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PHOTO: Kirsten Lie-Nielsen
Boredom busters are important for poultry, especially birds kept in the confines of a run. They help to keep your fowl amused and prevent bullying in the flock. There are plenty of popular toys for chickens to keep them amused, but ducks and geese also need to be kept entertained and there are some fun waterfowl boredom busters you can put together for them.
1. Hanging Greens Basket
My favorite boredom buster for chickens and waterfowl alike is a hanging greens basket. I find them especially amusing for geese, who are vegetarians and have few treats that spark their interest. Despite this, geese are voracious chewers who will nibble on anything. Geese left to their own devices can naw a hole in your siding, so this bite-oriented toy is perfect for them. A full head of lettuce hung in a basket at 2 feet off the ground will disappear after a day or two in a run with geese, and they’ll get some tasty nutrition from the toy, as well.
2. The Right Treats
Not all treats are created equal, and giving your birds what they like and what is good for them is important. Regularly feeding treats is a great way to keep your birds tame and to entertain them, and during the cold winter months when foraging isn’t an option, it’s also an important way for them to get vitamins and proteins in their diet. Ducks, like chickens, love mealworms and fresh garden produce. For a quick protein or vitamin boost boost, sprinkle a handful of mealworms or table scraps (make sure they aren’t rotting) on the ground and they’ll eat them within seconds. To give them some additional fun, through the meal worms or a piece of lettuce into the pond or pool where the waterfowl hang out. They’ll love collecting all the prizes.
3. A Place To Swim
Waterfowl love swimming. It is in their nature. If you don’t have swimming water for them, you should still provide a small pool for them to bathe in. If you want to truly spoil your ducks and geese, there are even kiddie pools available that can be heated to keep the water from freezing in winter.
4. Dog Chew Toys
Geese are always chewing. They can be picky eaters when it comes to what they actually swallow, but they will chew on anything. Keep them amused by providing dog toys, such as the knotted ropes you might use for tug of war. Geese will nibble around and chew on the toys until they’ve completely destroyed them.
Some geese also like hanging bells in their run. The satisfaction of chewing on something is increased by the rewarding noises that a bell makes, and geese will curiously try to figure out the source of the noise for hours.
6. Family Free-Range Time
Every bird’s favorite distraction is escaping the run. Free-ranging with your birds not only allows them to stretch their legs and forage in new places, it also helps you to bond with them. Regularly spending time with your waterfowl, especially geese, will help to keep them tame and friendly and prevent them from becoming aggressive. As little as 15 to 20 minutes of times with your birds outside the run will do wonders. Simply open up the door and let your fowl wander around exploring. You can use treats to keep them close if you are worried about them wandering off, but most of the time, you’ll find that your waterbirds are happy to hang out with you, seldom straying more than a few feet away.
An entertained flock is a happy flock, less prone to picking on one another or developing aggressive behavior toward people. It is equally rewarding for the farmer to see their birds flourishing and eager to see them at every visit, wondering what new treat might be in store.