Pecking objects

Providing pecking objects in the house can be a simple easy way to help keep the hens occupied and keep their attention away from pecking other birds. There are many ways to keep the hens occupied in the house. Producers have found several different, inexpensive objects that can promote positive foraging behaviour.

hens pecking a pecking block   haynet hung up in shed

Pecking blocks will help to keep the hens occupied and blunt their beaks. They are more effective hung up. Use a piece of piping through the middle of the block to pass the rope through and hang them up by.

Hay nets filled with treated straw or hay can be hung up on the litter. If you find the hens are emptying them too quickly try haylage nets or nets with smaller holes.

haynet with egg trays inside it
hung up string in the shed

Crumpled and ripped egg cartons or trays placed in hay nets can be cheaper, longer lasting alternative to hay or straw. The hens still find it interesting and it will help to keep them occupied.

String is one of the simplest pecking objects used on farms. String or rope made of natural fibres is safer and preferable over baling twine or similar materials.

hens pecking alfafa blocks
hung up plastic containers

Alfalfa blocks can be used as an extra foraging material. These are a source of protein and fibre and will help to keep the hens satisfied.

Plastic bottles, old wellington boots and buckets are just a few examples of objects that can be used to enrich the hens environment. These should all be appropriately cleaned before being placed in the shed.

Haybales can be placed whole on the litter and left to be pulled apart by the hens. By making the bales more compact, either by keeping the wrapping or the twine around the bale it will last longer. Similarly, bags of shavings or other litter material can also be left to be spread out by the hens.

Multi-tier units offer plenty of spaces to hang pecking objects. String is an especially cheap and effective enrichment toy. Ensure that it is replaced when needed throughout the flock cycle.

Making improvements

FeatherWel - improving feather cover AssureWel - improving feather cover Defra guide

FeatherWel management guide
[pdf, 5.49mb]

AssureWel advice guide
[pdf, 661kb]

Defra feather pecking guide
[pdf, 503kb]