Chickens are relatively self-reliant and can be left alone for a maximum of 3 days. So, it’s possible for you to go on a weekend trip as long as you’ve made the proper preparations. The main things to keep in mind are food, water, and protection from predators.
It’s best to start preparing a couple of weeks in advance, especially if it’ll be your first time leaving your chickens alone. Here are some key things to consider before leaving them on their own for a couple of days.
Preparing to Leave Your Chickens Alone
Chickens can be by themselves for a couple of days without any issues. It’s often best to do a test run while you’re still at home so that you can make adjustments that’ll ensure your chickens have plenty of food and that your chicken coop is fool-proof and keeps predators out.
Food and Water
It’s important to measure out enough food and water that’ll last your chicken for the duration you’re away. You may have to purchase a larger feeder to hold the extra food. Make sure to look for containers that are spill-proof and difficult to knock over. It’s also helpful to invest in a set of automatic waterer cups, as this helps prevent spills and splashes.
It’s best to have extra food left over than leave your chickens feeling hungry. Chickens are creatures of habit and can start to feel stress when experiencing feed restrictions. This can lead to competitiveness amongst the brood.
If you usually keep the food and water outside of the coop, you may want to store them inside the coop while you’re gone. The weather could change, and rainwater can contaminate the water and cause food to get moldy. The food could also attract unwanted pests and animals while you’re gone.
Protection from Predators
One of the biggest challenges to leaving your chickens by themselves is natural predators. Many animals prey on chickens and eggs, so it’s important to provide protection for your chickens while you’re away.
Get to know what kinds of natural predators live in your area. Then, you can purchase equipment that’s specifically designed to keep them out of your yard. It’s also helpful to install a motion sensor light near your chicken coop, The light can startle and scare off some nocturnal predators.
If you have a chicken run, make sure to reinforce it with an added layer of wire fencing to discourage animals from getting inside. It’s also helpful to cut down tall grasses or bushes near your chicken coop so that animals can’t hide and stalk your chickens in them.
Check for any holes and gaps in your fencing. Animals can be opportunistic and bite and scratch at existing holes until they’re big enough for them to slip inside. Make sure to bury some chicken wire at least 2 feet deep around the chicken coop. You can also dig a trench around the wire and bury more wire mesh to discourage digging.
If you have aerial predators in your area, cover your chicken coop with mesh to prevent them from accessing it from above.
Get the Right Coop
If you’re only gone for a day or two, you could leave your chickens in the coop. The coop just has to be the right size and allow an ample amount of light inside. As a general rule of thumb, the coop should have at least 3 square feet per chicken. So, if you have 5 chickens, it should have at least 15 square feet of space.
Overcrowding can lead to bullying and competitive behavior. Chickens can start to pull feathers and peck at each other. It’s also important to have plenty of roosting and nesting spaces, as some hens may start to eat eggs, especially if an egg breaks and there’s no one there to clean it up immediately.
If you plan to leave your chickens in their coop while you’re gone, make sure to provide plenty of toys and enrichment activities in the coop to alleviate restlessness. You can find several enrichment toys, like food puzzle feeders and hanging toys for your chickens to investigate.
Automatic Chicken Coop Door
This option only works if you’ve trained your chickens to roost in their coops at night. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to train chickens to return to their coop, and this can be completed within a matter of weeks.
Once your chickens consistently return to their coop at night, you can install an automatic door that opens and closes at certain times of the day. These types of doors are an extra measure of protection against predators and will keep all your chickens safe and tucked in for the night.
Ask a Neighbor to Collect Eggs
It can be helpful to have someone stop by to collect eggs while you’re gone. This person can also give you updates on your chickens and keep an eye out for any predators that might make attempts to break into the coop.
Having someone stop by briefly to collect eggs will reduce the risk of eggs breaking inside the coop. It can also discourage some predators, like snakes and rats, from breaking inside to eat eggs.
Chickens can be left alone for a few days if you put the proper safety precautions in place. Make sure to provide plenty of food and water in spill-proof containers and place them in locations where they won’t get knocked over easily. It’s also important to reinforce your chicken coop and run so that they keep predators out.
Once you have all the preparations ready, you can ask a friend or neighbor to check on your chickens and collect eggs. They can just update you on how your chickens are doing and won’t have to do much else until you get back.
Featured Image Credit: Chris Watson, Shutterstock