Whether you're traveling just a few miles to the vet, across town to a chicken swap, across the state to attend a poultry show or moving clear across the country, you will need a plan to get your chickens from point A to point B as safely as possible.
I don't have a lot of experience transporting chickens since mine have been super healthy and don't need vet visits, I don't generally go to swaps or shows because of biosecurity concerns, and we've been living in the same place for 14 years now - far longer than we've had chickens. But this week I find myself faced with a 900+ mile 'road trip' to our new farm! The logistics of moving all our worldly belongings, plus 14 ducks, 11 chickens, 2 horses, 2 dogs and a cat (who is an AWFUL car traveler!) and all their 'stuff' is pretty daunting.
But I do know chickens and have read a few accounts of other homesteaders moving their menagerie to a new place, so I feel pretty confident I have it under control. Here's my plan for getting our flock safely to their new home.
Smallish crates or cages are best for transporting chickens. You don't want them to be crammed in, but you do want them contained and unable to flap around, fly or otherwise hurt themselves or be jostled in case of a sudden stop. Put some fresh straw on the bottom. Straw will make less of a mess and be better traction for them than shavings.
This cage that I have Violet in is actually a bunny cage, but will comfortably hold two chickens. I usually use this small cage for a broody and her chicks and it's perfect for that as well. (Here's where I got mine.)
We also will be using several dog crates to separate the chickens into small groups for travel (make sure you put BFFs - best feathered friends - in together, you don't want any squabbling during the trip. Alternatively you can use cardboard boxes with holes cut in the sides and top for ventilation, but I really recommend using wire cages for better air flow.
Chickens overheat very easily, especially when they are stressed, so you want to be sure they are out of the direct sun, and have plenty of moving air flow on them. A horse trailer, the back of an SUV or other vehicle, the bed of a pickup truck (as long as the crates are shaded from the sun) or even in the backseat of your car are all suitable locations for the crates, depending on how many you have and how large your vehicle is.
I recommend leaving water in the crates for them for the entire trip, and also stopping periodically to check for signs of heat exhaustion (pale combs, wings held out, panting, etc.) and to let everyone take a drink while the vehicle is not moving.
These waterers from Ware Manufacturing are great for trips. I use them for feed as well. They hook right onto the sides of a wire crate. Feed isn't as important as water during the trip, especially if its a short trip, but if you have some small hanging feeders, they will make feeding easier. I also like the small cage cups that are often used for show birds. They hang right on the cages and are just the right size for two or three hens.
If are going on a long trip and are travelling in the summer, stopping every so often to provide some water-laden treats is also a good idea. Watermelon, cucumbers and cabbage are all great choices to keep your chickens hydrated. Keep them in a cooler with ice to keep them chilled for your chickens.
Another great tip is to fill some covered metal pails with bags of ice. Then place them next to the crates so your chickens can lay up against them to cool of. As the ice melts, you can top off the waterers also with nice cool water and pick up a new bag of ice at the next service station.
Since any change in routine is extremely stressful to chickens, I decided to make some hanging herbal bouquets for each crate. The chickens can munch on them if they get bored or hungry, and they should help the stress level a bit as well. I used these herbs:
Lavender - calming and increases blood circulation, if they eat some
Rosemary - aids in respiratory health and repels flies
Thyme - also aids in respiratory health and repels flies
Chamomile- calming stress reliever
Lemon Balm - calming stress reliever
I also have a bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy for Pets tucked in the car. It's an all natural herbal liquid that helps to calm stressed pets. You can add a few drops to their water, or rub it right on your animals. We've used it in the past for our dog during thunderstorms, so it will do double duty in case the dogs, cat, chickens or ducks get stressed.
Hopefully the accommodations I've planned will make the trip more bearable and safer for our chickens. I'll catch up with you at the other end and let you know how we fared. Once we arrive at our new farm, I'll keep the chickens in the barn for a day or so to let them get settled and used to their new surroundings. Then they'll likely be bunking with our horses in the barn until their new coop is ready.
Anyone who has moved with your flock, do you have any advice or tips to share? Tomorrow is the big day, so I would love to hear some suggestions - and I'll try and share some photos during our trip on Instagram, so be sure and come follow me there!
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