Shiny objects won’t keep your chickens entertained for long
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