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!
I Bought my chickens in august and have no place to put them for the winter
(they have been living in a dog cage with a tarp covering it)
Are there any places where i can board them? I really love my two little girls and don’t want to sell them or …..the alternative
I would really like it if you could give me any ideas to do at this time?
My family currently can not work on building a coop because our house needs more intense work
Buy a coop and run is all I can suggest. A dog cage with a tarp over the top isn’t suitable for them, they need to be kept out of the wind and have nest boxes to lay in.
If you can’t give them a proper home, I would suggest you don’t keep them.
I have a secure coop and outside run for my girls, this has a high perch which they love to sit on. During the summer they have been roosting on this high perch quite happily and as it was warm I left them to it. Now the nights are getting colder I want them to go back in their coop on a night so that I can shut them up and keep them warmer. They don’t seem to want to go willingly and I’m having to lift them all in and close the door quickly. Am I doing the right thing or will they go in of their own accord when they think its too cold ? Would love some advice as I dont want to distress them unnecessarily
Chickens will get used to their coop or in your case ‘roosting place’. If you put a new coop next to their old, they will continue to use the old one through habit.
I would remove the outside perch and physically lock them into their coop at night for a few weeks. After a while, they will get used to it and will go in of their own accord.
My babes have been living with me for a couple of years now. They have been a great pleasure. But one keeps on getting picked on by the others and I don’t want her to get hurt. When she eats she sticks away from the others. What shall I do?
You can’t really do much I’m afraid – they have a pecking order and there will always be one at the bottom of the order.
I would ensure there are multiple feeding / watering points so she can always get to feed and water and give them space so she’s not forced too close to a bully.
Hi I bought my three girlies 5 months ago .. and now I love every little plume on their gorgeous little bodies. I thought going on holiday away would be easy, but now I don’t really want to leave them. I have a friend who will be calling daily and their set up is great so no probs there. BUT allthough they have a roosting hide with secure door and very large run, they are normally let out to free range (and I mean free range … they travel across an immense area). I sing “Super Troopers” and they come running at dusk to go back into their coop and then when as light fades they go into their roosting hide. However, they cannot free range while we are absent … it would be too risky … foxes are clever and would soon notice we are not about. My little girlies would make a very tasty meal, so I can’t take the risk. So … I hate the thought of them being cooped up but there is no alternative. I imagine they will find this stressful and so I’ve reluctantly been increasing the time they spend in their coop 10 mins daily so that it doesn’t come as a terrible shock. Will they be ok though … I just afraid of them stressing too much about being kept in the coop. I would really welcome your thoughts.
Yes, they will be fine.
They won’t like the change in routine much and may pace up and down a bit but they will get used to it given some time and the biggest thing, they will be safe and you can enjoy your holiday knowing that!