Traveling can be a thrilling adventure, but for chicken enthusiasts, it presents a unique set of challenges. Chicken owners are often concerned about their birds’ safety, health, and well-being during transit. The fears of potential escape, the distress of unfamiliar environments, and the worry over their comfort are just the tip of the iceberg.
While our feathered friends may not be the most conventional travel companions, they deserve the same attention and care as any pet. In this blog, we aim to offer the best travel tips for chickens to solutions to ensure your poultry have a safe and pleasant journey.
Signs Your Chickens Are Traveling Well
- Calm chickens will breathe at a normal rate. Rapid or labored breathing might indicate stress.
- Chickens sitting comfortably, with their heads held up and eyes alert, are a good sign.
- If they continue to peck at their feed and drink water, it’s a positive indicator.
- Occasional clucking or soft cooing usually means they feel alright.
- Well-groomed and clean feathers suggest that chickens feel comfortable enough to preen themselves.
- Chickens moving around gently within their travel cage without appearing frantic indicates comfort.
- If your chickens are calm and not pecking at each other, it’s a good sign of well-being.
Signs Your Chickens Are Not Traveling Well
- Labored or rapid breathing
- Chickens feeling stressed might hunch over or tuck their heads beneath their wings for extended periods.
- If they’re not eating or drinking, it could be due to stress or illness.
- Excessive crowing, loud clucking, or other distressed sounds indicate something is wrong.
- Feathers ruffled or puffed out, pale combs.
- If they’re pacing back and forth, trying to fly in a confined space, or appearing frantic, they’re likely not doing well.
- Aggressive behaviors like pecking at each other.
- Changes in their droppings.
Tip #1: Arranging and Setting Up the Crates Meticulously
When it comes to traveling with chickens, the arrangement and setup of their crates can ensure their comfort and safety. Begin by selecting crates that are spacious enough, based on how many chickens you’re transporting, for them to move, stand, and turn around comfortably.
Adequate ventilation is essential; crates with sufficient mesh or air holes not only provide fresh air but also reduce the chances of overheating. When placing multiple crates in a vehicle, ensure they are stable and won’t slide or topple. If stacking is necessary, use fasteners or ties to keep the chicken crate secure.
Tip #2: Lining Them with Comfortable Bedding
The comfort of your chickens during travel is intricately linked to the quality and type of bedding you provide in their crates. Lining crates with comfortable bedding not only offers cushioning but also ensures a cleaner, drier environment by absorbing droppings and spillages.
Straw stands out as a top contender for several compelling reasons. Unlike other materials, straw doesn’t easily get kicked out by the chickens, ensuring a consistent layer of insulation and cushioning throughout the journey. Moreover, straw has a distinct advantage over materials like shavings because it doesn’t fly around, maintaining a tidier environment within the crate.
When selecting bedding, consider its dust content; overly dusty materials can cause respiratory issues or irritate the chickens’ eyes. Refresh the bedding as needed during longer trips to maintain cleanliness.
Tip #3: Allowing Ample Time for Adjustment and Familiarization
Before embarking on your journey, it’s essential to allow your poultry ample time to adjust to their travel crates. This is also applicable to a new coop. By introducing them to the crates a few days or even a week in advance, they can become familiar with the new space at their own pace. This gradual introduction helps reduce the shock of suddenly being confined when travel day arrives.
We advise to initially leave the crate doors open, allowing the chickens to enter and exit freely. This creates an environment of choice rather than force, encouraging curiosity rather than inducing fear. Over time, you can begin closing the door for short periods, gradually increasing the duration until they’re completely comfortable with longer confinement.
Tip #4: Selecting the Most Appropriate Mode of Transportation
Chickens, like many of us, prefer a smooth and quiet ride. Keeping them calm and comfortable during transportation is a priority.
If you’re taking them on a short journey, your car is often the best bet. Whether in the backseat or the trunk, it provides an environment you can control, from temperature to stopping for breaks. Ensure there’s good airflow, so they don’t overheat and have enough space.
For those with a larger number of chickens or those needing more space, options like horse trailers or rented trucks can be considered. The bed of a pickup truck works too, but make sure the chickens are sheltered from direct sunlight, which can make them uncomfortably hot.
Long journeys, on the other hand, need more thought. Buses, trains, and planes come with their challenges. They’re noisy, have stricter rules, and don’t allow for as much control over the environment.
Tip #5: Packing an Abundant Supply of Feed and Water
Keeping your chickens well-fed and hydrated during travel is vital for their health, and even their egg production. Make sure to pack enough food and water to last the entire journey, with a little extra, just in case.
For feed, consider using spill-proof containers or hanging feeders to prevent unnecessary mess and wastage. Opt for their regular feed to maintain consistency in their diet, as sudden changes could upset their stomachs.
Water is equally essential. Use spill-proof water containers that won’t leak during bumps or stops. You can also freeze water bottles and place them in the crate; as they melt, they provide a steady supply of cool water.
Offering hydrating treats like watermelons or favorite snacks can be helpful to keep chickens cool and calm. But avoid giving them too much, as it might upset their stomachs.
Tip #6: Ensuring a Touch of Home for Familiarity
Imagine how reassuring it is to have something familiar in a new place. Chickens feel the same way. Adding a touch of home to their travel crates can ease their stress and make them feel more at ease.
One simple way is to place a piece of cloth or bedding from their coop into the crate. The familiar smell can help other chickens feel more comfortable in the new environment.
Additionally, if your chickens have a favorite toy or perch, consider adding it to their crate. Having something they recognize can make the unfamiliar surroundings less scary.
Ways To Reduce Stress When Transporting Your Chickens
Provide Solid Ground
Chickens naturally desire a firm footing. It helps them maintain balance and reduces the panic or discomfort they might feel on unstable surfaces. For crates with wire mesh bottoms, inserting a cardboard box as a base is beneficial. This additional layer mimics the ground, offers comfort, and acts as a barrier against droppings, making cleanup easier.
Bedding provides a cushion for the chickens, preventing them from sliding or getting injured, especially during sudden stops or turns. Straw is preferable to shavings because it’s tougher and won’t easily get kicked out of the crate. Moreover, straw has excellent absorbent properties, managing droppings and minimizing odors.
Keep crates dark to induce a relaxed state. Chickens feel comfortable in darkness, similar to sleep. Enhance this by covering crates with blankets or towels for added calmness.
Hydration and Food
While short trips might not require food and water, prioritize hydration during longer journeys. Offer water every 3-4 hours, even if chickens eat less due to stress. For water, choose between occasional stops (every 100-200 miles) to offer open dishes or use a nipple waterer that minimizes spills, ensuring a consistent water supply. You can also offer fermented chicken feed.
Dampen noise to lower anxiety. Line the crate with blankets, rubber mats, or foam during loading to provide a quieter environment for your chickens.
Avoid Busy Roads
Jarring movements, loud honks, and the overall chaos of busy roads can be a source of poultry stress. It’s wise to plan your route in advance. Use apps or GPS devices to check for quieter routes and avoid traffic-prone areas. Try to lessen the time your chickens spend in the road.
Natural Calming Remedies
Hang herbal bundles with lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and rosemary in the crate. These herbs soothe backyard chickens, repel flies, and serve as comforting treats. You can add a few drops of these herbs to their water.
Most chickens are social animals. Having a familiar companion can provide comfort, reducing the feeling of isolation and unfamiliarity. It’s beneficial to observe your flock before the journey and pair birds that naturally flock together or show compatibility
Relocate at Night
Chickens are diurnal, meaning they’re most active during the day. At night, their energy levels drop, and they become more subdued. If feasible, transporting chickens during nighttime will ensure a calmer journey for the birds and usually offers a smoother drive for the transporter.
Conclusion: How to Transport Your Chickens
It’s paramount to emphasize that the well-being of your chickens is a reflection of your commitment and care as a chicken keeper. Traveling can pose numerous challenges for our feathered friends, but with the right preparation, understanding, and with our best travel trips, it can be a smooth journey for all involved.
So, as you embark on your next adventure with your flock, do so with the confidence that you are fully equipped to make the journey as stress-free and safe as possible. Whether it’s a short trip to the vet or a longer haul across states, with knowledge and love, you can ensure that your chickens feel at home, even on the road. Safe travels and cluck on!