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If you are able to free range your chickens, that’s great! Their lives are probably pretty interesting, and their diet is quite varied. But if you live in an area where predators are a problem, as I do, free-ranging just isn’t possible. My chickens spend their time in a roomy and comfortable, but also safe, chicken coop and run.

The thing is, when you really think about, life for a confined chicken isn’t very stimulating. Their whole world is pretty small, and they eat mainly the same food day in and day out. Their view, the sounds they hear, and even the things they smell don’t change much. Taking all that into consideration, it shouldn’t surprise you that they can get a little bored.

Unfortunately, depression and boredom in chickens can lead to other problems. They might pick on each other or start eating their eggs. In extreme cases, they might even turn to cannibalism. Obviously, these are behaviors you want to avoid. The best way to overcome boredom and depression in your flock is to provide enrichment that will keep them stimulated and encourage their natural behaviors.

What Exactly Does It Mean to Enrich Their Environment?

If you have ever been to the zoo and heard a talk by one of the keepers, you’ve probably heard them talk about how they provide enrichment for the animals. They might give a lion a giant ball to play with one day, and some kind of special food treat the next.

The concept of providing enrichment for these confined animals can easily be applied to our backyard flocks (and other livestock, too!) In fact, if you do things like scattering mealworms in the straw for your chickens to find or give them a cut up pumpkin as a special treat, you are already providing them with some enrichment activities.

Studies among many different species have shown that providing enrichment for animals living in captivity has shown positive behavior changes like a decrease in aggressive and destructive behaviors. Other benefits include more successful reproduction, increased activity, and improved overall health and well being.

How to Provide Enrichment for Your Chickens

The idea is to provide novelty, variety, stimulation, and encourage natural behaviors. For chickens, that means providing opportunities for things like dust bathing, roosting, and foraging. You want to change things up and vary their routine.

Something as simple as tossing them their mealworm treats at a different time every day provides a change in routine. Step it up by giving the treats in a variety of ways, like tossing them in the straw for them to find one day and using a treat dispenser the next. Even better, change up the treats each day; give them black oil sunflower seeds one day, scratch grains the next and cracked corn another. Switching things up will keep them interested.

Some Ideas to Get You Started

Correcting Destructive Behaviors

One of the most significant benefits of enrichment is altering destructive behaviors. For example, if you are having a problem with feather pecking in your flock, find something to distract them from that behavior. You could try hanging a cabbage in their run for them to peck at. If that causes an improvement in the bad behavior, try hanging some other kind of treat each day to keep them interested.

Food Enrichment

Offering different foods to your chickens is an easy way to provide enrichment for your chickens, and it has the added benefit of providing better nutrition. Observe a flock of free range chickens, and you’ll see that they spend their time foraging for fallen fruits, bugs, seeds, or favorite vegetation to munch on. Mimicking that behavior in your confined flock is key to their wellbeing.

Offer things like kitchen scraps, leftover pasta, surplus fruits and veggies from your garden, and of course mealworms, to change things up. Chickens love pumpkin, zucchini, apple peels, and kale. And, don’t just change up the food, change up the way you offer it to them, too. Puzzle feeders that are made for dogs can be great fun for your chickens, also.

Habitat Enrichment

One of the easiest things you can do is to change up their environment once in a while. Move their perches around. Try putting some up high and some down low or add a swinging perch. Vary the material and size of their perches, too.

Another fun idea is to change up the material in the bottom of their run. Use fallen leaves in the fall and winter. They’ll love searching out all the bugs to munch on. Maybe you can get your hands on some wood chips leftover from some tree work. And, of course, you can use straw and bagged chips sometimes, too.

When you mow your lawn, give your chickens a big pile of grass clippings (make sure they’re not chemically treated, of course). They will be busy scratching through it for hours looking for bugs, and they’ll eat a lot of the grass, too.

When you weed the garden, save the dandelions and other safe weeds for your chickens. They’ll even be thrilled if you toss them a couple shovels full of loose dirt to scratch through.

If you can change up their environment once in a while, your chickens will love you for it. Let them forage in your fenced in garden at the end of the season. If your yard is fenced, maybe you could give them some supervised foraging time once in a while, too. They’re great for free weed and pest control!

A Word of Caution

When offering new foods to your chickens, never give them anything that’s moldy. Avoid green potato peels, salt, fatty foods, dried beans, and chocolate. Be aware that giving them a lot of onions or garlic may affect the flavor of their eggs. Any time you add something new to the coop or run, be on the lookout for potential strangulation or entrapment hazards.

Have fun with it! Providing enrichment opportunities can be just as entertaining for you as it is your chickens. You’ll get a kick out of watching them go crazy over a new treat or toy, and coming up with new ideas can be a lot of fun, too!

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Natural Beauty: 3 Homemade Face Masks For Dry Skin

Dry skin can be caused and made worse by several things, including poor diet, dehydration, reactions to chemicals found in skincare products, and even changes in the weather. Homemade face masks provide a safe and effective solution that will help to rehydrate and moisturize your skin. Here are three homemade face masks for dry skin.

Avocado, Oatmeal, and Aloe Vera Mask

Avocado is rich in vitamin E and healthy fats that nourish the skin, leaving it feeling soft and smooth. Oatmeal is a natural skin softener that aids the removal of dead skin cells and also binds other face mask ingredients together, helping to form a paste. Aloe vera is an excellent ingredient for hydrating the skin and combating dryness.

Peel the avocado and remove the stone, then mash thoroughly using a fork. Add two teaspoons of aloe vera gel and mix. Next, add one or two tablespoons of oatmeal, depending on the consistency you want. Apply the mask to your face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse your skin thoroughly, but avoid cleansing for at least half an hour, as the avocado will still be soaking into the deeper layers of your skin.

Olive Oil, Gram Flour, and Turmeric Mask

Olive oil is one of nature’s most potent moisturizers, with the ability to repair damaged or dry skin. Gram flour acts as a cleanser and exfoliator to remove dirt from deep within the pores. Turmeric is full of antioxidants and healing properties that help to repair damaged skin.

Make a healing and moisturizing face mask by mixing two tablespoons of olive oil, half a teaspoon of turmeric and one or two tablespoons of gram flour. Apply the paste to your skin, taking special care to avoid the delicate area around the eyes, and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove the mask with a damp cloth or cotton wool to keep the turmeric away from your eyes. Cleanse your face as usual.

Egg, Milk and Yogurt Mask

Egg yolk is an efficient skin softener that nourishes the skin and combats dryness. Milk is also an excellent skin moisturizer that works well on dry skin. Yogurt cleanses, soothes and softens the skin, while also making it easier to remove dead skin cells.

Start by separating the egg, as you only need to use the yolk for this recipe. Mix one egg yolk with two tablespoons of plain yogurt. Add one to two tablespoons of powdered milk and mix. Unless you use yogurt with a thick consistency, you may need to use extra powdered milk or other bulking agents, such as oatmeal or gram flour, to help thicken the mixture. Apply the mask to your face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse and cleanse as usual.

Store-bought beauty products can make dry skin worse, but homemade face masks provide an efficient and natural solution for most people. Ingredients found in your kitchen cupboard can make excellent moisturizers that help to soften and hydrate your skin.

Check out: 3 Homemade Face Masks For Sensitive Skin | 3 Homemade Face Masks For Oily Skin

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