How To Make Your Hens Happy

At the most basic level, chickens need good food and water. A secure shelter, places to roost and to lay eggs. They need fresh air and sunshine. They need to be able to scratch the ground and take dirt baths. They need enough space so that they’re not stressed by crowding. These things will keep your flock healthy and content enough.

However, to make them happy, chickens need more than a large, clean pen. The need variation – even hens get bored in a blank enclosure with just pellets to eat and nothing new to see and explore.. Yes, happy is a human term that might not exactly fit with what the animal is experiencing. But it’s close enough.

If you want to see a flock of totally delighted hens, rake your run, then add clean, loose sand (I use all-purpose builders sand.) How can I tell that this makes the girls happy? The chickens will dig deep holes and loll about in them. Listen and you’ll hear gleeful chortling.

Dirt will fly.

dirty hens


Don’t be alarmed by the contortions of your dust-bathing hens.




The rabbit (if you have one) will get into the act.



So much happiness for so little effort and expense on my part.



What makes your hens happy?

(For more ideas on how to keep your hens busy and happy, read this post.)


  1. I mowed the yard last night. They got two big bags of freshly cut grass to scratch through and eat the “prime” cuttings.
    It will keep them busy for a few days scratching it from one side of the run to the other.

  2. They do look like they are having seizures when they dust bathe. But it is pure bliss for my girls. And the amusement continues because afterwards, they walk around like they have something in their pants until they remember to shake. Then everything is covered in a fine dust. So fun!

  3. The flypaper answer made me smile :) My girls love to dust bath, but this year we have had a very very wet spring/summer. It has been raining for 3 whole days with no let up, so the girls have been unable to dust bath in the garden. We made 2 extra covered areas last year because we knew it would be a wet winter and they have proved invaluable this year for the girls to get out of the rain. I dug out a bin full of soil which I sieved and made sure it was very dry, then mixed with sand and DE powder. I made a frame 6’x3′ tipped the mix in and now the girls can bath when ever they want in the dry. Outlook for this winter looks wet as well so I think they will be making use off there dry areas a lot :)

  4. Mine have just now turned 6wks. When they were about 4days old I brought in a small tub of loose dirt with about a Tblsp of ash mixed in, they studied it for about 5 minutes then got in it. About another 5min. someone started dust bathing, then it was ON! I let them out in the run around 2weeks(it was so sunny and hot) the first thing they did was find a sandy area and dust bathe. We have about 12×12 covered then another 5×10 that is uncovered, they have little dust bathing holes made in both areas, some in the shade and others in the sun. It rained buckets the other day and they would gleefully run into the rain through the puddles then back under the cover, it reminded me of children dashing in and out the rain.
    I gather things for them on our nightly walk and when they see their “bucket” come out in the morning they just get all excited. Clover, broad leaf plantain, tick trefoil, ragweed and more all grow wild in our bottom land and then they also have veggies as well.

    • By “uncovered” I mean no roof, it absolutely has a wire top-we have a pair of Red Tailed Hawks that live on our property and they also had 2 young ones this year, so 4 hawks is always a concern.

  5. I use an electric mower so the girls get the bag contents every week, they love digging through it

  6. Terry, Sorry to say but I think Twiggy needs one of your Spa baths. Just watched her come out of a nestbox and down the ramp, so got close look at her rear and she is very messy, I wondered if she has laid a broken egg, also she still has the runs.

  7. Raking leaves up into a tarp, and later emptying the tarp out into the pen for the hens to scratch at. They also enjoy special deliveries of anthills and some leftovers from the house.

    They are so used to their gifts, that now if I come out to say hello they’ll beg for treats. Especially Speckles, the sussex.

    • The dust bathing pictures also remind me of how weird they are when they do it. I’ve had them come out in the rain for a bath, and have seen them almost fall asleep inside. Speckles even blends in with dirt, so it’s hard to see her from afar.

  8. My pen is adjacent to the street outside my house, and I have, over the years, had numerous people come knocking on my door to tell me that one or more of my hens is in terrible trouble—lying there dead, having convulsions, etc. The pen looks like a moonscape most of the time—they do love their dust baths! I sprinkle water on the dirt when it is excruciatingly hot here, and they are delighted to bathe in damp soil as well.

    • My pens are seen by a worldwide “neighborhood” and I have had people from all over email me to say that “one of your chickens is dead!” I always worry. It’s always a dust bathing hen :)

  9. I think it’s fun to put out different things for the hens to find when they come out in the morning. Weather it’s as simple as rolling some logs to expose the insects, or setting up a hen sandbox with an old raised bed frame and some sand, I feel that they enjoy variety.

    • I agree, chickens seem to enjoy/thrive on variety – and routine. I try to combine the two whenever I can; for example I throw something different in their compost area (almost) every morning before I open the pop door, and they all head straight for the pile to check what goodies have appeared overnight. Kitchen scraps, stuff from the veggie garden, weeds …
      I also feed them fermented grains in the evening when I get home from work, which they love. They line up at the gate and call for me as soon as they hear me coming up the driveway, which is not visible to them … they have amazing hearing.

  10. The usual morning treats of a mixture of millet seeds and sunflower seeds are what keep my four girls happy. It keeps them busy for hours scratching the ground to find the last millet seed. Also, I dig up a portion of their run once a week to turn the dirt over. When they see me walking towards the run carrying a shovel, the squaking starts. They love going over the turn-over dirt looking for all sorts of bugs, like kids in a candy store. Lately, one of the buff had been chasing some mice that shows up in their run. Lo and behold, she actually nailed a couple of them already. I had to grab the dead mouse away from her. I just wonder if this is good or bad for her, having a taste of mouse blood?

  11. Chickens do eat meat, so getting a mouse isn’t going to change their basic nature :) If you start seeing mice in the run during the day, then you might have a mouse problem. You might want to tidy up areas where they could be nesting.

    • It’s so interesting to read everyone’s suggestions Terry. Your readers have some great ideas that I think I might have to try. It does seem they are so happy with the “little things” you do.

      I was waiting to see the answer about the mouse myself. When I was studying breeds to determine what I wanted I saw a write-up on Buckeyes and they are touted as “good mousers” :) I did not get any because they are energetic and more suited to free ranging, but my imagination takes me to an old farmer who keeps Buckeyes around for mousing instead of cats.
      ~Hope Twiggy is doing better, I do so hope everything is settling down. Another side note, Pearl is just too much with her strut and fluff, she must still be broody.

  12. I like to see my chickens smile. They do it when I bring them bugs to eat, when I let them out to forage the yard, when I give them part of a watermelon. I like to see my dogs smile too: wagging tails and loose to run as fast as they can in an open field.

  13. Peat moss, my girls like to dust bathe in it. Peat moss also dries up the poop really well. A bit dusty, but I still like it.