Shoot a Note To

sandy mcpadden behavior consulting 




The Buzz on Enrichment

Come and learn how to spice up your pets life! Follow The Buzz on Enrichment for great DIY enrichment for the animals in your world. 


Filtering by Tag: chicken treats

Chick Starter

sandy mcpadden

Everyone in the whole wide world is getting chicks right now.

Not me. Why? Because I live in a city with livestock restrictions that don't yet exclude chickens. I'll have to work on that! 

I do have the next best thing though, a friend out of city limits who just hatched out his first clutch of chicks! Im sure that Ill wear out my welcome by the time they're out of their brooder. 

If you have ever been lucky enough to let your broody hen set and watch those little peeps grow up with mom, then you know that they are up and off as soon as everyone hatches. They are out foraging with mom as soon as 24 hours from hatching. While out foraging, the family comes into contact with various auditory, textural, social and (my favorite) novel foods. These are all sources of enrichment that are easy to take for granted. 

Raising chicks in the brooder has its own set of perks. (Can we say chick snuggles whenever you want?!) But, we have to get these little guys busy while they're in the brooder! What do your chicks see while they're growing? If your answer is the same 4 walls of a tupperware tub, let's enrich it! 

Some wild fowl have been observed actively foraging for up to 80% of daylight hours.

80% is massive. 

Here are some easy ways to get your hand raised peeps as stimulated as the chicks outside! 


This is a wreath made of Tea Tree branches by National Geographic. I took some grape vine branches that I had left over from making Ellie new perches and added legs. Now, the chickies have a natural roost to practice hopping about on. 


This is my favorite.

Now, you have flipped through the McMurray catalogue, or maybe you're a Tractor Supply Chick days type, and you've got your peeps. What is the next thing that you looked into? 

Feeding them. I try to stick with natural choices as often as I can, so a feed brand that I gravitated to was New Country Organics. They have an organic chick starter that is sure to set your peeps on the right track.

In addition to a good starter, chicks with mom are out foraging. They are foraging for the greens and foraging for the bugs and your chicks don't have to miss out! Petsmart has pinhead crickets that are the perfect size for tiny beaks to gobble up. 

The first time you feed your peeps live crickets, just pour some in and let them figure it out. Once they have the hang of it you can add a foraging ball to the mix like this ball made by National Geographic out of willow and agave. The foraging ball used with live feeders works 2-fold. It serves as a hiding place for the crickets which in turn makes it more difficult (and more realistic) for the chicks to forage. I always bring a jar so I don't have to take their plastic baggies every time. 

A jar of wheatgrass is a simple way to let them taste some good fresh greens. Your cats will thank you if you decide to share. Wheatgrass is also marketed as cat grass! 

Pinecones. You've made those pinecone feeders for the wild birds, right? They make great feeders for your birds too! sprinkle some starter in there and you're golden! 


Disclaimer- All of the items here are not perfect for every animal. Always watch your animals when giving enrichment. See how your animals interact with the items and each other. Are they picking too heavily at fibers? Are they getting too pushy at feeders? Please choose what you feel is best for the animals in your life and let them have fun! 


Wanna See Me Use My Melons?

sandy mcpadden

Put your pumpkin spice latte away, it's still summer. My maple tree out front popped out a red leaf and she's stressing me out. Im from Arizona so this whole "fall" thing in Indiana is cramping my style. Its still warm enough to lay out and that means it's still warm enough for some melon fun, OK? OK. 

maple tree

maple tree

I have two little roommates and they don't understand the concept of shared space, which means I see their things all over the floor, and POOF Ive got an epiphany. and a new toy. 

Enrichment has a reputation for being expensive and intricate(and it can be! just look at some cool shit going on at the Indianapolis Zoos International Orangutan Center and how about all of the fun going on at the St. Louis Zoo?But it certainly doesn't have to be. What really matters with creating enrichment is helping an animal exhibit "species typical", or natural behaviors. You would want to encourage stalking prey in your pet rabbit because thats not in their natural repertoire (and it would be really trippy to see a rabbit hunt). So, I made the geese out at Omas Haus (my moms farms)  in Arizona a cool treat. 

picture of final enrichment

picture of final enrichment

Looks super fun, right? Its obviously easy to make and lends itself to a ton of creative combinations to suit the needs of various foraging animals. Some Geese in natural habitats spend up to 95% of daylight foraging! I am 100% positive the geese at Omas Haus don't spend close to half of the day foraging because even when they are free-ranging, they're given two heaping meals a day (a game fowl crumble/scratch mix with whatever goodies come out of the kitchen that day) because they're the luckiest geese in the world (But, I swear every spring when the hen gets broody and her beau gets 7 kinds of protective I am tempted to offer him to the nearest dinner table. If you have geese you know that getting grabbed by a goose and beaten repeatedly with his wing is the best way to start your morning. so stupid). 

Anyways. The geese at Omas Haus are healthy. The geese at Omas Haus are happy. The geese at Omas Haus are so lucky that hers is the home that they found themselves at BUT, we can make their lives even better. By increasing the difficulty of foraging, we can increase the time it takes for them to eat, and by increasing the time it takes for them to eat, we are decreasing their down-time. With animals, down-time typically turns into time spent doing things they shouldn't. Think about it. Dog bored while you're at work=shoes destroyed. Bored kids in a waiting room=they can clear a waiting room with whining. By being proactive with increasing "species specific" behaviors, we can curb unwanted behaviors before they stop. 

Here is what you need:

chicken enrichment

Then, all you do is go Edward Scissor Hands on that mess and start stuffing it into the Oball. BAM. Donezo. 

chicken enrichment

Now, the geese will work a tad harder to get their breakfast (giving their noggins a good work out) and spend a tad more time foraging. 

chicken enrichment

Look mom, no mess! I made another salad for the chickens. This can be tossed in the water or on the grass, lending itself to be manipulated in a variety of ways. An OBall in the water is going to encourage beak use, where on the grass you're going to see a lot of foot work. Both awesome. 



Make this even MORE fun by adding live mealworms...maybe tomorrow Ill swing by and pick some up for the ladies in the hen house.