Keeping the Girls Busy

It’s raining. It’s pouring. All of the sensible hens are indoors (that leaves Lulu and the Polish out getting soaked.)

Being indoors is boring, and that can lead to problems. Bored hens peck each other. If blood gets drawn, they’ll keep pecking and it can get so bad that they’ll kill. You’re more likely to have issues if the indoor space is tight. Many of the prefab coops on the market claim to be suitable for a certain number of chickens – but, that’s assuming that the hens also go outside. Often these chicken tractors and small coops have indoor space for nesting boxes, but not roosts. Chickens need a minimum of two square feet of floor space per animal. Chickens of all one breed, as seen on most commercial farms, tend to get along more easily than flocks composed of different sizes, colors and temperaments. Mixed backyard flocks need generous floor space and multi-tiered roosts. On snowy, stuck-indoors days, my tiny bantams, Betsy and Coco, stay out of the way under the nesting boxes. The bigger girls claim spaces on the roosts, and everyone avoids crazy Lulu who paces the floor. If all they had were three nesting boxes and a short roost (as is seen in coops advertised for “up to ten chickens”) there’d be bloodshed.

Keeping the girls amused with greens keeps everyone healthy. I’ve attached a suet feeder inside the coop and on bad-weather days fill it with whatever vegetables I have around. Today my garden has overgrown lettuce, so I clipped a bunch and gave it to the hens. They’ll peck at it instead of each other. Also, feeding greens through the fall and winter is a good nutritional supplement.

It’s also nice for the bunny!

There’s no crowding problem in the big barn. The floor is about 12 foot square, and there are roosts and nesting boxes. Only seven hens live in this palatial coop, but I still like to give them something to do during inclement weather. The sunflowers have gone to seed and are falling over in the garden, so I tossed them two. Even the old, arthritic hens, Eleanor and Edwina, are appreciative.

On a dreary, rainy day, it’s satisfying to take a moment in the barn with content birds. Now I’ll make myself a cup of tea. Then, I’d better see what I can do to keep Lily Dog from going stir-crazy.


  1. Even the wild birds were enjoying your coop activities!! 12:41 12:42 PM est I was viewing the hencam and noticed a small bird on the bottom left. Your hens did not seem to care sharing their space (he-he).

  2. I get a kick out of Candy’s visits to the hen coop. Her feathers are kind of funny, but she’s just one of the girls, it seems. Nice picture of her jowly face. Great seeing Edwina and Eleanor — how beautiful are they with coral crests contrasting with the black and white feathers! Pip was hamming it up for the camera (surprise, surprise!) Your website is a guaranteed smile.

  3. so glad to read your thoughts on space issues for hens, as my husband and i are going to re-build and re-locate our hen area—now they have lots of space but it gets wet and we want to move them in yard where they have bushes to lounge under when it’s hot and also for protection against hawks…now i know to double the size of their coop area! Thanks! Also, love the bunny enjoying the greens–looking for my own bunny now to add to the mix!

  4. Here in the South, I grow some extra collard greens for my girls. They eat them down to the ribs. They’re not too keen on prickly turnip greens though.

  5. I think I am the only person whose chickens will not eat lettuce or other leafy greens. They will eat some grass hay at times, and fresh growing grass (our winter grass here in CA), but no other green food. We had our first rain of the season and the chicklets (2 mos. old) didn’t know what to think. But they put on their big girl panties and went out with the hens who were finding the first worms. Yum.

  6. I’ve been visiting your site for some time, and have wondered what you put in that little suet feeder attached to the roosts. Now I know! What a good idea. I’m also glad to hear your opinion on the space in some of the prefab chicken accommodations. Having seen many online, I’ve never thought they looked big enough. When we finally get our girls, we’ll make sure they have lots of room, nesting boxes, and roosts. Some day (sigh).

  7. I’d love a bigger house for my girls, but as it’s only a bedroom and laying area it’s OK for them. They have masses of outside space and shelter (although will still stand out getting completely soaked) – but a bigger house would mean there was space for me to have a folding chair hanging in there so I could sit with them. I love the smell of well-kept animals, clean bedding, a bit of fresh poo, warm feathers or fur. I like to go out at night and sniff at their little window!

  8. Another idea for the trap indoor days is to spread scratch feed around the floor of the coop or just black oil sunflower seeds. The black oil is very good for them during the cold months. By spreading them around in the litter it keeps them busy scratching for their favorite morsels and keeps the litter stirred up as well.

  9. You have so much knowledge about chickens. I have been reading up on chicken keeping since your talk in Westford last winter. I hope to have a coop in the spring. I can’t wait!!