Holidaying Hens

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doing their thing at home

Keeping livestock, even on a small scale involves lots of responsibility. When you go away, there are kennels in which to house your dogs and there are catteries for your kitties, but henneries (chickeneries?) are few and far between. Big farms may have staff or helpers, but back gardens do not. In years gone by our neighbours – previous chicken owners themselves – would pop round and care for our four ladies. However, now they are in their nineties (the neighbours not the hens) we think it’s a bit much to ask. So, some dear friends who also keep chickens have taken on the job.

The problem is that said friends live a half hour’s drive away, so calling round twice a day to let chickens out and put them to bed is not an option. And so, every time we go away, so do the chickens. First, they get stuffed into cardboard boxes and then transported by car to their holiday home. Fortunately our friends have a two-part run with two houses, so their flock and ours are kept separate (we don’t want any squabbles). They always continue laying whilst they are away, although the space is more restricted than at home, so they are clearly happy with their alternative accommodation.

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holidaying hens

And there are interesting neighbours to shout at…

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brown hens next door

We have considered installing automatic doors on the coop that have light sensors so that they open in the morning and close at night, which would mean that we could (in theory) leave them unattended for a few days. We are not, however, very comfortable with this idea. Taking care of animals comes with responsibility to attend to their needs and protect them, and leaving them unwatched would mean that we couldn’t be certain of their welfare. So, for now, they go on holidays and we are very grateful to have good friends who will help us out this way.

 

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30 Comments

  1. This is the very reason we decided not to get any. I did this design during Steve’s PDC & it answered oe of our long outstanding questions.

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    • I am seriously considering whether we will have more once the current ones finally go. The two things I would miss most if we didn’t have them would be the fresh eggs and the slug control.

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      • I like the sound of slug control. Are your chickens free to range/roam during the day? One of my sisters has a flock of 80+ chickens, and it certainly curtails her ability to travel. Hurrah that your chickens are portable AND that your friends have parallel living quarters for them when they visit!

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      • When we looked into why we were considering hens, it was for pest/weed control & soil fertility. Eggs would be a bonus, but not the sole reason. Going to build that pond instead to encourage frogs/newts, plus Steve’s camera design is really helping to build our hoggie population.

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  2. I love that your hens go on holiday!
    This is why we don’t yet have a dog, despite our children begging for one. We’d love one, but we also go away a few times a year, and would hate yo leave it behind. Perhaps soon…

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  3. Hmm, have you spotted a niche market – maybe a new hensitting website or befriend a chicken – for all those people who would like to look after a pet!

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  4. Murtagh's Meadow

     /  March 22, 2018

    Like the idea of chickens having holiday too. Luckily my parents are close enough to look after ours on the rare occasion we are away and we look after theirs when they are away.

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  5. I’ve wanted chickens for a long time but this is the thing that always holds me up (I mean, besides the fact that I live in a rented apartment with no back garden).

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  6. It’s hard enough getting the cat and or dog looked after satisfactorily without having to worry about your hens too! I’m glad you made this post, for this as an issue had never entered my head when you mention going away. I’m pleased you have your friends available for hen-sitting duties as required. All our animals come with the proviso we must make their well being and care a priority and sometimes it simply means we are not free to do what we might otherwise do. I’m learning that right now!!

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    • I would not be happy to go away unless I knew all our animals were being properly cared for. The hens are relatively easy to look after, but I would not be happy to leave them and hope for the best. Some of our previously part-time neighbours are now living in their house permanently and I must test the water with them about chicken-sitting… I think there is the possibility.

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  7. How nice to have friends who have room for your hens. Animals do require our care and it’s nice your hens are happy when on holiday. Perhaps they even think of it as a change of scene (well, given their brains, maybe not).

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  8. Laurie Graves

     /  March 23, 2018

    First time I have ever heard of anyone doing this, but if they are laying eggs, then the hens must be doing fine in their holiday home.

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  9. ANd when your friends go on holiday, their chickens can come and B & B with you! 🙂

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  10. I reckon you’ve identified a niche market. Some needs to either build a chicken equivalent of kennels (RunAway? Chooktopia? Birds of a Feather?), or create a network of poultry-keepers who have spare accommodation and can offer ‘roost and breakfast’ for visiting girls. Chook bnb, maybe.

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  11. I love that they talk to their hosts so to speak from the runs. We had guinea pigs who always needed someone to care for them. Usually a friend of the childrens.

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  12. My neighbours let the chickens in and out if we go away and their reward used to be any eggs laid during that time (and the glow of happiness which comes from being a good neighbour of course!). However, we are down to a very old hen (12 years old) and a middle aged one now so we are lucky to get a couple of eggs a week. We can’t decide whether to carry on with some new girls or not – I have a friend with lots of chickens and I’ve been buying eggs from her at a bargain price so I won’t lose out on fresh eggs.
    We couldn’t put our dogs in kennels at the moment as our oldest boy is 12 and almost blind and deaf. A housesitter is the answer when you have lots of animals – but then I only like using people I know (and are willing) so not always possible.

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    • Strangely our old dog seems to rather like his visits to the kennels… where he gets hand-fed and can stroll in and out of his bed to his heart’s content. We were very worried about him being there last week, but he seems to have thrived and probably got more exercise and stimulation than he does at home!

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  13. Our non-henkeeping neighbours are happy to open/shut the run morning and night and keep food and water topped up, as even free ranging hens actually require very little care. They get to keep all the eggs that are laid whilst we’re away and they’re very happy with that. If we go away for just a few days, we shut them in the run and don’t bother the neighbours. I can’t imagine the garden without hens, so I hope your solution continues to work for you so you can enjoy yours (and subsequent ones).

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  14. All so true! Though I’ve never heard of the hens having a holiday. Lucky birds. 😉

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  15. Aw, so cute. But do they have little overnight bags? You know, to hold their slipper and nightcaps? I am really lucky that my mom is always more than willing to stay at my place when we go on vacation. She gets time in Portland and we get free petsitting. I’m also lucky that my “livestock” (honeybees) don’t require much maintenance while we’re away. Still, I do think someone needs to jump on the Chicken Spa idea to solve this gap in the service industry.

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