It’s understandable to feel nervous about leaving your backyard chickens unattended for any length of time, especially if you are new to chicken keeping. But how long can your chickens be left alone and are there any considerations you need to be aware of? I decided to spend some time researching the topic. I would like to share what I found with you here today.
So, how long can chickens be left alone? Chickens can generally be left alone for a maximum of four days – if provisions have been made to cover for the time that you will be away. After that, you should consider hiring someone, getting a family member, trusted neighbor or a friend to mind your flock.
Of course, there is a range of factors that impact the total amount of time you can safely leave your flock.
A safe and secure coop, ensuring they have all that they need; such as a suitable waterer and feeder filled to cover the time that you are away.
And while there are many reasons you might need to be away from home, the good news is that you can leave your chickens unattended as long as you plan ahead.
So whether you are looking to go on a vacation, leave for the weekend, or you just have an important event coming up – rest assured your chickens should be fine.
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Let us now take a closer look at the topic and address some of the main questions you are likely to have.
Can Chickens Be Left Alone?
Chickens can indeed be left alone for a maximum of four days, as long as you have prepared in advance as you would with any other pet.
Food and water are the top priorities for your flock when leaving them for a few days.
Your birds need a constant supply of food and water every day.
Don’t worry about giving them too much feed as they should have too much rather than too little and they will regulate their eating accordingly.
However, be sure not to overfill the feeders as they can attract unwanted visitors, like rats, to the coop.
Make sure that your chickens have a highly secure coop in which to live, and that they are safe from predators.
Realistically, predators can sense when humans are away – which means your birds are far more vulnerable if their coop is not adequately secure.
If you feel that your chickens are secure and that they have enough food and water for the time you are away, you must give the coop a thorough clean before you leave.
Remove the old dirty bedding and replace it with clean, fresh bedding – you don’t want chicken manure to become a problem while you’re gone.
You should use good quality bedding with twice the absorbency as this is the best way of preventing too much mess while you are away.
Are Chickens Self Sufficient?
In the right circumstances, chickens thrive and can be self-sufficient; they are wild birds after all.
Chickens can keep themselves happy, and the owner doesn’t need to worry about them too much as they rely on each other.
On the one hand, chickens need humans to supply them with food, water, shelter, and security. Without the essentials, chickens risk dehydration, starvation, and they can get very sick and eventually die.
If you can meet your chicken’s basic needs while you are absent, they will do quite well, and you don’t need to worry so much about them.
To reiterate, chickens can manage by themselves for a maximum of four days, as long as you have a plan in place; after that, you need a sitter for your birds.
How Much Feed And Water Do My Chickens Need While I’m Away?
Chickens require a constant flow of food and water. So, before you leave, you must accurately calculate how much food and water they will need for the duration while you are away.
Chickens eat around half a cup of feed and drink around 500 millimeters of water a day – you must make your plans according to this formula.
If you have three chickens and you plan to be away for three days, you need a minimum of 4.5 cups of feed and about 4.5 liters of water.
Nobody knows how much their chickens eat better than their owners, if they eat and drink more than above, account for that.
It is always best to leave too much food than too little. Consider getting a large feeder and waterer so that you can fill it to the brim and feel that your chickens have enough to eat and drink.
If you feel you need an extra waterer and feeder, go for it; it’s not a bad idea to have them while you’re away, as chickens tend to knock their food and water supplies when they get bored.
Having an extra feeder and waterer ensures that they have access to food and water in your absence.
How Can I Make Sure My Flock Are Safe From Predators?
Unfortunately, predators can sense when humans are away and are very likely to burro their way into the coop to get at your birds.
The best way to protect your flock from predators is to secure their coop. Let’s discuss the best ways of keeping your birds safe:
Know The Predators In Your Area
Before taking steps to keep your birds safe, you must get to know the enemy, be aware of the predators in your area the most popular are hawks, foxes, coyotes, possums, and raccoons.
If you know which predators are likely to go after your birds, you can create a defense to prevent them.
These predators are often opportunists that can be deterred easily with basic backyard security.
Use Hardware Mesh To Keep Predators Out
Start by installing hardware mesh flooring – this stops predators from burrowing underneath.
Your chicken run needs at least 2 feet deep into the ground of hardware mesh around the compound.
Dig up a trench that’s 6 inches deep and 3 inches wide and bury the mesh – this creates an underground protective boundary, and it will stop most predators from digging.
Cover The Coop
It’s essential to cover the coop especially is there are lots of owls and hawks overhead.
If you would like your chickens to have some shade as well as protection from air-bound predators tarp sheet is ideal.
Some coops are covered by default; but not all are. Either way, its important that this protection is in place.
Seal All Access To Holes
You must regularly check your chicken’s coop for any holes, as even small holes can be used by predators tohave access to the coop.
Weasels, for example, can gain entry through a 1/2 inch hole, and they kill chickens for fun. Another animal you don’t want in the coop is snakes as they go for the eggs and the young chicks.
Consider An Auto Door
It’s useful to have an automatic chicken door; that opens and closes by a programmable timer.
For this to work effectively, your birds must go into the coop at certain times and all at the same time as once they are all the door can lock up for the night.
These are extra resilient against predators and work very well. Even if you are not planning to go away much, or just want to install a system to make the management of your flock easier, these are ideal.
ChickenGuard make an excellent, well-reviewed timer and door that you can get for a great price over at Amazon.
Install Safety Shelter
Your birds need a couple of safety shelters that they can retreat to for safety.
You can use a wooden pallet rested on blocks or a plastic drum cut length-ways – as long as they can keep predators out, that’s what matters.
What To Do With Chickens When You Go On Vacation?
You must ensure that your chicken’s coop is big enough; otherwise, you cant leave your chickens inside it for days on end.
You must account for how many chickens you own because the fewer you have, the longer you can be away.
Aside from the spaces your birds need in their coop, you must consider how you are going to feed them and make sure that they have access to water.
If you know how much feed your birds eat and how much water they drink per day, you can plan it out; you should do this a week before you go.
Purchase a bigger than standard poultry feeder and waterer for the time you are away.
The day before you leave, give the coop a thorough clean, remove the old bedding, and replace it with fresh and highly absorbent bedding.
If you need to be away for more than a few days, make sure that you have a trustworthy friend or neighbor care for your birds and make sure that they understand your instructions completely.
It’s reassuring to know that you can leave your birds by themselves for at least a few days if ever you need to go.
Many owners try to avoid having to leave their chickens, but sometimes it can’t be helped. It’s said all the time that chickens are hardy birds, and they are smart enough to know how to care for themselves, especially if they have everything that they need.
It’s crucial that their coop is well designed with security in mind, and you should also be familiar with what predators are around the area.
Predators are hard to avoid, whether they are on land or air-bound. If you have two or more chickens, you don’t need to worry about them being lonely, as they make the most of each other’s company.
Your chickens will, of course, know that you’re away, but they won’t mind too much once they have enough to eat and drink.
If you are concerned about the one you have with your birds, your absence might make them appreciate you more, and when you return, they’ll be delighted to see you and have you around.
Planning how to care for your chickens before you leave is no easy task, and it’s one of the numerous challenges you will face as a chicken parent. The first time you leave your birds will be the hardest, but it’ll be easier when you need to leave them again.
It is not recommended to leave your chickens alone for a week. Generally, it is recommended that you leave them for a maximum of four days at any one time. Getting a trusted friend, neighbor, or family member to take care of, or mind your flock regularly, can enable you to leave your birds for 7 days or more.
Chickens can stay in the coop all day, so long as it is sufficiently large enough and has everything your birds need i.e. waterers and feeders. However, they should only stay in the coop all day on occasion, and not for days on end. Chickens do best with access to outdoor space and the ability to free roam.
Want to learn more about keeping chickens and best practices in and around the coop? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Can Chickens Stay In The Coop All Day?
- How Long Can Chickens Go Without Food?
- Can Chickens Live Alone?
- Can Chickens Be Potty Trained
- Do Chickens Need Sunlight?
- Will Chickens Sleep With The Light On
- What Time Do Chickens Wake Up
- How Long Do Chickens Sleep?
- What Time Do Chickens Go To Bed
- Do Chickens Need Food And Water At Night
- Do Chickens Sleep Standing Up
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.