Going on a family vacation isn’t impossible when you raise backyard chickens, but it does require some careful pre-planning to ensure your flock stays safe, healthy and happy while you’re gone. Here are five summer vacation tips for keepers of backyard chickens to make everything go more smoothly and allow you to sit on the beach and enjoy your vacation:
1) Enlist a Friend, Family Member or Neighbor
When you have backyard chickens and go on vacation, it’s always a good idea to have someone stop by at least twice a day to let the chickens out, feed them, collect eggs, be sure they have clean water, and then lock them up each night. Even if you have an automatic coop door, it’s still a good idea to have someone stop by to make sure everyone is safely locked up before dark. Installing some Niteguard solar predator lights is also a good idea in case your chicken ‘caretaker’ is late or forgets to come back to lock the coop one night.
If you can’t find a neighbor or friend willing to commit to the task of caring for your backyard chickens, try your local 4-H club or extension service for recommendations or check your feed store boards for dog walkers, pet sitters or people who offer horse boarding services — many times they will agree to come check on your chickens for nominal pay — or even merely the promise of fresh eggs. Use caution when asking another chicken keeper to watch your flock. Be sure to provide them with footwear outside your coop or run to wear while they are tending your flock to avoid cross-contamination. A bleach water footbath is also a good idea to fill and leave by the run entrance.
2) Stock up on Feed, Supplements, and Treats for Your Backyard Chickens
Make sure the person watching your flock knows what to feed chickens before you leave! You’ll want to either fill your feeder with enough feed to last until you come back or leave your caretaker instructions on how much to dole out each morning (figure on 1/2 cup of feed per hen per day) and be sure the feed is stored in a mouse-proof container out of the sun and rain. If the forecast while you’re away calls for hot temperatures, leave instructions for your caretaker on how to keep chickens cool in the summer, too.
Be sure to stock up on grit, oyster shell and of course feed, and be sure to label all the containers and leave instructions for refilling your dispensers and how many treats to hand out. You might also want to print out this list of safe treats for your chickens and leave it out as guide, as well as what not to feed chickens. A head of cabbage or a halved watermelon or cucumber is always an easy, nutritious treat choice that will keep your chickens busy and hydrated, so leaving either (or both) to be fed while you’re gone is a great idea.
3) Clean The Coop
You’ll want to clean the coop and put in new litter just before you leave. Sprinkling some herbs in your nesting boxes, like my Herbs for Hens Nesting Box Sachets, can help repel rodents and insects while you’re gone. A sprinkle of food-grade Diatomaceous Earth on the floor of the coop and in the nesting boxes can also help repel mites and lice, and a product such as Dookashi or Chick Flic helps reduce ammonia fumes, a concern especially during the hotter months. Again, be sure to leave instructions and everything in clearly marked containers or packages.
4) Inspect The Coop and Run
A careful examination of your coop and run is in order before you go. Look for any loose boards or wires, any holes in fencing or things that need to be shored up or repaired. Predators get used to routines and always seem to know when there’s not one home and it’s a good time to strike.
5) Leave Your Vet’s Contact Information
Speaking of predators, 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.
Lastly, ask your caretaker to come by and do a walk through of your morning and evening routine before you leave, so they will be familiar with your routine and also so the chickens can get to know them. Chickens love routines, so the closer they can stick to your routine, the better.
And with that, you and your family should feel comfortable leaving on your vacation, knowing you’ve taken all the steps you can to be sure your chickens are well cared for and safe while you’re gone.
Originally published in 2015 and regularly vetted for accuracy.