It happens to us all - no matter how much we love our chickens, we need a break. But we can't work out how to make sure our chickens are as well cared for as we want them to be.
Whether you're planning a short time away from your flock or a couple of weeks, with a little careful planning there are ways to manage it so you don't need to feel tied to your chickens all year round.
Yes, it's true - other people can look after your flock, if you put a few simple precautions in place first!
Here are 7 simple steps to make sure you get the holiday you deserve!
Make sure you read to the end - there's a free checklist for you to download to leave with your trusted chicken-sitters!
This is probably the best investment you'll ever make - it was certainly mine. In one fell swoop, it got rid of rats from my coop and run, and allowed my flock to eat at will, making sure they got access to food all day.
It has the added bonus of holding up to 20lbs of feed: enough to keep up to 12 chickens happy for up to ten days.
So even if you're on vacation for a couple of weeks, whoever is looking after your flock need top it up only once or twice.
Great for your flock, great for you, great for your chicken-sitters!
See my full review of the best feeder on the market, or buy it now by clicking the link below.
I am lucky enough to own a Chicken Fountain - they've been out of production though they're planning to be back in late 2019.
But there are lots of examples on the internet of home-made versions of drinkers which will keep your flock well hydrated for several days.
If you don't want the hassle of making something just before you go away, look at buying something like this.
I much prefer it to plastic waterers because it's stainless steel, which makes it very easy to clean - algae growth can be a problem in warm weather - and because plastic can degenerate in the heat. It's more expensive, but in my view it's worth it.
Remember to place it in the shade, and add other bowls around the run so there's always water "on tap".
In hot weather your chickens will drink a lot more than usual and may need some extra help to keep cool and hydrated. Ice in your watering pans will melt slowly during the day, so leave a stock in your freezer.
Buy in a couple of watermelons before you leave for your vacation. It's always a favourite with hens and pecking at it will make sure they keep cool in the hottest weather.
Finally, take a look here at how to recognise heat exhaustion in your chickens - and send the link to whoever is going to care for your flock so they know, too.
If the automatic feeder was my best find, having my automatic pop door has to be next on the list! No more having to get up at the crack of dawn to let my flock out, no more rushing home to lock them safely away in the evening. All done automatically.
You have a choice:
I've had mine for over 5 years now, and I've never known a chicken get caught by the door. They naturally roost at dusk, and everyone is in long before it closes.
At dawn, there's a queue to get out!
It's true that sometimes a couple of my hens choose to roost outside in our bay tree, but they would do that whether or the door worked automatically or I closed it manually.
If you're worried about hens arriving after closing time, simply do a head-count once they're in and chase up any laggards.
Not just sprouts, but leave a nice mixture of treats for your chickens while you're away. It's likely that whoever looks after them won't spend the kind of time you do with your flock, and it's not a good idea to free range them while you're away - I've found that chicken-sitters are too anxious to be able to manage free-ranging safely.
So treats will keep your chickens happy and occupied, and watching the flock running to greet the treat-carrier will make your chicken-sitters smile.
And explaining to your house-sitters how to play the swinging lettuce game will keep them, as well as your flock, entertained for hours!
They happen, and the last thing you want is panic phone calls while you're away. So be prepared.
If you have automated systems in place you probably won't need to involve anyone else if you're away for two or three days. Eggs will be fine left in the coop, although expect them to be dirty when you return.
But if you're going for longer, you can't risk leaving your flock to their own devices.
Not sure who you can ask? Think about these people.
No matter how well you automate as much as you can, the fact is for a longer absence your flock will need caring for every day. Your helpful chicken-sitters will need to undertake a series of tasks which to you are common sense, but for them are new and possibly daunting.
Ideally, you need to walk them through the tasks before you leave and in addition, speak to them about...
To help you prepare for your helpful guests and to help them remember what they need to do, I've prepared a free, downloadable checklist for you.
To get the checklist and my free newsletter, sign up here. The checklist comes with the newsletter in early April, so you'll have it in plenty of time for both Easter and the summer breaks.
Alternatively, to download it without giving your email address, you can get it immediately, here.