Chickens can be a great addition to any small farm or homestead. With the changing laws allowing for chickens to be in more urban settings too, they are starting to become a part of many homes and many lives. Commercial eggs just cannot compare to organic free-range eggs in terms of nutrition or taste, but what about for those with a busy lifestyle?
Can you leave chickens alone? Yes, you can leave chickens alone, but it depends on how long you need to. Chickens, for the most part, can take care of themselves, but they do rely on humans for food, water, and protection. So as long as they have adequate food and water and are properly protected, then they can manage alone for a few days.
Chickens are wonderful and simple and such a benefit to our lives. If given enough exposure to humans at a young age, they can become as attached to their humans as dogs can. Unlike dogs, however, they can give more than an emotional return for the care and love we give them. Chickens can also help provide for us while we provide for them.
How Independent are Chickens?
Chickens are amazingly independent, as far as pets and farm animals go. Like most birds, they can figure out how to feed themselves if given the right environment.
Chickens tend to be omnivores and can use a wide variety of different foods to sustain themselves. One of their favorites, however, is bugs. The whole reason behind chickens scratching the ground is usually looking for bugs.
With this in mind, if they are given an area that will allow them to look for bugs in safety, such a garden surrounded by a chicken fence, they will be able to feed themselves almost entirely on the bugs they find. This will also protect your garden.
Can You Leave Chickens Alone for a Week?
I would not advise leaving chickens alone for an entire week, but this does not mean that you cannot take a week-long vacation either. There are a few measures that you can put in place, like a chicken sitter, to allow for an extended time away from your chickens without endangering their lives.
How to Leave for a Week’s Vacation When Raising Chickens
As I mentioned, there are things that can be done to allow for an extended vacation away from your home and your chickens without risking their health or safety. While I will go into deeper details, some of the things you can do are:
- Hire a chicken sitter
- Provide extra food and water
- Ensure their enclosure is predator proof
- Motion Sensor lights
By taking a little extra time in both the planning of their habitat and before your vacation, you can ensure that your chickens will be safe if you have to leave for up to a week.
Hire a Chicken Sitter
You may be concerned that hiring a chicken sitter may mean an extra expense, but that may not always be the case. You may be able to convince an able-bodied neighbor that does not have chickens to look in on yours while you are gone for the cost of the eggs the chickens lay while you are gone.
If you have a flock of laying hens that lay around 6 to 10 eggs a day and you are gone for 6 days, then at the very least, your neighbor could get anywhere from 3 to 5 dozen farm fresh eggs out of the deal. Many people may see this as a good deal since all they have to do is check food and water and make sure the enclosure isn’t damaged.
By providing a regular human visitor to your area, it might help to keep some predators at bay that would otherwise start going after your chickens with the assumption that no humans are present.
Using a chicken sitter will also ensure that your chickens have not run out of food or water, broken out of their protected area, or gotten sick during your absence.
Provide Extra Food and Water
Only you will know how much food and water your chickens go through in a day. If you intend to be out of town for 6 days, then you will want to give them how much they will eat, plus 2 days, in the feeder. This will allow for those who like picking through their food and dumping it, and in case someone gets a little hungrier than usual.
If you are able to give them access to the outside world while you are gone, they will be able to supplement their feed diet with bugs they find outside.
Provide Additional Food and Water Sources
Chickens can get moody, for lack of a better term, and this can cause chicken temper tantrums. They can fly about, knock stuff over, and get into arguments with each other if cooped up for too long.
If you provide multiple water and food sources, your chickens will still have access to the essentials if one of their flocks decides to knock over or otherwise ruin one of the other sources.
Pro Tip: This can be abated a bit by having a predator-proof way for them to go outside. Allowing chickens to go outside can be a great way for them to stay entertained and not go crazy while you are gone, but this can only be done if they can do so safely.
Ensure Their Enclosure is Predator Proof
This is one of those things that needs to be taken into consideration when building their coop or habitat. Keep in mind that chickens have more predators than say a sheep does, so these different predators do need to be taken into account. Both flying and four-legged predators can be an issue with chickens, so research your area and see what you need to defend against.
Things like owls and hawks and even eagles, depending on your location, can all be an issue when it comes to raising chickens. Due to being penned up, this can make them an easy target for flying predators, and this needs to be taken into account when building an enclosure for your chickens.
By using a roof of some kind, you can help to prevent these predators from being able to make away with half of your flock. Even if you are using chicken wire or hardware cloth, this can still prevent flying predators since they are not gonna try to climb in. They will only go after targets they can swoop down and grab.
These are gonna be the hardest to defend against, again, depending on your area. If you are rural you may have to be concerned about things like mountain lions, which will require a stronger enclosure, but not a deep one. If you live in an area that foxes are prevalent (the smartest predator), then your concern will be making sure they can dig under it.
Making sure you have a metal floor under both the enclosure AND outdoor run will be important to defeat foxes. While maintaining stronger walls and fence lines will be your defense against mountain lions. Of the 2, mountain lions are the more dangerous, and they will keep coming back and WILL attack humans or pets if confronted.
Motion Sensor Lights
Motion sensor lights will help if used regularly while you are still home. You can train predators that if the lights come on, then a human will appear. So when you are gone, if they see the lights come in, they will assume a human is closely behind.
Chickens can be left alone for short periods of time, but if you’re going to be away for a week or longer, you will need to take some extra precautions to ensure that your chickens remain protected, happy, and healthy.