Easy Guide To Looking After Your Chickens While You're On Holiday

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

16 March 2015

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Have you been marking the days off your calendar with breathless anticipation of your overseas holiday? Packing up and leaving home for a few weeks can be a blissfully relaxing yet discretely unnerving time, especially if you have chickens that you are leaving behind. Chickens worship routine, so it’s important that your time away goes as smoothly as possible. There are a number of things you can do to prepare yourself, your chickens and the ‘chicken sitter’ both practically and emotionally before you jet set away on that long awaited holiday.

  First things first… you will need a quality ‘Chicken Sitter’

It is perfectly reasonable to leave your chicken unattended for a long-weekend however if you’re planning on skipping the coop for more than a four days it’s imperative you organise for someone to look after them, namely, a chicken sitter. A chicken sitter can really be anyone: friends, family, neighbours, house sitters or a neighbourhood poultry enthusiast – anyone! Though looking after your chickens is a little more complicated than picking up the mail, it is will almost certainly bring joy to anyone who is lucky enough to be asked. Make sure that they have the following qualities though…

  1. Is your chicken sitter trustworthy? It’s likely that you’ll be giving your chicken sitter access to your home, as well as your precious feathered friends, they need to be trustworthy.

  2. Is your chicken sitter passionate about poultry? Most people have more success with chicken sitters that are passionate about looking after your birds! Make sure that they have an invested interest in chickens, other poultry or animals in general, otherwise feeding your flock and tidying your coop may simply become a burden.

  3. Does the chicken sitter live close by? No matter how passionate and trustworthy your chicken sitter may be, if they live hours away it is unlikely they’ll be of much use if something were to go wrong unexpectedly.

  4. Can I ask kids or teenagers to be chicken sitters? Absolutely! Kids and teenagers absolutely love chickens. So long as they are mature and responsible any kid over the age of twelve would have a great time looking after your flock. To this point, younger people tend to have a bit more time of their hands, so in all likelihood they'll give your chooks the royal treatment while you're away.

If your chicken sitter ticks each of these three boxes it’s your lucky day because it looks as though you’ve found yourself an ideal chicken sitter!! If you’re having trouble finding someone, think outside the box. There could be a neighbour on your street who has always wanted to own chickens but needs to have some first-hand experience before they take the next step.

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If you have an inexperienced but enthusiastic chicken sitter lined up you may want to show them this article, which will teach them how to handle a hen.

Things to do before you leave

It’s imperative that you take care of a few things before you set off on your holiday adventure. Though you won’t be there every step of the way with your chicken sitter, it’s important that you lay down the groundwork for a successful experience. Here are some things you may want to do in advance:

  1. Buy plenty of extra feed: you don’t want your chicken sitter to have to go out and buy some while you’re away.

  2. Label everything: though your chicken sitter maybe a trustworthy, passionate neighbour, they may not know the difference between chicken feed and shell grit. Label everything to ensure there is no confusion.

  3. 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.

  4. Compile a list of numbers for your chicken sitter to call if something were to go wrong: this could include the number of the local poultry vet, the link to the Backyard Chicken Coops Learning Centre in case they have any question or a poultry friend’s phone number who knows as much about chickens as you do.

As someone famously said “preparation is everything” and that’s true of most things, including the safe care of your flock while you’re away.

Leave a detailed plan

Now that you’ve found yourself a chicken sitter all you need to do is pack your bag, leave them the key and get out of there, right? Wrong! It’s important that you leave your chicken sitter a detailed plan of what you expect them to do while you’re away. Some of the things you may want to include on your chicken sitter list are:

  1. 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.

  2. Include how much food needs to be left for your chickens each day.

  3. Leave instructions on how to clean the coop. If you have pull away trays, like in the Penthouse, it’s important that you let the chicken sitter know.

  4. Let them know where all the food, feed and equipment is. Also, showing them this healthy treat chart will prevent them from accidentally making your chickens ill.

  5. Encourage them to harvest the eggs regularly. If eggs are left too long in the coop the chickens can develop a bad habit of eating their own eggs, which is both weird and inconvenient.

  6. If you’re chickens need extra things to amuse themselves with, like mirrors, fruit piñatas and other boredom busters, leave the chicken sitter suggestions and suitable follow-up instructions. For example, “I have left an iceberg lettuces in the fridge tied together with string. Could you please just make sure that the chickens always have one hanging in their coop?”

The more detail you can add to your plan the better. Make sure you spell out what is both general and specific to you. Take nothing for granted and try to provide as much detail as possible.

Things you will need to negotiate

There are a number of things you will need to negotiate with your chicken sitter prior to leaving for your holiday. Though you might have grand expectations about the level of involvement your chicken sitter will want to have with your flock, it’s important that you clarify their level of engagement prior to leaving on your holiday.

  1. How many days a week will they come by the house? If the chicken sitter is happy to come every day then they will simply refill the chicken feeder and waterer one day at a time. In the event they only want to come by every three days, or maybe even just once a week, then you may need to secure and extra feeder and waterer, so that the chickens have plenty to eat in the meantime.

  2. Will the chicken sitter be happy to let them free range for a while when they come round? Some chicken sitters will happily make a cup of coffee and sit on the porch and watch your flock go nuts in the backyard, whereas others might simply want to get in and get out. If you are going to be gone for weeks at a time it’s imperative that your chickens do get some time out of the coop. Try to negotiate reasonable expectations with your chicken sitter to ensure your girls get some time to free-range.

  3. Is the chicken sitter happy to clean the coop? This can be a sticky point of conversation. Some chicken owners only ever clean their coop once a fortnight whereas others like to give it a quick spot clean daily. It’s important for the chickens that their routine remains relatively undisturbed, so it might be best if you can negotiate a cleaning schedule that’s as close to how it would normally be. For example, if you clean your coop every Saturday simply ask the chicken sitter is they’d be right to empty and reline the cleaning trays and give the coop a quick spot clean every Saturday.

  4. Always offer the eggs in gratitude! Let your chicken sitter know if you are happy for them to take the eggs. This way they’ll feel both excited to come and see the chooks and it’s also a sign that you are grateful for the wonderful work they’ve been doing.

  5. Will you want them to move the coop? If you have a chicken tractor, like the Taj Mahal, it might be good to show the chick sitter how both to move the coop, as well as how to choose the perfect coop spot in your yard.

If you're looking for some handy accessories that will make your chicken sitters life a little easier, you could always consider investigating our Roll Away Nesting Boxes, which will help keep your eggs safe from your chickens while you're away.

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Don't forget to show your chicken sitter how grateful you are

There are so many way to show the chicken sitter that you appreciate all the kind for you've done. If they have a sweet tooth you can bake them a bunch of yummy treats, like sparkly carrot cupcakes or give them a little hamper of eggs a week later. Be sure you don't forget to show the chicken sitter how much you care. After all, most of the time they will do a truly excellent job of caring for your chooks.

So long as you prepare, leave a detailed list and negotiate your expectations with the chicken sitter, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while you’re on holiday. At the end of the day chickens are pretty simple creatures, all they really need is plenty of feed and water, as well as a nice coop to take shelter in.

Don’t forget, one of the best ways to keep your chickens safe from predators while you’re away is by ensuring they live in a big strong coop, like the Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion. Also, check out our great range of accessories that help keep predators at bay, like the Predator Light, Auto Door and Wire Mesh Flooring.

Sources and further reading

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