At this time of year many people are looking forward to their summer holidays, but
for those who have chickens there is an extra consideration. Who will look after the
There are stern warnings on the DEFRA website (
about ensuring
chickens are checked daily and always have adequate food and water. Those of us who
keep a few hens as pets don’t need telling twice – we’d take them with us if we could.
As this is unlikely to be practical, although maybe not impossible, what alternatives are
there for ensuring that the girls are properly looked after while we enjoy that well-deserved
The friendly neighbour
This is the most obvious option, but depends on the friendliness and reliability of the
neighbours. Will a regular supply of eggs (plus a few bottles of duty-free) be recompense
enough for chicken duty twice a day for a fortnight? Maybe they’ll love to help, but make
sure they understand exactly what is involved, how to recognise if anything is wrong, and
what to do about it.
Take the chickens to family or friends
If you have a small ark with a few chickens, it may be possible to transport it to another
garden (take the chickens in a pet or chicken carrier, and if a car journey is involved be
careful they don’t become overheated). If the family/friends are unused to chickens, be
sure to leave clear instructions, and also look out for any unfriendly pets or predators that
may be found in these new surroundings.
Arrange a chicken-sitting circle
If there are other hen keepers in the neighbourhood, you could get together and arrange to
help each other out during holidays.
Leaving them with automated equipment
Some people do this, especially if the chickens are in a secure enclosure, and are only to
be left for a couple of days. Automatic pop-holes and feeders are available, but still should
be checked daily to make sure they are working properly. The hens
should also be inspected every day in case of sickness, or even
death – a healthy looking hen can quickly turn into a very sick one,
and may be attacked by the others. If eggs aren’t collected
regularly, egg eating may be the result and this habit will be difficult
to break.
A paid pet-sitter
Look on notice-boards at the vet’s surgery, or in the local feed/pet
stores for pet sitters who will come in to feed and water animals
whilst owners are away. Make sure they know how to look after
poultry, and can supply references. Alternatively, a local odd-jobber
or student may be glad of some extra income, but you should feel
confident in their reliability – and in allowing them access to the
garden while you are away.
By Anne Perdeaux