It’s a dilemma every pet owner faces: what happens when I go on vacation? We all deserve some time off once in a while, but it’s hard to enjoy a weekend getaway when you’re worried about the welfare of your animals back home. Fortunately, keeping chickens doesn’t have to mean the end of your vacation time. With the right knowledge, supplies, and preparation, you can make sure your chickens are safe and healthy even when you’re on the road. Here are some top tips for taking care of your chickens while on vacation.
Make a Plan
To ensure your chickens are safe and comfortable while you’re away, you’ll have to make a few preparations. If you’re only gone for a couple of days, your chickens should be fine as long as they have a clean coop and plenty of food, water, and protection. However, if your vacation will take you away for more than three days, it’s a good idea to have someone check in on your chickens. Either way, you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies and reliable help for your birds. You should also pay attention to the weather forecast for your trip. If you’re going to leave your chickens alone during extremely hot or cold days, do a little extra planning to make sure they remain safe from the elements while you’re gone.
Enlist Some Help
If you’re worried about leaving your dogs or cats alone while you take a vacation, you hire a pet sitter to check in on them. The same concept applies to your chickens. You can ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to take care of your chickens during your vacation. You might also be able to ask a responsible young adult in your community—pet sitting is a great first job for teens. Before you go, make sure you write down any important information, including your veterinarian’s contact information, for your chicken sitter to reference. If you can, try to have them visit your chickens before you leave. Together, you can walk through the process of feeding your birds, collecting eggs, cleaning the coop, and any other jobs they’ll need to do while you’re away. Remember, the more prepared your chicken sitter is, the more peace of mind you’ll have during your trip.
Leave Plenty of Food
One of the most important steps to taking care of your chickens while on vacation is to ensure that they have enough food to last the entire time. Stock your chicken feeders with plenty of food before you leave. A limited food supply can lead to your birds squabbling over the feeder, so make sure there’s enough to go around. An automatic chicken feeder can be extremely helpful for this. This not only provides your chickens with plenty of food, but also minimizes spills, keeping your coop cleaner while you’re not there.
Provide Plenty of Water
Water is another essential for life, so make sure your chickens have plenty of fresh, clean water during your vacation. As with feeders, an automatic waterer is a useful tool to take care of your chickens when you’re gone. Pay attention to how much your chickens drink each day, and make sure they have a large enough supply before you leave. It’s also a good idea to keep extra feeders and waterers around in case your chickens knock over their supply. If this happens, the spare food and water will make sure they still have the provisions they need for the rest of their time alone. When it comes to food and water, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Predator-proofing is a vital part of keeping chickens no matter where you are. Make sure you predator-proof the coop, the run, and any other areas your chickens can wander. Install sturdy fencing around your chickens’ living space. To be safe, bury it about a foot into the ground to prevent intruders from burrowing beneath it. You can also place bird netting above your run to deter airborne predators such as hawks. Other equipment, such as a motion-sensor light or an automatic door, can also provide a little extra security for your chickens. Before you leave, do a walk around the yard and inspect your coop for holes, damage, or other weaknesses. Take the time to fix any trouble areas before your trip so that you and your birds can rest peacefully during the vacation.
Keeping the Coop Clean
One thing you can’t manage while on vacation is the cleanliness of your coop. However, there are a few things you can do to keep your chickens healthy and cozy while you’re gone. It’s a good idea to thoroughly clean your coop before you leave. Clear out all the old bedding and replace it with a clean, dry new layer. Add a little extra to prevent manure and moisture build up while you’re away. If you’re relying on a friend or neighbor to take care of your birds for you, make sure you leave the clear written instructions and show them where to find all the necessary supplies.
Fight Boredom with Treats and Toys
Chickens are independent creatures, but they’re also playful. Apart from the essentials of food, water, and protection, it’s important to leave them some entertainment. Treats such as heads of lettuce or cabbage give them something to peck at and play with—as well as some extra food to keep them happy. Of course, your chickens are also good at keeping each other company and entertaining themselves on a daily basis, so try not to worry too much about them getting bored or lonely.
Don’t Stress Too Much
You deserve that vacation. If you spend the entire time worrying about your chickens, you’re going to need another break as soon as you get home. Remember that there’s only so much you can do. Plan well and enlist the help of a trusted friend, and you and your chickens will be fine. Then, at the end of your vacation, you can come back rested and ready to jump back into the wonderful world of chicken keeping.
Have you ever gone on a long trip while keeping birds? How did they fare? Tell us your tricks for caring for birds while on vacation in the comments below!