Scratching with Daisy!
October 26, 2020
A lot of people may not know that chickens are extremely curious by nature, similar to our furry dog friends! The reason dogs sniff the ground is the same reason chickens scratch the ground; it’s their way of exploring and getting familiar with the world around them. And at Blue Sky Family Farms we know, freedom to scratch is what makes all of our ladies so happy, relaxed, and healthy!
Our girl Daisy spends most of her leisure time scratching for all sorts of reasons – to forage, to prep for dust bathing, to build nests, to bond with other hens – or just because she’s curious!
When hens leave the barn to forage, it involves lots of scratching. As our ladies explore and dig the soil, they find and feast on tasty insects, worms, and seeds, which further fortifies their diet. Scratching also supports another favorite behavior: dust bathing. Hens scratch out the perfect sized hole and dip into their luxurious dust bath to clean off and cool down. Daisy and the ladies also love scratching to build nests. Although all of our hens have cozy places to rest inside our barns, they instinctively have the urge to build a nest outside for lounging purposes. Scratching is one of many ways to bond with other hens. It’s our ladies’ way of saying “Hello” or “I’m comfortable around you” to other chickens, and even us humans!
Through our research and experience, we’ve seen that a higher intensity of scratching translates to better bird welfare since it gives them an outlet to relieve stress. When hens are caged their entire lives or are “cage free,” they tend to have no space to engage in an instinctual behavior like scratching. With restrictions to their movements, stress will often be taken out on other hens instead of the ground. This goes as far as the hens pecking their fellow cage mates and ripping out their feathers and yes…it’s as painful as it sounds (similar to what we feel when our hair is forcefully pulled out).
Last but not least, when chickens are not given pasture space to scratch, their nails continue to grow – sometimes their toenails grow so long that they begin to curl under their feet, which makes it extremely hard and painful to walk. Scratching is a natural pedicure for our ladies’ nails, which allows them to strut comfortably and confidently!
On all of our pastures, we focus on creating a space where hens, like Daisy, have the freedom to be curious and behave naturally. So…here’s to many more happy days filled with scratching for our ladies!
Continue to follow along next week to learn about Mabel’s favorite activity: Dust Bathing.