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One of the best things about owning chickens is that they are relatively independent. They very rarely ask for much – as long as they have access to food, water, and shelter, hens pretty much keep themselves occupied!
That said, how independent are they, really? More to the point, how long can backyard chickens be left alone for?
Chickens can generally be left alone for around three to four days. However, they cannot be left alone without careful preparation beforehand. As a chicken owner, you must ensure that your birds have access to water, clean bedding, feed, and more while you are away.
Let’s look closer at how you can prepare your chickens for your time away from them with that in mind.
How to prepare your chickens for time away
Everyone is entitled to a break, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to spend some time away without having to worry about your chickens. Unlike dogs, cats, fish, and other pets, your chickens will not necessarily need constant vigilance, and you will not necessarily have to have a babysitter lined up to take care of them.
You will need to ensure that your chickens are safe and happy while you are away. That means ensuring they are fed, watered, and kept secure from any potential predators.
Raising backyard chickens is a lot of fun – but, understandably, you may not be able to hold the fort 24 hours a day. Here are a few simple steps to preparing your chickens for any absence.
Prepare food and water
The main thing that you will need to consider is that your chickens have enough food and water while you are away. Generally speaking, a chicken should be eating about one-half cup of food every day and around 500ml of water. Make sure you know what to feed your chickens for the best while you’re gone, too.
Therefore, you will need to calculate how much food you should leave for your chickens, based on the number in your coop – and the length of time you plan on being away. It might be prudent to leave an automatic bird feeder set up, especially if you are worried about your feathery friends going through their grains too quickly! (Did you know that you can even make your own automatic chicken feeder?)
If you’re buying a feeder outright, you will naturally need to ensure that it is a quality product, and it would be wise to test it before departing. Leave some healthy, chicken-friendly treats that can help them take their minds off your absence, too.
Secure the chicken coop
Although it’s unlikely that your chickens will fly away, predators are likely to sense if you are absent and may try to get into your coop. You will need to ensure it’s fully secured before you leave – that much is obvious! However, it will also be wise to place a mesh layer on the floor of the chicken coop to ensure that animals that will burrow underneath will still not be able to access the chickens.
If you are really worried about predators, make sure to have someone on standby to check over the coop once or twice a day. Providing your perimeter is secure and there are a handful of predator deterrents in place, you shouldn’t have major concerns when it comes to keeping your chickens safely in their yard.
Ensure that there is enough space in the coop
Chances are, you only ever lock away your chickens at night when they are asleep. However, if you are planning on leaving them for days, you will need to ensure that there is enough room in the coop for them to move around in and live comfortably and safely within.
Of course, unless you have someone coming to check on your chickens while you’re away, you won’t be able to change their bedding until you’re back. So, make sure to create fresh bedding for them on the day of you leaving.
Arrange a chicken-sitter
If you plan to be away, it would be wise to ask a friend or a neighbor to stop by just to keep an eye on your chickens. As long as someone comes, even once, to check that the chickens are safe and still have access to food and water, then you’ll have added peace of mind.
If you’re away for three or four days (the maximum recommended), then it’s likely a good idea to ask someone to ensure the perimeter is still secured against predators and that egg-laying is taken care of. Ask someone you trust to collect eggs for you (and maybe even promise them an omelet as payment!).
Of course, if you have someone ‘chicken-sitting’ for you, then it makes sense to ask them to change their bedding and freshen their water, too. This is the best option if you’re concerned about what might happen during your absence. Be sure that your chicken-sitter knows what not to feed your coop while you’re gone.
Can I leave my chickens alone for longer than four days?
No – it’s not recommended that you leave any group of chickens alone for more than a weekend, ideally. That is unless you have a chicken-sitter who can take over your duties for you for a while.
This isn’t just a case of ensuring your coop gets enough food and water. Chickens love routine, and believe it or not, chickens often befriend their owners. Therefore, if you only go away for a short time, it’ll be peace of mind for your birds, too!
Chickens can be easy enough to look after and require little vigilance, providing you’re close by. That said, your friends in the coop will be glad when you return and will likely deserve a nice treat for being so well-behaved while you were away!
The main thing to remember is their safety. Assure they are safe and warm – then, you can safely go away for a few days. Where in doubt, ask a neighbor, family member, or friend you trust to watch over them while you’re gone.