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How To: Care for Chickens When You Go Away

How To: Care for Chickens When You Go Away

Caring for Chickens When You Go On Vacation 

Everyone loves vacations! But going away from home can be stressful if you are leaving pets behind. Find out how to leave your chickens behind and vacation stress-free in these 5 easy steps.

What do chickens need while I am away?

Generally, chickens need:

  • 4-5 oz of feed per day
  • 1 pint of water minimum and closer to 1 quart in hot weather
  • Shade all day long
  • To be protected from predators

If you have the means to provide enough food, water, shade and shelter, your chickens can be perfectly fine locked in their coop. However, it is important to remember:

  • Less space leads to boredom. Bored chickens pick on each other. So if you are going for more that one or two nights, you should consider a larger space for them.
  • Chickens should never be left alone in extreme weather. Heatwaves, snow etc. constitute a significant threat to your flock.
  • The longer you're gone, the more important it is to have someone checking on your birds, even if it is only a quick look over the fence.

These are some of the things to consider when you think of caring for chickens when you go away.

Do I need a chicken-sitter?

So can you leave your chickens without supervision? It depends. You will need a chicken-sitter if:

  • Your vacation is longer than 4-5 days
  • High temperatures, snow or severe storms are predicted
  • You cannot provide enough feed or water for your birds
  • You have an egg-eating chicken
  • Your coop is too small for your chickens to stay in there 24/7 and you don’t have an automatic door or secure run (with high fences and preferably a roof)
  • Your coop has little shade and is too hot for chickens to be left locked in all day
  • You have pest or predator problems

If you do need a pet sitter, remember that chickens are not like dogs or cats. Even if you are away for a few weeks, most flocks only need a quick morning and evening visit, to let the birds out or shut them in and refresh feed and water. Chickens are even kind enough to provide their own payment for pet sitting, in the form of lovely, fresh eggs!

How to look after your chickens while you're away in 5 steps

By following these guidelines, you can go away on vacation and know that your chickens will be perfectly fine without parental, or human, supervision.

1. Water

Water is always the biggest concern. Dehydration can arise quickly, even in mild weather. At a minimum, birds should have access to 1 pint of clean, fresh water each per day. In hot weather, closer to a quart may be needed. Whichever Chicken Waterer option you use, ensure there is adequate water at all times.

  • Open Drinking Containers: Avoid using open containers as a waterer for chickens. They can cross-contaminate drinking water with chicken faeces. Also, they can topple over leaving the hens with no water.
  • Chicken Drinkers: Our Chicken Drinkers come in a variety of sizes, and allow you to vacation with peace-of-mind, knowing they won't leak or spill. Just make sure you have enough water to last an extra day. If not then you should have an additional drinker. Our 5 Gallon Drum Drinker contains enough water to keep ten birds happy for four days in most weather (at 1 pint/day each).

2. Security of Chickens

Chickens should not be left unlocked at night. Even if you have never had signs of a predator, they are simply defenceless if unlocked.

One solution to the security issue is an automatic chicken coop door, also known as an auto door. These generally are run by battery or solar. They can be set to open and close at pre-determined times, keeping your chickens safe while you are gone. Some automatic doors even have light sensors and will open and close based on daylight!

3. Feed

Ensure chickens have access to 4-5 oz of feed per bird, per day. Browse our Feeder and Drinker kits to entirely equip your chicken coop before your vacation!

4. How to keep hens amused

Cooped up chickens are physically okay, but they get bored. And boredom = trouble in the chicken coop. They might not rip up your cushions or chew your shoes, but chickens will pick on and peck each other. It may only be a few days, but providing your chickens with some amusement while you’re gone can help if they’re not going to be able to free-range.

You could consider:

  • Hanging a whole cabbage or iceberg lettuce from the roof, like a chicken piñata
  • Whole sunflower heads, cobs of corn and big bunches of weeds, seed heads or greens make great piñatas too!
  • Making an old water bottle into a chicken toy – these toys can roll around on the ground or be hung up
  • Repurposing dog toys for chickens
  • Throwing in a couple of really stale bread rolls – if they’re hard enough, the rolls will give your birds something to peck at for days
  • Adding a big pile of garden waste (hopefully with some bugs) for birds to forage through
  • Buying or making a chicken swing
  • Hanging old CDs on strings
  • Adding a small, plastic ball (obviously not one they can pop) to kick around
  • Forming a seed block for them to peck at
  • Stuffing bones, hollow logs or even lengths of pipe with something tasty

And if you have enough room, making sure birds have a good-sized dust bath will also amuse – a kid’s paddling pool (the hard plastic kind) filled with sand is perfect.

5. A clean environment

An extra couple of layers of bedding on the chicken coop floor is also a great addition if you are going to be away. It keeps the coop that little bit cleaner, and gives your birds yet another thing to peck at that isn’t each other.

Rest easy on your vacation

Any chicken keeper knows that things don't always go as planned. Caring for chickens when you go away doesn't have to be a major obstacle. A little planning goes a long way towards giving you the peace-of-mind, knowing that your chickens are cared for, so that you can really relax and enjoy your vacation!

Happy vacationing!

Rachael at Dine a Chook