range or confined, today’s backyard chickens exercise less and are given far too many treats in addition to their nutritionally-complete layer feed. As a result, research and poultry veterinarians tell us that most of today’s pet chickens are dying prematurely from obesity-related health complications. Fortunately, we can turn that around and optimize the health and lifespans of our backyard flocks with a few common sense modifications to their lifestyle that sound hauntingly familiar: a balanced diet and exercise.


Inadequate living space puts chickens at greater risk for obesity and behavioral problems such as feather picking and egg-eating, so maximizing yard space is critical to health and wellness. The bare minimum outdoor space allocation is ten square feet per bird, but more is always better. Just as with children, bored chickens can get into mischief; providing enrichment activities within a spacious outdoor area keeps chicken minds busy with no time for unapproved extra-curricular activities, so let’s build an outdoor recreation area that provides ample opportunities to exercise their bodies and their minds! A collateral benefit to all this activity just happens to be endless hours of entertainment for human caretakers!

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