Summer is finally here and everyone is getting ready for a well-deserved holiday, but for chicken keepers this can be a bit of a headache. Whilst it can be simple to pack the dog or cat off to the kennels for a fortnight, looking after chickens when on holiday for a couple of weeks is more problematic. If you’re wondering how to care for your chickens whilst you are away, here’s some advice to help.
What your chickens need when you’re on holiday
Whilst you are away on holiday, your chickens need to have exactly the same level of daily care as they do when you are around. They will need to be fed, watered and have the coop cleaned out (especially if you are going for a couple of weeks) and they will need to be let out every morning and put back in every night. The chickens should also be checked to make sure that they are healthy.
Finding the right person to look after your chickens
It’s always best if the person you ask to look after your chickens is a chicken keeper themselves. This way you know you are leaving them in the care of someone with experience and understanding. However, this is not always possible, so the best alternative is someone who you can trust to turn up every day and who has the right temperament to do the job. As a reward, you can always let them take away all the eggs that get laid whilst you’re on holiday. Alternatively, you may find a pet-sitter who specialises in hens. Your vet might know of someone who does this.
If you are leaving your chickens to be looked after by a non-chicken keeper, you should do a bit of training with them before you go. Get them round to watch you feeding and watering your chickens so they know where everything is and how to feed them. Show them how to let the chickens in and out and how to make the coop and run secure.
In addition, you may want to show them how to muck out, handle the chickens and what to look for that might signify that one of the birds is not well. If one does end up sick, you may need to get your carer to take them to the vets, so remember to leave details.
Before you go on holiday, make sure you fully stock up with all the chicken food and other resources that your chicken carer will need whilst you are away. At the same time, make sure you thoroughly clean out your coop before leaving and check your animals’ health, just in case you need to treat them for anything before you leave. You may need to provide whoever is looking after your hens with some helpful resource material to use as a reference if they need guidance.
Alternatively, find a chicken boarding company
This is less than ideal because chickens don’t like change. If you move them they shouldn’t be moved in with other hens as there’s a risk of cross infection of disease or parasites. However, if you have to, you may be able to move your coop and hens to a friend’s garden for a couple of weeks. Just make sure that they have a suitable, safe environment and that they don’t keep dogs that might worry or even savage your hens.
Another option, though more expensive, is to consider chicken boarding. Similar to kennels for cats and dogs, there are now places available where you can take your chickens for a couple of weeks where they will be housed in sanitary coops and looked after by experienced chicken keepers. Before you book a place you should make sure that coops are moved between rentals so your hens aren’t walking in the droppings of the last set of hens and that the coops are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly before your hens move in. The coops also need to be protected – they should have meshed runs or electric fencing. It’s better to see for yourself before you book.
When using a boarding service, it’s best to ensure that your hens maintain their normal diet with their usual food; you can ensure this by taking your own food which will also help reduce the cost.
Remember that chickens get stressed quite easily and moving them will be an unsettling experience. Apple cider vinegar added to their water as a tonic will help settle them, ask the chicken boarders to do this for you.
Remember to transport your chickens in well ventilated, spacious crates or boxes and preferably in a cool vehicle. Try to keep car windows open. Don’t leave your hens in a parked car, especially in warm weather – just like dogs and babies, they can overheat and die if left. If the journey is a long one, try to give the hens water on the journey or if this isn’t possible water them as soon as they arrive.
Once your hens are happily ensconced, you will then be able to jet off yourself. Bon voyage!