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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Chicken conundrum

We are getting really close to finally getting some chickens. I managed to get board approval from our neighborhood henchmen, found a great local coop builder and know where to acquire some pullets.

I've asked the neighbors ahead of time (because if they complain about noise, as per our covenants, we'll have to get rid of them) and, while they aren't exactly enthused about the idea, they seem to be marginally okay with it. Which doesn't make me feel very confident about them not complaining later, but I think it's because we live in a conservative area of Seattle (go figure!) and the idea of chickens is totally new to them.

But, the big question I have that sticks in my craw, so to speak, is what do people who keep chickens do with them when they go on vacation? I'm not ready to be tied down to the urban farmstead just yet, but I don't know of any chicken sitters.

So, for you chicken keepers out there who live in urban areas, what do you do with your chickens when you go away for a day or more?

28 comments:

Roz said...

I am fortunate enough to have a neighbor who had a pet rooster as a child and doesn't mind coming over twice a day - to feed in the morning and get eggs at night (hers to keep, of course!) but if she is also out of town, I have found most people can soon get over their initial apprehension after they visit the chickens a few times beforehand. I do make it as simple as possible for them by measuring out the grain and seeds ahead of time, and I also have a feeder for layer crumbles (I have banty chickens) that can go for several days so that for a short period of time, they can be on their own. Sometimes, I divide the chores up between 2 people - one in the morning, then a different one at night.

I have learned thru experience the best watering container is a fairly tall bucket filled to the top, changed daily (although it can go longer since they don't drink much of it). This method keeps the water on top clear and the messy stuff they kick into it throughout the day sinks to the bottom. The useless chicken waterer I got at my local co-op fills with dirt, straw, leaves (and I'm sure OTHER substances!) an hour after they start scratching around, and I didn't think it was all that healthy to be drinking. Then I use the (mostly full) bucket of water from the day before to water plants.

Heidi said...

Hang your chicken waterer slightly off the ground on a chain and they won't scratch anything into it. We've had suburban chickens for nearly ten years now and we go away every, yes, EVERY weekend in the summer to our cottage and we leave them in their coop with their feed and water buckets full and they do just great. Be sure to position the coop out of the direct sun and provide for air circulation.
Best of luck and have fun! Don't worry too much!!
Heidi

Sarah said...

We have a neighbor or friend chicken sit...very simple...all they need is fresh water and food...Most people will do it just so they can get the eggs from those days and it is waaay simpler than taking care of a dog or cat for someone. We have had chickens for over three years and still manage to get the hell out of town now and then.

Chickens are super easy! Have fun!

Annette said...

Looks like I fall in with the others; our neighbor adores chickens so she feeds and waters them if I need to be away for overnight.

Robj98168 said...

call a pet sitter. Or call me.
Signed
Colonel Sanders

e4 said...

For us, it's neighbor kids. They love the fact that they can keep the eggs.

Issa said...

I don't live in an urban area, but I just started keeping food animals this year, and I also wondered what I would do when going out of town (which I do at least every couple of months). Normally, the chickens are let out in the morning and go back to their coop at night, but when I go out of town, I leave them in the coop. A neighbor just comes over once a day to check the food and water and collect the eggs, so it's not much trouble. Now, getting someone comfortable with going in to feed the pigs... that was a little more tricky! :-)

Gabrielle said...

I have a good friend with chickens. While it isn't legal yet to have them in our area (the city government passed the ordinance last week allowing them!! First opening is in the fall to get the permits), we hope to soon. She and I will take care of the hens for each other as needed. In addition, I am part of the Hen Coalition in our local permaculture guild. I feel certain that if I were to post a need for a hen sitter I could barter those services with others in the same situation.
Hope this helps. Good luck with the chicks!

Christine F. said...

We aren't exactly in an urban area (our neighborhood is zoned agricultural) but we have had no trouble with getting friends to drive over and tend to the chicks twice a day while we are away. We usually take at least 2 one week vacas a year, sometimes a 10 day one. We have a few friends that we rotate through the "chicken sitting" duties. It's really very easy, let them out in the AM and check food and water, come back at night and shut up door, (I don't like the coop door open overnight b/c we have a lot of predators around here) check food and water, and collect eggs, throw down some shavings and it's done.

You might offer to help them out in some way in exchange. My friend and her family watched the chicks when we were gone for 10 days in May so I offered to take care of their family dog when they were traveling this summer.

Kate said...

For just a day away they can get by with a fully loaded feeder and waterer. Longer than that, I call in chicken sitting favors. You'll probably get to know others in your area with chickens. When you do, ask if they'd be interested in swapping chicken sitting favors. And yeah, definitely hanging is the way to go for both feeder and waterer. Otherwise, they poop in them. Not too bright, chickens. Mine hang about ten inches off the ground - not a problem for fully grown pullets.

Debra said...

Crunchy, My family just got back from a 25 day camping vacation. We have 7 hens, and 3 ringed-necked pheasants. We set up a sprinkler timer with a drip line into a big re-purposed cat litter container for water. (Cut a hole in the side about 6 inches up to about 11 inches up to allow the birds to get their heads in to drink, and put the drip hose in a small hole in the removable top of the litter bucket. This also works with bigger plastic drink bottles, like cranberry juice or apple juice bottles. Mount this on the side of the coop with the drip line going into it. Make it easy to remove for cleaning.) It goes on for 1 minute, two times per day, which is enough to fill the container to the hole in the side where the chickens access the water. I usually clean the container twice a week, and after the vacation it did need to be cleaned, but the hens did fine with the somewhat sub-standard water conditions. We also made a feeder that is filled from the outside of the coop, so any random neighbor kid can easily fill it without fear of chicken attack. The feeder is quite large, and will last the hens over a week, so for short trips, our flock needs no supervision. We just let the eggs build up, but since it is later in the season, only 3 hens were laying.
Regular mode for chicken care here is to let them out to forage for about 2 hours per day, offer a feeder full of either scratch or lay mash, feed them leftovers from the kitchen and garden, and let the sprinkler timer do the watering. We live in a suburb of Los Angeles, on about 7,500 square feet. The hens were happy to see us when we came home from our vacation, and they were healthy, clean, and fat.

panamamama said...

My uncle lives down the street with my mom and one of them will watch them. They are super easy to take care of so I don't mind asking.

Kristijoy said...

I would chicken sit for a friend when we were still friends...we have a couple of gals who do it as a job here: http://justushens.com/Just_Us_Hens/About_Us.html
maybe they will start a Seattle branch!

MN_homesteader said...

You will find neighbors to help out. If you make absolutely sure the run/coop is again fully predator proof you should be able to leave them for a day or two fairly risk free. Good luck either way

Anna in Atlanta said...

Neighbors!!!!! Prime them well ahead of time with free fresh eggs, and they'll be cool with it. Perhaps there are one or two who've harbored fantasies of chickens themselves.

The best kind of coop to have in this situation is one that's totally secured, but that is open to the ground so the girls can wake up and get outside to the food and scratching without anyone having to open the door at the crack of dawn. I totally recommend the Catawba Converticoop, which has a chicken house on top and an enclosed run under. they'll need to get out some (it can sleep six, but they'll need WAY more space during the day), but for hen-sitting needs it is ideal. The girls can deal with an confined space for a day or two.

daharja said...

When you're ready for your chickens, there's a great email list called Simple Savings that just posted a link to a chicken tractor that is easy to build. The email list is free to join, or you can join their Vault - like a gold membership thingy - which costs a few dollars a year. I reckon the free membership is good enough!

The chook tractor could also be used for a lightweight, very cheap-to-build chicken coop.

Here is the link: Chicken tractor.

I thought it is excellent, and will be building one for our property for summer use for our chooks, and am sharing the link with everyone I know who has chooks or is getting them.

Good luck! We've 14 chooks (plus rooster) and love them to bits. The eggs are awesome!

Leanne at Cluttercut

ChookChick said...

Isn't "chicken resistance" a strange phenomenon? Less than a century ago, most suburban folks would have kept a few hens in their back gardens. Maybe even a milking cow. Kudos to you for asserting the right to raise your own little protein machines in a healthy, happy environment. If people witnessed how most commercial egg-layers are kept, it might also encourage more of them to take the step towards backyard poultry. Bravo to you!

Chile said...

Sharing fresh eggs with the neighbors is a sure way to win their support. Also, if they have children, invite them over. Kids love chickens.

Others had good suggestions for chicken sitters. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding people willing to do it in exchange for keeping the eggs as payment. Heck, chickens are a whole lot easier than taking care of someone's dog or cat!

Adrienne said...

Train a chicken-sitter. My friend, who has no chickens of her own or prior chicken experience, just got done spending a week chicken-sitting for her boss while he was out of town. It's really no different than having someone come feed the cat while you're gone, you just need someone who's responsible enough to show up twice a day.

annie said...

Our chickens are super easy to deal with. Essentially, we let them out in the morning to roam around the yard and we shut the door on them at night when they're all settled in on their roosts. Other than that we scatter grain, shell, and grit each morning and make sure their waterers are full. So when we leave town our neighbor does that stuff for us and he keeps all the eggs. The other stuff - cleaning the house, moving temporary fence for rotational grazing, etc. doesn't need to be done daily and the chickens can certainly put up with a slightly stinky house (we do try to clean it before we leave) and boring old sections of yard while we're gone.

Greenpa said...

I am SO ticked. I swear I just read a long article in a major MSM source; about a couple ladies actually opening a Chicken Sitting business. And I can't find it.

They weren't overwhelmed with business, yet- but they were convinced it would fly.

It IS a widespread need. I'd try advertising on Craig's List, I think; and or suggest a sitting swap arrangement for anyone close enough for it to be sensible.

It can be done!

Greenpa said...

ah, there it is. Had to search chicken sitting; not sitter.

http://news.findtarget.com/business/chicken-sitting_service_takes_flight/

Crunchy Chicken said...

Cool! Thanks for the link. And thanks, everyone, for your advice. You have convinced me to go forth and chickenify. I suppose it's about darn well time that the Crunchy Chicken gets chickens, no?

Greenpa said...

" I suppose it's about darn well time that the Crunchy Chicken gets chickens, no?"

well, duh. :-)

Now- what do you suppose would happen if you asked your readers what BREED of chicken to get??

I got me some Dark Brahmas, Blue Cochins, and Dominiques, my own self...

Anonymous said...

If it is a weekend we give them a big food container and several very large water containers. For a week we have neighbours pop in to collect eggs and check their water. The neighbours get happier quickly when you start handing out the occasional box of organic freerange eggs!

Sparow said...

We've left ours for an overnight alone before with no problems (fingers crossed). Just give em plenty of food and water. Ours range all day, so we just leave the coop door open (they go in on their own and we haven't had any predator issues in the coop). I would latch them inside--but it might get too hot for them.

Allie said...

My neighbour has a rooster and several hens. The hens don't make a lot of noise. The rooster crows day and night, and I kind of want to kill and eat it.

So, I'd avoid roosters if you want to avoid annoying the neighbours.

Just my $0.02.

Molly said...

My waterer holds 5 gallons and my gravity feeder holds about 10# of feed. Enough for a week or more. The girls aren't happy about being confined to their coop (it's a 7' x 7' shed, so plenty of room, just no foraging) but we have too many predators for me to be comfortable letting them have access to their run.

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