Ana Hotaling
December 19, 2018

This time of year my sons present me with lists of things they’d love for Christmas and will never receive, when my husband once again proves impossible to shop for, and when I once again explain to loved ones that there are no gifts I really want that can go under the tree.

“World peace,” I messaged one friend, who responded with eye-rolling emoji.

“Well-behaved children,” I informed my sons, who responded similarly, but in person.

“There has to be something you’d like,” my mother-in-law texted me. “Perhaps a new winter coat, or some jewelry?”

“In truth, there really isn’t any ‘thing’ that I’d personally like,” I explained. “I’ve got everything I need. Perhaps a gift card to my hair salon, so I can go there every now and then?”

I have a feeling I’ll be getting jewelry.

But wait. When I was outside recently, refilling chicken feeders and thinking of the holiday shopping still ahead of me, it dawned on me: There are indeed some items I’d love to receive. They aren’t really for me, but anything that makes the birds happy makes me happy. And if it makes me happy, chances are these might make you happy, too. Here are my top five chicken picks for holiday gifts:


1. An Automatic Chicken Coop Door Opener

Opening the coops every morning is never much fun on the weekend, when I’d like to sleep in just a little, and also during the winter, when I’d like to hibernate in my nice, warm bed instead of venture out into the frigid Michigan morning. Brinsea’s ChickSafe Extreme automatic chicken-coop door opener seems specifically designed for me. It works in extreme weather conditions (from minus-20 degrees F to 120 degrees) and it sets up swiftly, without clunky wires, switches and other confusing gizmos. The ChickSafe Extreme features an integrated timer and light sensor as well as a failsafe mode that lets you have control of when and how you want your door open. It runs on AA batteries or electric power. My two favorite features, however, are the door-closed indicator, which my increasingly poor eyesight can read clearly from as far as 100 yards away, and the extra-big buttons that I can effortlessly push even while wearing thick winter gloves.

2. Planet Pleasures Foraging Bird Toys

The little kickball that distributes scratch as it rolls? That’s so yesterday. Besides, my chickens figured out how to just knock it open and eat what’s inside. Other than tossing in quartered cabbage heads, I have been at a loss for how to keep my birds entertained. Enter Planet Pleasures. This company’s all-natural bird toys are hand made from rope and palm leaves, offering a shreddable, fibrous surface that helps prevent beak overgrowth. They are easily hung, keeping the toys out of the dirt as well as droppings typically found on the ground in a run. There are recesses where you can tuck in seeds and other treats for your chickens to find. These toys might have been designed with parrots and cockatiels in mind, but they should work with bantam birds and smaller standard chickens. At least, that’s my theory, and I’d love to test it. Available at Chewy.

3. Fowl Play Products Chicken Swing

I loved playground swings when I was little. I could spend hours just swinging back and forth, never bored, always having a great time. I have the feeling that my girls would love a swing of their own, and the Fowl Play Products Chicken Swing looks like a fit for fun and safety. Resistant to weather, mites and rot, the Chicken Swing features a textured perch that allows birds to grip and pump the swing. The length is adjustable and comes with safety side ties and a crossbar to keep the swing from twisting. My layers might not try to launch themselves sky high like I used to, but they should still find it lots of fun.

Hen Saver Hen Saddles

Ours is a breeding farm, meaning that we have a good number of roosters living amongst our ladybirds. The boys might be less hormonal now that daylight is scarce and the chill of winter is here, but come spring, roo randiness is in full swing. For years, I’ve protected my girls’ backs from roo roughness with the Hen Saver. This amazing hen saddle covers their backs, necks and, if desired (for a minimal charge), shoulders from the somewhat-destructive side effects of mating. The Hen Saver is available in several styles and sizes, as well as in a variety of colors. I dress my girls to match: the Blue Orpingtons wear denim Hen Savers, the Mottled Orpingtons sport khaki, and the Black Orpingtons are attired in brown. After several years, it’s time to refresh my layers’ wardrobe. Santa, I hope you’re paying attention.

A New Chicken Coop

I know, I know, I’m dreaming here. In truth, however, I’ve dreamed of a new chicken coop for a handful of years now. My husband Jae built all six of our coops, each one a slight redesign from its predecessor. Over time, however, I’ve determined that I would prefer one large henhouse, sectioned off into “rooms” for each of our flocks. Each room would be equipped with perches, feeder and waterer, plus several nestboxes that would be human-accessible from the henhouse’s hallway. Each flock would also have its own separately fenced run. In addition, there would be a storage area for feed, shavings, winter equipment and tools. Did I mention this has been a dream of mine? A new coop might be a dream of yours, too, especially if you are just beginning your chicken-keeping adventure. Coop blueprints can be purchased online at multiple sites; look for special-edition publications featuring plans for assorted coops, too.

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