How do I get my chickens to use The Chicken Swing?
Chickens being birds are a bit quirky. Nonetheless, they are extremely habitual and love a routine. It seems the older they get, the slower they are to take on new habits. They are pretty low on the food chain which makes it nice for us because their production rate is high – lots of eggs! However, this makes them cautious and wary of new things. It also makes them group or flock up. They prefer another bird to try new things first. They also remember things surprisingly well. Do you know they will always remember and bond with their hatch mates? They also remember things that scare them and things that reward them with food or pleasure. There are also basic instincts I call "Chicken Things". One of them is roosting up high in trees. If they perch on moving narrow branches a lot of predators are unable to get them. A moving perch is natural to them.
So, with all that being said, how do we get chickens to get on The Chicken Swing?
Place the swing above the heads of the other fowl in your coop, if you can. You don't want the swing spooking or hitting other birds (the light - weight design and smooth edges will not injure them.) They are quite able to jump up to four feet or more. A good starting point for full grown/ teenage chickens is twenty inches, or about your knee – height. If you have a small coop and cannot raise the swing that much, don’t worry. Swinging birds will not be able to get the big swing gliding motion or as hard of a kick off as with a full – height set up. But, they will still enjoy the gentler swinging movement of a smaller backyard coop set up. Other fowl will learn to stay clear. They tend to naturally stay out of the way of its movement.
Place The Chicken Swing™ free of obstructions as it swings. For a full swing installation, try to keep it about 18 - 24” away from walls or objects in the swing plane. Smaller coop set - ups have less swing so you can get away with having closer objects. Once they trust the swing, chickens grow more tolerant of kickoffs banging against the coop. (I think that is the goal for some of my hens.) If you have more than one Swing, be sure they can’t collide.
If you have a trusting hen, you can try placing her up on the swing and immediately rewarding her with meal worm treats. Once she is used to that, gently give the swing a pull to get it swinging. Give her a treat eachtime it swings toward you. Soon she will jump up on the swing and start swinging when she hears the bag shake. However, if you try to force her, this method can backfire on you. If the hen gets scared or feels forced, she will relate this to the swing and the other hens might follow her lead of fear. This will set you back. I recommend you do not try this with all your flock, but choose only a few, be very gentle, remain calm, and have rewards ready. Of my 30 hens, only 4 or 5 were taught using treats. Generally, if you get one swinging others will give it a try. I note that in my flock, hens that use the swing most often are not necessarily those trained using treats. Chickens tend to choose their own time. Some are very habitual while others are whimsical. Some are morning swingers. Some swing after their daily egg. Some hop on at odd times. Chickens are chickens, I guess.
One other thing you can use is youth. Young chickens have a lot more free time and are more willing to take risks. Introduce the Swing soon after bringing them home, or at least before they start laying. Not only is it an irresistible adventure for them, it is just too dang cute to watch them carry on and practice moves. I have had older chickens take up swinging. But results are quicker with younger fowl.
Start your chicks out swinging
Whether your chicks are bought from a hatchery or hatched in your coop, chicks will take naturally to The Chicken Swing™ in most cases. The design of our swing allows for chicks just days old to hop up and start trying it out. Its design is lightweight and will not injure them if they are bumped when a hatch mate or fowl of similar size is using it. You may set it up right in your brooder by using the “small coop installation” procedure. Hang the swing from the cross-member using some extra S-Hooks, or by re threading the rope. You can also use a broom stick or shower rod on top of your brooder box and install it similar to full swing method. Just lower the Cross-Member support knot (or untie it) and let the Cross-Member rest on the Side Tie Knot.
For the first few days, set the swing height about two inches above the floor. You may gently place the chick on the swing perch. If they jump off right away, that is just fine. Don’t try to force a chicken to swing. They will get on by themselves after your initial placement if you have been gentle. (No treat is needed with very young chicks.)
After they all seem to have gotten comfortable jumping up on it in this low stage, begin raising it bit by bit as they grow. It is amazing how high those little fluffs can jump! If you have different - sized chicks, you may set a stump or something similar under one side of the swing to help the smaller ones get on. Be prepared to spend way too much time watching them play!
A final point: my flock gets excited when they hear me coming. They stop doing whatever they were doing anticipating garden scraps or treats. This makes it hard to get photos of them swinging. I see them swinging the most when I look out the window out of sight. I had to stop fussing over them every time I went out there so they would just keep swinging when I wanted to take a picture or show them off to a friend. And remember peafowl and turkeys also enjoy The Chicken Swing™!
Fowl Play Products® hopes this information helps to get your backyard flock swinging. If you have older fowl, it might be tricky and take some time to get it going. The saying “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is sometimes true. In the end it is up to individual chickens. Not all fowl like to Swing, but we found a whole lot of them do. If you are unable to get your older Chickens to take up swinging, you may want to get a few chicks and introduce The Chicken Swing™ to them. Their example might set the mood for other fowl in your coop.