This article sets out easy and simple tips or steps to take in preparing your chickens so they stay safe and well for when you go away on holidays or as they say in the USA, vacation. Everyone needs a break sometimes and no matter how much you love being around your chickens there comes a time when you have to leave them for a short period.
Leaving chickens on their own whilst you go away on a short holiday or break (say no longer than a week) is perfectly fine. Their eggs will pile up in the nesting boxes and their litter will get a little dirty etc but essentially there’s no problem with that.
If you plan to leave your chickens or ducks (and other poultry) for a longer period, then I would recommend asking a family member or a friend to pop in about every 3 to 4 days just to check on your flock, collect the eggs, and top up feeders/drinkers.
In my opinion, chickens and other poultry (like ducks) are some of the easiest pets to leave on their own – definitely easier than dogs or cats. Chickens are very independent animals, they don’t fret when you go, they don’t get too upset if their routine is slightly adjusted, and they will generally go about their “business” whether you are around or not. For many people chickens and other poultry make the perfect pets!
But just because chickens will aptly adapt to conditions and hardly miss you when you’re gone away, don’t mistake this for a second and think they are dumb egg laying machines without any emotion. Quite the opposite, chickens are very smart birds and they’ll notice your absence. They can also be very emotional – just not about you though.
Main points to consider
When I go away on holidays there are four main points I take into consideration to ensure my chickens and ducks will be left able to competently fend for themselves whilst I’m away and they are: food, water, shelter, and security.
Food – A chicken typically eats about 400 grams of feed per day and a duck a little more than that; therefore, ensuring there is enough feed in the feeders to cater for the amount of birds is obviously essential.
I like to go overboard and always have plenty of feed available when I go away. My feeders are all topped up and if necessary I will pull out a spare feeder or two just to make sure no one goes hungry here at home whilst I’m living it up in the Bahamas.
My poultry are used to free-ranging daily and eating a lot of grass etc but when I go away I lock my birds in their pen so to compensate for the lack of free-ranging I throw in two or three iceberg lettuces. This variety of lettuce has a tight heart and I have found if the lettuce is placed in the pen whole or sometimes cut in half it keeps the chickens occupied trying to peck them apart.
Water – A chicken drinks between 250 – 500 mils (1 to 2 cups) of water per day. Ducks constantly need a water source (at least a bucket) but I have gone further and installed a small poly duck pond in my pen for the ducks to play in and drink from when they can’t get access to their dam.
These extra duck water sources within the pen can double as emergency drinkers for my chickens if in the unlikely event their drinking containers fail. I recommend using enclosed containers for chickens with either cup or nipple attachments because these tend to be a safer option than other drinkers such as the standard bell drinkers which are susceptible to being tipped over and get soiled quickly.
You can get specific drinkers which connect to a mains water supply and whilst they are convenient they are expensive and I’ve found the best containers to be standalones 20 – 25 litres. I have several in my pen at different locations and this ensures a water source is always nearby, if one fails there’s another available, and all up I have enough water to last my flock several weeks.
Image above shows some feeders in action with my poly duck pond in the background (doubles as emergancy water source)
Shelter – Obviously, chickens need a good shelter to roost for the night but since going away means no one will be there each morning to tidy the nesting boxes and pen I add some extra litter around to help cope with any build-up of poop etc.
The eggs will be better off also with some extra straw or hay as this will give extra padding for when the eggs collect in the laying boxes.
Security – This last point is as important as all the rest because chickens are vulnerable to attack from predators in particular dogs and foxes. Both dogs and foxes have a cunning knack to know when you have gone away and this is when they’ll test your perimeter fence line or chicken pen.
I have a dog proof perimeter fence around a free-range area where my chickens and ducks get out from their pen each day and roam around in complete safety. However, my perimeter fence is not fox proof (because foxes can climb and are far superior diggers than dogs) so whilst I am away I ensure my birds stay in their fox and dog proof inner pen.
Keeping poultry like chickens and ducks “cooped up” for a short period of time (even several weeks) is no real problem at all. Domestic poultry are well adapted to small areas and will be perfectly fine locked up whilst you’re away.
Naturally, having a large secure pen is desirable but it isn’t always practical because not everyone has the room to dedicate a large portion of their property to a chicken pen when for the most part the chickens are usually out and about and only go into their coop at night.
So when it comes time to going away for a short period you shouldn’t feel guilty about keeping your birds in a smaller environment because at the end of the day it’s in their best interest. We can make it up to them when we get back from holidays!
Here’s a short video I knocked up about caring for your chickens or ducks when you’re away on holidays/vacation.
Keeping poultry (especially chickens) is not only productive but it’s also easy and needn’t be a problem if you go away on holidays.
In my opinion, chickens and ducks are much easier to leave alone than most other popular pets. Plus, what dog or cat could lay a whole bunch of eggs whilst you’re away as a welcome back home gift for when you return!
If you would like to ask a question or make a comment you can do so below or join our forum and we can discuss this subject at length.
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM
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