Chickens are fascinating animals and it’s easy to get attached to them and their unique personalities over time. But a common question asked by owners is what to do with your chicken when you are away? If you need to be away from home and your flock for a few days or even a week or two some careful advanced planning is needed.
If you follow our tips on how to care for chickens when away, you don’t need to be tied to your flock for the entire year. So, here we’ll delve into what to do with your chickens when you are away.
Things to Consider before leaving your Chickens
Many people look for tips on how to care for chickens when away because let’s face it nobody will know your flock as well as you do. But, with a few rules and precautions, in-place other trusted people can deliver adequate levels of nutrition and care. Consider each problem carefully and you will soon realize that many potential risks can be mitigated or even avoided altogether.
Your Chickens Feeding Requirements
This is the first hurdle that must be overcome, chickens need food and water to thrive and survive during your break. For an overnight trip or a break for a weekend, you can leave sufficient food and water and they will take care of themselves.
But, if you’re going to be away for a few days or longer you’re going to want someone to check on them. This is important because you don’t want the flock to overturn a feeder or pollute their waterer with shavings. You may leave the flock plenty of food and water, but if they cannot access it, it’s not going to do any good. Accessing food and water can be easier if you invest in an automatic feeder and waterer for your chickens.
An Automatic Feeder will enable you to leave Plenty of feed
If you’re getting serious about owning chickens, this may be the single best investment you ever make. This system allows your flock to eat when they are hungry, they can have consistent access to clean food, and you get rid of rats at the same time.
A typical automatic chicken feeder will hold around 20 lbs of feed and this will feed a dozen chickens for around ten days. So, if you want to take a vacation for a week you’re covered and longer breaks will only need a top up once or twice.
An Automatic Waterer to Ensure Plenty of clean water
A chicken will succumb to dehydration faster than they would succumb to the effects of lack of food. Access to clean drinking water each day is essential for the health of the flock, and this is why many people invest in an automatic waterer.
If you search online, you can find many ingenious examples of DIY automatic watering systems. But a well-made chicken fountain is a solid investment and it’s been well tested to deal with their daily shenanigans. The best models are constructed from stainless steel which is easier to clean and durable enough to withstand heat.
An automatic waterer should always be placed in the shade and more bowls should be placed around the run. Chickens will drink a larger volume of water when the temperatures rise, and you may want to add ice to their water. Of course, if you’re not around a good waterer will supply enough water to keep your chickens hydrated for several days.
Placing one or two watermelons in the run can keep the flock entertained and boost their hydration levels when you are away. For longer trips, you need a chicken sitter to observe the chickens for signs of exhaustion. They will also need to check the waterer every couple of days to ensure it’s working.
Making the Run Secure so Predators Can’t Access the Coop
The flock must be secured against predators, and this is an aspect of chicken care that many people overlook. It’s easy to think that your flock will be fine for one or two nights when you’re away, but a raccoon raid can occur at any time. An unsecured flock can be slaughtered and an open coop door or fence is an open invitation for predators.
For a short overnight trip, you could lock the chickens in their coop, but this isn’t an ideal situation for them. The outdoor space must be secure, and this will allow them to roam and socialize normally.
If you’re leaving chickens for a week, you may want to consider an automated pop door for your coop. In fact, this is handy at any time because you don’t need to get up at dawn to let them out or rush home to close up at dusk. This automatic door can be set to open and close at these times with a light sensor or remotely with a press of a button.
Once they get used to the door your chickens will form an orderly queue in the morning to leave and they will be back in to roost before the door closes at dusk. At times, some hens will want to roost outdoors overnight, but a sitter can do a head count if you’re worried about security.
The chicken sitter needs the emergency contact numbers for you and your preferred veterinarian. An emergency pack with Vetericyn should be prepared and your chosen sitter needs to know how to use it. All entrances where a potential predator must be secured and even a tiny break is a risk.
Unless you have a very experienced chicken sitter, don’t leave anyone in charge of young chicks or hatching eggs. This is far too risky and it can all go wrong very quickly. Reassure the sitter, they need to understand that you and they may be upset if a chicken dies but the integrity of the entire flock is more important.
If you’re going away for longer, it’s helpful to have the three automatic systems that we mentioned earlier. But, you’re going to need a chicken sitter to keep an eye on your flock and to make sure that the run is secure. The potential sitter must be responsible, and the best candidates may include: your partner, mature teens, family members, good neighbors, house-sitting services, and others.
Always interview the potential sitter, gauge their experience, and see how they interact with your flock before you make a decision. Upon your return, there may be a few missed or dirty eggs to deal with, but a reliable person is worth their weight in gold and they should be treasured, so you can feel confident of what to do with your chickens when you are away.