I spent most of Saturday decorating my house for the holidays. Since we live miles from the closest town and ware nowhere near our nearest neighbor, we limit our outdoor decor to a Christmas doormat and a few festive wreaths. Indoors, however, I go all out with holly, snowmen, bells, Santas and much more.
The unifying factor is the collection of wreaths I hang at every possible spot in the house.
While I may not go all out decorating our coops, I do add a few seasonal touches to each of our runs. I learned the hard way in my first few years of poultry keeping that chickens are curious about everything, especially shiny, sparkly stuff. This kind of decor might look lovely to human eyes. But it can put birds at risk, especially if they ingest parts of it.
Instead, I hang homemade wreaths that might not glitter or glow but are gastronomically safe and delicious for chickens.
Assembling these four wreaths is part of my family’s Thanksgiving weekend festivities. My kids have a blast creating these, hanging them from the chicken-run fences and coop walls, then scrambling out of the way as the chickens dash toward the holiday treats.
Our wreaths vary in difficulty so that even the littlest hands can help assemble them.
As with any chicken treat, offer your ornamental edibles in moderation to ensure your flock’s main source of nutrition is their feed. Also, if you live in an area frequented by raccoons, opossums and other opportunistic predators, be sure to take down your wreaths so these animals are not drawn to your chickens and coop.
While my mother absolutely refused to allow strings of popcorn and cranberries to touch her tree, my Aunt Lily had no qualms letting my cousins Cathy and Joanne and I sit for hours in front of the TV, pulling needle and thread through hundreds of berries and popped kernels. We’d hang these on the tree along with our construction-paper chains.
To change this holiday tradition up for your chickens, use 18- or 20-gauge jewelry wire (available at craft stores). Thicker wire will break the popcorn and ruin the berries. Thinner is hard to thread and will not hold its shape.
Cut a length of wire anywhere from 20 inches to 36 inches in length. This length will vary according to how large you want your wreath to be. Carefully shape it into a circle (I wrap the wire around a bucket to give it a circular shape).
Use unsalted, unflavored popcorn (freshly popped works best) and cranberries that have been refrigerated at least two hours. Leaving 1 to 2 inches of wire free at the start and end, gently string the popcorn and cranberries. Alternate in your choice of pattern.
Twist the free ends together to close the wreath circle, then use this surplus wire to attach the wreath to your run fence or hang it inside your coop.
Green & Red Glory
The same concept as the popcorn/cranberry wreath, just a step up on the difficulty scale. Substitute chilled green grapes and chilled grape or cherry tomatoes for the popcorn and cranberries. Our chickens love these wreaths the best, as they incorporate two of their favorite summertime snacks.
Unlike the popcorn-cranberry version, these wreaths should only be hung outdoors with your chickens due to the fruits’ high moisture content.
Boughs of ‘Coli
I came up with this idea quite accidentally five years ago. While cleaning out the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers, I discovered, to my dismay, several broccoli heads I’d forgotten to prepare for our holiday meal. The florettes were no longer firm, so I knew my family wouldn’t eat them.
I put one crown of broccoli in each run. Our flocks spent the entire day pecking away at the vegetable. Who knew that one crown would keep so many birds so entertained?
For this wreath, use five broccoli crown, either quartered or separated into large florettes. Either way, leave about an inch or more of stem.
Wrap 22- to 26-gauge florist’s wire (available at craft stores) about eight to 10 times around one stem. Then continue to the next broccoli segment and repeat, leaving a 2- to 3-inch length of wire between the pieces. Repeat until all the broccoli is used.
Connect back to the first piece and wrap the wire around the stem multiple times. Then leave a 6-inch length of wire at the end. This half-foot of wire will be threaded through your run fence to hang your broccoli wreath.
It may not win any prizes for appearance, but your bird will love it.
The idea for this wreath actually originated from a grade-school project my son Michael made. Each child in his class came home with a pine cone which had been coated in smooth peanut butter, then rolled in a wild bird seed mix. Florist’s wire had been twisted around the base of the cone to create a loop from which the cone could be hung.
It was supposed to be a Christmas gift to nature. But it got my gears turning.
If you don’t grow pine cones where you live, you can buy them at your crafts store. Just make sure they are unpainted and fragrance free. Some stores sell natural cones in ropes. This is ideal for this project.
Wrap the same gauge florist’s wire around the bottom of each cone, leaving a length of wire about 4 to 5 inches of wire at the end. Create a strong loop with this length. If you have a rope of cones, loop the rope multiple times into the shape of a wreath. Then use florist’s wire to wrap the ropes together every 6 inches along the wreath’s circumference.
Use a knife to spread each cone with peanut butter, then pour mixed bird seed over each cone. Pat the seed into the peanut butter. Flip the cones and seed the other side.
For the individual cones, use more florist’s wire to string them together through their loops, creating a wreath (you can also use them individually). For the roped cones, create a loop out of florist’s wire and wrap it around the ropes. Hang your cone wreaths either on the run fence or in the coop with your chickens.
Take note that, if you hang your cone wreath outside, you may draw songbirds to join in the feast. Consider making some cones for them to hang near your windows, where your family can enjoy viewing them.