In the excitement of getting your first chickens it’s easy to overlook this point, but somebody will have to look after them whenever you are away from home.
Remember that the chickens will need to be let out in the morning and closed safely
into their house at night. They must also have fresh food and water. An automatic door opener/closer is helpful, but chickens should still be checked at least once a day to make sure that all is well. They can get ill very quickly and a sick hen is likely to be attacked by the others, so regular inspections are essential.
However, even the most committed chicken keepers usually manage to escape occasionally – it’s just a matter of planning. Try to have your plan in place before the chickens actually arrive, to avoid being caught out when that unexpected invitation to a weekend away crops up.
The best bet is to find somebody local who is prepared to look after your flock in exchange for some eggs. Or there may be other chicken keepers living nearby and you can help each other out. It’s worth asking around.
Failing this, you will probably have to pay someone. A local youngster or pensioner might be interested in earning some extra cash, or you could look for a professional pet-sitter. Check out the notice boards in your feed store and vet’s waiting room, or try an on-line search. A pet-sitter will probably charge per visit, so if you are away a lot an automatic pop-hole door could save money in the long run. There are also pet-sitters who can move into your house if you wish, and take care of everything.
Whoever you choose, make sure they know how to look after chickens and are happy to do all that is required. Always check references carefully.
Chickens don’t like change, so try to keep them in their own environment and routine if at all possible.
Relocating your chickens
Maybe none of the above options are workable, in which case you might have to consider relocating your chickens when you go away.
If you have friends or family who are happy to help but live too far to come in every day, you might be able to take everything over to their house. Just make sure they understand how to care for chickens, or if they already have some, remember that the two groups must be kept separately. Check too what chicken predators they might have locally – including family dogs.
There are many establishments now offering chicken boarding. Although some places might require you to bring your own housing, usually a house and run is provided for each flock of chickens. Confirm that this is always moved to fresh ground, and thoroughly disinfected between every change of occupants. Check too that there is electric poultry fencing around the site. Have a good look at the place before letting them look after your precious hens – make sure that everything is well-maintained with happy, healthy residents.
Provide feed yourself or make sure your chickens will be fed their familiar brand, as changes in diet can lead to digestive upsets.
Although I’ve never tried chicken boarding, some places do look very professional, even offering extra services such as nail trimming and wing clipping!
Chickens on the move
If you do have to move your chickens, it’s a good idea to add apple cider vinegar to their drinking water for a few days afterwards. It will help their systems cope with any stress caused by the change.
You can also keep stress levels to a minimum by avoiding overheating during their journey. Hot, overcrowded conditions will cause suffering or even fatalities, so make sure travelling boxes are spacious and airy. Put them on the back seat rather than in the boot, so that you can keep an eye on the temperature, and in warm weather try to travel either first thing or at night. As with dogs – never leave chickens in a parked car!
When you’ve found someone reliable to look after your chickens, do all you can to make it as easy as possible!
Leave plenty of feed and bedding plus cleaning out equipment. Check everything is in good repair and working properly: house, run, feeder drinker, electric fencing, automatic doors (put in new batteries before you go).
Write down a list of instructions, including a contact phone number and details of your vet. A copy of your chicken reference book and details of poultry websites / forums may also be helpful.
Yes, you really can have it all – happy chickens and happy holidays!
Hi, Ive had my 3 girls for about 8 months now (originally 4 but Eggwina no longer with us) and they are very free range. I am looking at getting an automatic door opener for the winter as I work early morning and I dont really like letting them out in the dark, and would also help when I am away as my neighbour would only need to check on them once a day. The only problem is that my coop has a flip down door and all the door openers I’ve found are to be used on pully up doors. Any advice on where I can get an alternative??
Also any tips on hows to keep the chucks warm during winter? Reports are its going to be a bad one, up here in Scotland at least!!
I had a flip down door on one of my coops – so I added a second door to the inside for the door keeper – it’s not too hard to add = a few strips of wood for the rails and cut out a square of ply. The advantage is the door keeper can be inside in the dry but you will need the extension cable light sensor which should be mounted outside to see the daylight.
Heaters are handy for water containers in the cold – but chickens can stand very cold temperatures (they keep them in Canada at -20 and below) as long as their coop is dry and draft free.
Thanks very much for your advice, very helpful
Hi we have a strip of heavy duty plastic strip (butcher type) cut into strips and overlapping so it stops drafts, at first you may need to be there at night and push them through it but they find it very easy to use along with straw coups, they get in all snuggly even if we are late locking them up.
Hi, great site with lots of helpful information. I know you said that chickens get stressed out by moving but we have a narrowboat and hope to go for longer periods in the summer. I have read about people taking a couple of chickens with them and wonder if you think this would be feasible? We have a covered front well and they could free range on the towpath. Would they return to me if brought up from young?
Odd question I know but I would rather have them with me than left in the garden only getting let in and out of the covered run.
Sounds like an excellent idea. They get stressed by moving them from one home to another as their surroundings will be unfamiliar but on the boat their ‘house’ shouldn’t change so I think they should do quite well. If you call and feed them treats such as mealworms they should come running.
A great website, packed with useful info, thanks.
I am about to take delivery of my first 3 hens in a few weeks. I was told be a friend that if I had a fox proof run (Omlet Cube with run), then I dont need to keep the the coop door closed at night. She lets hers come and go as they please.
Your advice above says “chickens need to be locked up without fail at dusk every night”
Providing the run is secure then you can leave the coop door open. Just make sure there is no possibility of a fox digging under the run.
morning, my sister is in thailand on her hols for two weeks, and I have just returned from letting her three chickens out for the day, beryl, babs and ginge, I thought I would have a read on your website to see if there were any treats an aunty could take round, they have mealworks, anyway I just wanted to say thankyou for all your great
information and reiterate what has been said, that they are so funny, its just great to watch them exploring around the garden, I shall tell Ali (sister) about this website and
maybe she could send a pic or two of the girls. Thankyou.
Thank you, I am pleased you like my site. Yes please tell your sister and share with your friends, this is what keeps the site going is my visitors 🙂
Regarding places to “board” your chickens there are places that do accept chickens. One such place is Durham Hens, which keeps each group of holidaying chickens in separate runs, and they are very good at looking after your girls. I know there are other places as well that do this. Really good idea, and the journey does not seem to faze my chooks too much