“Hi. I enjoy your newsletter very much. I am a fairly new chicken owner. I have 2 Rhode Island Red Hens. I don’t know if it is their breed and I understand chickens “scratch” the ground, but my girls dig holes. They dig along the edges of their coop. They are in a huge coop for just the 2 of them.
I hung the cd’s as a distraction… not working. And they don’t reflect onto the ground so I know the girls are not digging trying to get the rainbow. Also, I have filled in the holes with concrete chunks before I filled the dirt back in thinking if they scratch and hit the chunks that they would not like the feeling… I was wrong. I’m really frustrated with them. Please help. Thanks from Florida.” ~ Laura
Thanks for the question.
Chickens “dig” for a couple of reasons.
Most often you will see them scratching at the ground in search of bugs.
The protein derived from insects is an important part of your chicken’s diet, especially if you are not using commercial feed.
As an added bonus, the chickens find it absolutely wonderful to unearth bugs; they get so excited by the challenge.
I’ve seen one of my chickens unearth a few bugs and everyone came running to try to get some of the bounty.
Another reason chickens scratch is to dig down to the soft, cool earth and flop down for a dust bath.
They lay on their backs close their eyes and roll around working the fine dirt deep down their feathers to their skin. When their finished they’ll hop up, shake off all the dirt and somehow , they’re clean.
Imagine that, covering themselves in dirt actually gets them clean. I wish my children could figure out how to do that, they just get dirty.
In addition to cleaning the chickens, dirt naturally clogs the respiratory pores of parasites, like lice and mites. When the respiratory pores of these parasites are clogged, they can no longer breathe and they die. Smart chickens, huh?
So Laura, when the chickens dig, it’s actually a good thing, except when they dig and create and escape route, making themselves vulnerable to predators or to gain access to the vegetable garden!
If your chickens are digging around the fence line, the best solution I can give you is to bury the chicken wire about 12 inches below the ground.
It takes some work but just dig a trench down into the soil under the existing fence and attach additional chicken wire to the fence, burying the second piece.
Return the dirt and you’re all set.
Chickens are not burrowing animals so they will not dig down that far and will remain safely inside the coop.
A second advantage of this remedy is that it will deter predators, as well as any other animals, from getting into the coop.
I hope this as answered your question Laura, thanks again for writing.
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