by Dee George
“Yes, chickens really do like to swing”, says Jennifer Connell. She has videos on her website that prove it, and after working on perfecting the swing design since 2009, it still makes her smile every time she sees her chickens swinging.
Her quest began when she needed to pen her flock up all day because of foxes in the neighborhood. It bothered her to see some of her birds pacing in their enclosure.
“My only goal was to give them something to do,” Connell recalls, but when she realized other poultry owners wanted the same thing she worked with engineers and began the expensive process of making a marketable product. Over years of experimentation she came up with her patented design, which is manufactured in high quality, UV-resistant molded plastic.
The perch’s texture and mailbox shape allows birds of all sizes to get a good grip and actually pump the swing to keep it going and get a true swinging activity. A cross-member (at the top) keeps the swing from twisting. The perch tongues (attached to perch) give stability to the perch, and allow them to control the swing. Rope Buckles make it easy to level and adjust the swing’s height, and safety side-ties prevent the rope from looping during a vigorous dismount that could entangle them.
If the swing is set just inches off the ground, when first introduced, or better yet, introduced to brooder chicks, they often learn how to swing on their own. Older chickens can be taught how to swing using treats. Connell suggests setting the swing for them about 18” to 24.5” from the ground; her peacock prefers a higher swing, about 4.5 ft. off the ground. Chicken swings can be mounted inside a brooder, cages and coops or outdoors.
The Columbia, MO., entrepreneur began selling The Chicken Swing at the end of 2013 and discovered international interest. With a new manufacturer and an agreement with www.omlet.co.uk, a UK company handling overseas sales, she sells the swings for $29.99. Connell sells them through her website, Amazon and a growing number of small retailers.
For DIYers interested in making their own swings, Connell offers a few suggestions: “Look carefully at my design,” she says. “You really need to give the perch stability so it doesn’t roll. Think about safety and the kickback. Not just for the swingers, but the other animals in the coop as well” When chickens dismount, the kick off from the mount can be hard, and simply putting a log or board seat on ropes won’t be effective, beware of using screws in your design or poor materials could be unsafe for your flock.
Not all of Connell’s chickens use the swing daily, but she knows they enjoy it because she lets them free-range during the day and some deliberately go back to the pen so they can swing. That fits in well with the Connells’ desire to raise happy animals (chickens, goats, pigs, beef) for food.
“I think it stimulates them physically and mentally and gives them something to do besides pecking each other. I have four roosters (with 30 hens), and I don’t have a lot of pecking,” she says.
Finally, there’s a personal benefit. “I think it’s a hoot to watch them swinging,” she says “I enjoy it and love when people come and visit to show them that chickens have personality.” D.G.