A few times a year we will go on vacation for 3-7 days, leaving behind our flocks. I no longer worry about our birds and can relax and enjoy our vacation because I’ve been able to set up a system that works great. In fact, we use this system all the time, so I only have to tend to the chicken chores about once a week!
Here is exactly what we do when we go on vacation.
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Ask for help
We generally ask a family member or two to stop by and collect our mail, give the house a once over, and check on our animals. Although the animals don’t need any care while we are away, it makes me feel better to know someone a least checked on them. Their payment for help is whatever eggs they collect.
Large volume waterers
We have about 50 chickens, and our summers are regularly in the 90’s-100’s. Chickens drink a lot of water especially when it’s hot.
With some basic math, we can figure out how much water is needed during our absence. One chicken drinks about 1 pint (or 0.5 Liter) each day in the summer. I have 50 chickens, so I need to provide 50 pints or 25 liters of water a day.
If I want to be away for 7 days, and they drink 25 liters of water a day, I will need a total of 175 liters (or 46 gallons) available.
It’s not as much as it sounds
We do not use traditional plastic fount waterers. Instead, we use 5 gallon buckets or larger with side mount poultry nipples. The nipples are ideal because we can set the water container on the ground, and we don’t lose water due to evaporation or leakage. Plus the water stays perfectly clean!
Since we can make our own waterers using the poultry nipples, we use a 15 gallon water drum. When we leave for vacation, we add several watering drums to the run, including an extra one in case they get really thirsty. For our 50 chickens we only need 3 drums, but we add 4 if we are gone for about 7 days.
- 5 gallon bucket is 19 liters
- 15 gallon barrel is 56 liters
- 55 gallon drum is 208 liters
- 275 gallon IBC tote is 1041 liters
Another option would be a watering container (i.e. bucket) with an autofill float valve, like this one on Amazon. If your container can refill itself, you don’t need multiple containers or need to calculate how much water you need for your birds.
In the winter we simply add heaters to the water barrels. More on our winter water setup here.
High capacity feeders
Birds also eat a lot. An adult laying hen will consume roughly 1/4 pound of food each day.
As before, if we have 50 hens and each hen requires 1/4 pound of food each day, the flock will need about 13 pounds of food daily. If we want to be gone for 7 days, we will need 88 pounds of food (or 2 bags).
We use treadle feeders for all of our birds. We started using them when we found the wild birds were eating a lot of the chickens food, and found they also help reduce the rodent problem. Since we are losing less feed to starlings and mice, our feeding costs have gone down quite a bit!
As mentioned before. we have friends and family stop by when we are gone and let them collect and keep eggs. If you do not have anyone to stop by, any buildup of eggs will not cause a problem. If it is hot outside, eggs should be discarded.
In todays high tech world, it is becoming more popular to add wifi cameras to coops. While you are away, you can use a smart phone or tablet to check on the birds for added piece of mind. Although I do not own one myself, I have heard several positive reviews of this camera.
Our birds have a large coop attached to a large run, so we don’t have to let them out to free range while we are gone (although we do let them out when we are home, the attached run is huge so they are just fine staying locked up).
Test everything before you leave
Assuming you have prior notice of your upcoming absence, it is always best to do a trial run before you leave. If you are going to be gone for 7 days, set everything up and make sure you have enough food and water to last the full week. Not only will this offer you piece of mind, but you’ll also know if any changes need to be made.
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