Raising Poultry

Who’s looking after your chooks?

WHO’S going to look after your chooks this Christma holidays?

If you haven’t given serious  thought to this question nor have anyone in mind to care for our feathered friends while you’re away, then you might as well kill them right now yourself to make into your Christmas roast.

Better you do it because it’s highly likely that either a fox, a wandering dog or dehydration will claim your birds  if  the chooks are left to their own devices for an extended period of time – by that I mean more than a weekend.

Backyard chickens aren’t the most demanding creatures but they do require a reasonable level of care and attention if they are going to survive through the summer. So if you haven’t organized a reliable friend or neighbour to feed, water and attend to your chooks while you are away at the beach house, then there’s a fair chance you won’t see  all of your flock when you return.

It seems once-cute puppy dogs aren’t the only animals that are abandoned in January. I heard a terrible story of how a flock of kindergarten chooks perished over a hot weekend –  the kids returned on  Monday to find their chooks had died of thirst after the water containers had been kicked over during the weekend.

So how can you have peace of mind that your chooks will be OK while you’re taking that well-earned holiday break? As I mentioned earlier, you need to find somebody reliable to look in and attend to your chooks at least once a day.

You could give a neighbour a trial run over a weekend and see how they cope before you give them a longer assignment of a number of weeks. It’s not an onerous job: it just requires a little diligence. Their little reward could be the eggs that the hens give. And chooks will love anyone that feeds them – it’s not an unpleasant job.

The temporary chook-keeper’s  tasks will include: locking up the chookhouse at night (and unlocking and letting the chooks out in the morning), making sure pellet feeders and  water containers in the chook run have adequate supplies, egg collecting and some basic cleaning.

Running out of fresh drinking water is one of the worst things for chickens, and many people underestimate how much birds drink. A large drinker that contains 15 litres will last four chickens about two days, but usually much less time on hot days. Also try to remind the temporary chook-keeper to position drinkers in the shade and to put feeders under cover and out of the rain to keep the pellets dry.

If you are away for up to a month, the chookhouse and chook run will also require a clean.

Whatever you do, please don’t leave your arrangements to the last minute, and send your neighbour or friend reminder messages at the end of the day to lock up your chooks at night – remember foxes never take a holiday!