Flying The Coop: How To Look After Your Chickens When You Go Away For The Weekend

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 22 July 2020

Hamburg chicken in Taj Mahal backyard chicken coop

First time chicken owners often get quite nervous and anxious at the thought of leaving their fine feathered friends home alone for a weekend. Easter, ANZAC day, Queens Birthday weekend, weddings, birthdays, Christmas-  there are a whole host of reasons why you might need to leave town for a few days, and most of the time it isn’t advantageous, convenient or even acceptable to take your chickens with you. Most chicken owners will nervously ask themselves the question, “is it safe for me to leave my chickens unattended?” Fortunately, the answer is “yes”, caring for your chickens while you are away is safe and easy, so long as your plan ahead in terms of food, water and predators.

How long is too long?

First things first, chickens should only be left alone for a maximum of three to four days at the very most. If you are intending to leave your chickens for anytime longer than three or four days, it’s imperative that you arrange for a ‘chicken sitter’ – be that a friend, neighbour or otherwise – to come around and help your flock out. Further to this point, it is only safe to leave your chickens unattended for three to four days if you have done the necessary preparation in advance, just like you would with any other pet, like a cat or a dog. Chickens are reasonably simply creatures that just need food, water and adequately secure shelter.

Should I let my neighbours know?

It definitely doesn’t hurt to let a trustworthy neighbour know that you’re going away over the weekend. Most people do this just to ensure someone keeps an eye on the house, but you can also ask your neighbour to just stick their head over the fence and check to see if your coop and the chickens are alright. Lots of people already get their neighbours to take the bins out, check the mail and feed the dog while they're away, so a quick glance over a fence really isn't too much to ask. Also, you may want to ask them to collect the eggs, which will surely brighten their day, after all, who doesn't want to eat delicious, nutritious, fresh free-range eggs? If you want your neighbours to do anything more than that, it’s probably best that you make a bit more of a plan.

Are chickens self-sufficient?

This is a tricky question to answer. On the one hand, chickens are very independent and can keep themselves happy without too much human involvement. While on the other hand,  chickens rely heavily on humans to provide them with food and water. Chickens need to a constant supply of food and especially water, otherwise there is a grave risk of starvation, dehydration, which sadly can result in death. So long as you are able to meet the flocks basic survival needs while you’re away, chances are your chooks will be perfectly content and happy.

Backyard chicken flock in enclosed taj mahal coop

What should I do about food and water?

Food and water is really the top priority when leaving your chickens for a couple of days. So long as they are living in a secure coop, like the Penthouse and have plenty of food and water, you will know that you at least have all their basic needs covered. This is why it’s important that you’ve got a solid plan in terms of how your flock will  easily access their food and water over this time. If you want more information about how much water a adult chicken should drink per day, simply click here.

How much feed and water should I leave?

The general wisdom is that chickens should have constant access to food and water, however, while you’re away, work on the formula that your chickens will eat about 1/2 cup of feed and drink approximately 500 millilitres of water per day. For example, say you have 3 chickens and you are going away for three days you will need at least approximately 4.5 cups of feed and around 4.5 litres of water. This being said, you know how much your chickens eat and drink best, so simply try to recreate the same food supply as you would if you were still at home.

Is it better to be safe than sorry?

It is better to leave too much feed rather than too little. Some people ensure they have a large feeder and waterer available so they can fill it to the brim and feel assured that their chickens have access to plenty of food and drink. This being said, overfilled feeders tend to attract pests and rodents, such as mice and rats to the coop, so best not to make a habit of overfilling the feeder.

Are extra feeders and waterers a good idea?

It is a very good idea to have get an extra feeder and waterer for your coop for a number of reasons. Firstly, as many chicken owners know, these cheeky girls like to tip over their feeders & waterers when they get bored. So, if they are going to be locked up in the run or coop for a few days, it is a distinct possibility that they may throw a tantrum and knock over their food supply. This of course would cause severe problems if the flock no longer has access to clean food or water. Having an extra feeder and waterer is a great way to ensure that your chickens will have access to food and water over the entire duration of your time away, should they experience a diva moment and flip over their feeder or waterer.

Should I leave them some extra treats?

Leaving your flock some extra treats is not only a good way to keep them entertained, but it also is an extra way to ensure they have plenty of food. Hanging some cabbage, lettuce or broccoli from the ceiling of the run is the perfect way to promote a fun party culture inside the coop while you’re away.

How can I protect my flock from predators?

One of the scary possible realities of leaving your flock unattended is that most predators are able to tell when humans are away. This means your chickens are more likely to be sort out by predators, which may try to burrow into the coop. Securing your coop with wire mesh flooring, to prevent the predators from burrowing under, as well as installing a predator light and an auto door are all clever ways to further protect your flock while you are out of town.

Our Backyard Chicken Coops are a real hit with our customers, who love the fact that they are both easy to clean and keep them safe from predators, which gives them peace of mind at night.

"The coop is extremely easy to clean and my girls love the roosts in the run.  I love watching them potter off into the coop at dusk to settle in for the night.  I know that the girls are safe at night in the coop and the run also keeps the predators out." (Karen, C, owner of a Penthouse chicken coop)

What can I do to keep the coop clean?

It is a good idea to give your coop a thorough clean from top to bottom before you go away. Remove all the bedding and replace it with slightly more bedding than you normally would, to ensure that manure won’t become a problem while you’re away. It’s probably best to go with a high quality product like hemp bedding that has nearly twice the absorbency of regular animal bedding. At the end of the day however, there really isn’t much else you can do in terms of preventing mess and manure from building up while you’re away. Just be prepared to give your coop a good once over when you get back.

Will my chickens get lonely?

Chickens are social creatures but the truth of the matter is that they genuinely prefer the company of other chickens. Though we assume chickens value the role humans play in their lives greatly, at the end of the day it is more important that they have continuous contact with other chooks, as opposed to humans. The good thing about this is, you don’t have to worry about them getting lonely while you’re away, so long as they have the whole flock to keep them company. Though they will notice you’re gone, it is unlikely that they’ll be too phased or worried by the whole situation.

So long as you are prepared, have plenty of fresh food and water available and have a strong and secure coop like the Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion, chances are your weekend away from home will go off without a hitch. Who knows? Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder and you and your chickens will find your bonds have grown even tighter over your time away?

It can be so daunting to leave our feathered flocks and as chicken keepers, we all want to do an eggcellent job when caring for our feathered friends. There are so many things to consider when becoming a chicken parent from vacations to health to nutrition. Many chicken keepers struggle to handle chicken health or behaviour issues, especially in the first few years of having a flock.

This is why I recommend Chickenpedia to all my readers. They have comprehensive online courses on everything you didn’t know you need to know and then some more! From healthcare to raising baby chicks to feeding and behavior, you’ll find beginner-friendly courses that’ll give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully look after your chickens.

As a member, you will get access to ALL their fantastic courses. No need to wing it, become the ultimate chicken eggspert! Check out Chickenpedia today!

Sources and further reading