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Expert tips and tricks for backyard chicken keeping

Going on holiday? What about your chickens?

General, How to..

Let’s face it, this year (Covid) has meant holidays are few and far between. But, it’s coming up Christmas, so hopefully, you will be having a break.

Whether you’re taking a short time away from your flock or a couple of weeks, with a little careful planning there are ways to manage it so you don’t need to feel tied to your chickens.

Yes, it’s true – we may think no one can look after our chickens as well as we can, but other people can if we just put a few simple precautions in place first.

  1. Choose the right person for the job

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. 

If you have automated systems in place you probably won’t need to involve anyone else if you’re away for two or three days. Eggs will be fine left in the coop, although expect them to be dirty when you return.

But if you’re going for longer, you can’t risk leaving your flock to their own devices.

2. Clean/repair your coop

One thing you don’t want your chicken sitter to have to deal with is repairs to the chicken coop and/or run. Make sure you give it a thorough once over, plug any holes that vermin or predators might use to get in.

Give your coop a big old fashion clean-out: it’s simply good manners to clean up the coop so that the chicken sitter will only have to clean things up when it’s entirely necessary.

Be sure to have your coop secured from any predators. It would be awful for both your flock and your chook sitters to have to deal with a snake or fox attack.

3. Leave a detailed plan – Verbal instructions can easily be forgotten or misheard, so write this down!

  • Write a list of all the chickens in your flock, with descriptions of their breed or plumage. Including their names could be nice but isn’t always useful
  • Include how much food needs to be left for your chickens each day
  • Let them know where all the food, feed and equipment is
  • Encourage them to collect the eggs regularly
  • Explain where the treats and toys are, and what to do with them

4. Sort out an automatic coop door

If you would prefer your chicken’s free range whilst you are away (or don’t have a large run) invest in an automatic chicken door.

Chickens are capable of a bit of self-management, rather like cats with a cat flap, if you can help them get in and out of the coop by themselves. An automatic coop door means that you can simply set a timer and the chickens can move in and out during the day but at night – the door is securely closed keeping predators at bay.

And don’t worry, while chickens are not exactly geniuses none of them seem to be daft enough to get caught in the door when it starts to close, either. Occasionally, one may stay out “late” and you should ask the chicken-sitter to help round up these birds if they spot them.

5. Food

Make sure the person watching your flock knows what to feed chickens before you leave! 

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 number of birds is obviously essential.

Go overboard and always have plenty of feed available when you go away. A treadle feeder is a great option here. Having a large storage capacity, whilst keeping the rodents at bay, they are a great solution.

  • This is also a good time to try some grown some sprouts:

Not just sprouts, but leave a nice mixture of treats for your chickens while you’re away. Learn how to sprout seed here!

It’s likely that whoever looks after them won’t spend the kind of time you do with your flock, and it’s not a good idea to free-range them while you’re away.

So treats will keep your chickens happy and occupied, and watching the flock running to greet the treat-carrier will make your chicken-sitters smile.

6. Water

It’s time to install an automatic waterer.

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.

Place your automatic chicken waterer in the shade at a strategic location within the run. Add a few bowls around your chicken run to ensure that there is an endless supply of water. 

You may want to ask your chicken sitter to add ice to the water supply in particularly hot conditions.

7. Leave emergency information

Be sure to leave your vet’s phone number and address out for your chicken sitter, along with your Chicken First Aid Kit in case of injury, illness or attack. If your chicken sitter notices any sick chicken symptoms, they shouldn’t hesitate to check with the veterinarian immediately.

It’s also a good idea to leave the telephone number of a friend who keeps chickens and might be able to help out if your caretaker doesn’t raise chickens themselves and there’s an emergency.

8. Egg Collection

Don’t just encourage your chicken sitter to take a few eggs home, make certain that they know when to collect the eggs and that they do so regularly.

One grim fact about chickens is that they’re not averse to a bit of cannibalism and if you leave the eggs around for long enough, they’ll start eating them, so make sure the chicken sitter understands how important egg harvesting is.

Top Tip: Before you go on holiday, make sure your hicken’s are in tip-top condition. Try our superfood blend or some supertreat and add some apple cider vinegar to their water to get them ready for any stress caused missing you!

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