Friday, January 11, 2013

9 Tips When Planning a Vacation

by Melissa Caughey-Tilly's Nest

At some point in every chicken keeper's life, they plan a vacation. Whether it is only overnight or a few days, often the dilemma as to who will watch the flock arises. Of course, it is important to find the perfect person so that your vacation can be relaxing and you will not be away worrying about your chickens. As most chicken keepers know, chickens are pretty easy to care for. As long as they are let out in the morning, locked up at night, have access to food and water, and their eggs are harvested, they are pretty content to go about their typical daily activities.

Be sure to arrange for a responsible chicken keeper that lives nearby and enjoys the chickens. Often neighbors, nearby family, friends or even professional chicken sitters will fit the bill. Often the reward of freshly laid eggs will have folks volunteering their services.

Pay your sitters in eggs.
1. Before you leave, be sure that you leave behind your contact information and a phone number of a local fellow chicken keeper just in case you cannot be reached.  Keep a chicken first aid kit handy and a reference book on backyard chickens just in case. If available, also leave the number of your veterinarian in case of emergencies.

2. Clean the coop and be sure to have plenty of food and water available and be sure to label everything clearly. Novices can easily confuse food and scratch.

3. Do a coop walk through with the chicken sitter. Encourage questions and be sure to also leave written instructions of everything you discuss. Be sure to have them try the locks, fill the food and waterers and mingle with the chickens to be sure they are comfortable. If you cover the coop during rain or snow, provide instructions as well.

4. Encourage the sitter to stay as close to your routine as possible including when and how you feed your chickens, when their coop doors are opened in the morning and closed at night and how often you harvest the eggs.

5. Discuss any current flock members that have issues with the chicken sitter. Is anyone healing from a wound? Has anyone been under the weather? Are they molting? Have any predators been around lately?

6. Prevent boredom while you are away. Have the sitter toss in an entire head of cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower into the run every few days. If you are away during the fall, share an entire pumpkin.

7. Inspect the coop and run prior to your departure. Be sure that the hardware and locks are all functioning. Ensure that predator proofing is secure. Make any repair as necessary. Keep the front porch light on and utilize motion sensing flood lights to curtail predators. Predators will know that you are away.

8.  Let your neighbors know that you will be away and encourage them to visit the chickens when they can in addition to the chicken sitter. Let them know appropriate treats that they can share with your chickens.

9.  Discourage free-ranging in your absence if possible. This makes it easier for the chicken sitter and prevents them from worrying about and locating missing chickens at dusk.

Hanging celery keeps them busy.

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