Treat Holder for Hens

Way back in 2006 I blogged about how I hang a cabbage to entertain the chickens when they’re confined due to bad weather. Over the years, I’ve posted photos (some, like this one, have made the rounds of Pinterest.)

Since this winter is never-ending (0º F this morning, and a big snowstorm predicted for Sunday night) I’ve had to provide the chickens with more than cabbage to banish the winter boredom blahs.

In the Gem’s coop, I have a suet feeder hanging from a chain. I can fill it with anything from greens to a slice of stale bread. The variety is good for their minds and health.

suet feeder


The chickens can’t gorge on the treats. They have to work for them. The feeder swings. The hens have to peck precisely through the mesh squares. It helps to keep them occupied while we all dream of springtime.


  1. Just yesterday I was thinking of how you keep all your girls busy. I only have 4. I tried the hanging cabbage ball …just didn’t hang right with them….lol. I was thinking maybe because it was frozen, my coop has a covered outside place where they hang out during the day. I’m afraid if I put it upstairs where they perch and it’s warmer they won’t go for it…they go upstairs to lay, but maybe I’ll try it. What I have been doing since there’s a foot of snow and they don’t go out is when I peel carrots or sweet potatos, whatever veggie I think they might like, I chop them in a food processor with maybe some kale or whatever I have on hand, and sprinkle it all over when I go check to see if the water is frozen…I figure that’s healthier than cracked corn and meal worms, So they get a small treat 2-3 times a day. Spring is going to look so good this year!

  2. Endless winter is dead on. Sunday they are predicting freezing rain, sleet and snow, in that order and a total of 3-6 inches. Of course if it turns to snow sooner (my fingers crossed for this option) then much more snow. Could have huge problems if it’s more on the freezing rain side.

  3. We are not as cold as you yet, but it is supposed to be 5 degrees by Tuesday night. We are also supposed to get the sleet and snow on Sunday, here in Missouri. I try to sprinkle scratch grains out where they scratch and dig around in their covered pen, provide a dust bath, and bring them a surprise of scraps of food, meal worms, cabbage in a suet hanger, or a squash, but the most fun to watch is when I give them overgrown pots of lettuce that are actually still green, and growing in a pot of dirt. I grow greens in a little greenhouse for use in salads, so after cutting the greens several times, I give the planter to the hens. They love it!
    By the way, your Speckled Sussex are beautiful! Love the photo!

  4. No rain for a year and now we are being bombarded with rain…be careful what you wish/pray for…I like it though..maybe my veggies will come up????? I love your ideas Terry!

  5. Aren’t suet feeders wonderful? In the spring I like to fill one with string, cotton balls, and dog fur and watch to see who takes what.

    And snow coming here, too. At this point in time, our choices for Sun-Mon are either 10-12 inches of snow or straight ice. Praying for snow.

    • The goats leave so much fur when they shed that I don’t have to leave anything else for the birds :)
      And I agree, snow is better than ice. Stay warm and safe!

    • Do birds use cat hair for their nests? My orange fuzzy cat is starting to shed and I could put that in a feeder for the birds. Of course I wouldn’t want the baby birds to associate the cat with their safe place…

        • I often brushed my cat on the porch railing outside of my kitchen door. I would leave the brush right out there…well, didn’t the Black Cap chicadees pick the brush clean for their nests! I don’t think the bird babies suffered from soft hair in their nests.

        • Yes, I’ve seen birds use cat hair that I put out in clumps on the tree branches. Even from my own hairbrush…seems they really don’t care what the fiber is…depending on the bird. I’ve put out cotton strings, fabric with shredded edges for the birds to pick at, and bits of yarn. I am careful not to put out things that decay or absorb too much water…though I think the birds know what to take on their own. It’s fun to watch them and know I take part in their families!

  6. We’ve gotten about 2 inches of rain in the last 2 days with more on the way. The girls are complaining about their muddy feet but I am hoping for a good long soaking. We’ve got a lot of catching up in CA to make up for no rain at all in Dec/Jan – usually our wettest time of year. I planted some fennel and red and gold beets the day before this storm moved in so that they could have a taste of the real stuff before I have to go back to irrigation. I can’t even imagine dealing with a polar vortex…stay safe and warm!

  7. I love the speckled Sussex. Yours are the first I saw. After I had gotten my girls. They are on my list for next time. So pretty.

  8. Would some hens like different levels of swinging perches as well ? I have seen some hens who seemed to like that as well.

  9. I have read your blog for awhile and find it helpful. One point Terry you make, which now I am a true believer in, is the use of layer pellets over crumbles. Your point is that pellets have less waste. I have used crumbles mixed with a bit of corn for awhile and now I am really seeing how little of the crumbles is consumed because it gets powdery very quickly. Now I have essentially “corn addict” syndrome. My chicken is not recognizing the pellet as food, even if that is her only choice all day. Have tried mixing to make the transition easier….but it is an issue and I become concerned when her eggs come out pointy on the end or at times rubbery.

    • As you’ve seen, if you mix corn with feed, the chickens toss out the feed. Some organic feeds aren’t pelletized, and the same issue exists, with the chickens picking what to eat and not consuming the legumes for protein. I doubt that your chickens will starve. They will eat the pellets! Mix the crumbles with the pellets so they get the idea. Meanwhile, don’t give them any other food so that they aren’t filling up on treats (even good ones, like veggies.)

  10. The Gems are having a spirited game of tether ball. Kind of like beach volleyball in the barn!

  11. Yes I will practice the tough love mindset…..thank you for your input.