Shiny ob­jects won’t keep your chick­ens en­ter­tained for long

Your Chickens - - Ask Our Experts -

Q I’ve heard that mag­pies and crows are at­tracted to shiny things and can some­times steal them and hide them in their nests. Are there any cases of chick­ens do­ing the same thing? Can I stop my chick­ens get­ting bored by giv­ing them shiny things to play with?

A Michelle Dunn says: It’s true that there are a lot of sto­ries about mag­pies steal­ing shiny things. The be­lief was that the ob­jects were stolen to dec­o­rate the mag­pie’s nest to at­tract fe­males, al­though some re­search un­der­taken by the Univer­sity of Ex­eter a few years ago seemed to show that wild mag­pies have no in­ter­est in shiny ob­jects and are ac­tu­ally quite wary of them. Tame mag­pies, on the other hand, will of­ten take small shiny ob­jects, par­tic­u­larly if they are of­fered them by their own­ers. Mag­pies are ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent, so it seems pos­si­ble that wild mag­pies have learned from ex­pe­ri­ence to be wary around metal ob­jects, whereas tame mag­pies trust their own­ers not to of­fer them some­thing harm­ful.

So where does this leave us with chick­ens? Chick­ens will of­ten peck at jew­ellery, sparkly nail var­nish or shiny zips, but they usu­ally lose in­ter­est fairly quickly and I have never seen a chicken take a shiny ob­ject to its nest. The most likely ex­pla­na­tion for a chicken’s in­ter­est in shiny things is as food. Bee­tles, for in­stance, are of­ten ex­tremely shiny and bee­tles are good to eat. Chick­ens quickly lose in­ter­est in shiny ob­jects when they find they can’t eat them, so if you want to en­ter­tain your chick­ens you would do bet­ter by hid­ing a favourite tit­bit in some hay or leaves.

Tame mag­pies are said to be in­ter­ested in shiny ob­jects

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