One of the biggest challenges with raising chickens is finding people to care for them when you want to take off for a few days. I like to travel a lot with my family, so finding a good chicken sitter is a challenge that I have to face pretty regularly. Throughout the years I have learned a few tips and tricks to make caring for my chickens fun, easy, and not too inconvenient for chicken sitters. Finding chicken sitters is challenging, yes, but it is not impossible!
Good chicken sitters will want to know how to do things and when to do things. Here are six tips for finding and keeping chicken sitters!
#1 What to Look for
When figuring out who to ask to care for your flock while you are away there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
- availability- is the person going to be available for the time that you are away?
- length of time that you are away- are you going to have to ask several different people to care for your flock while you are away?
- responsibility- is the person responsible?
- interested and willing- does the person seem genuinely interested and willing to care for your chickens?
- kids- does the person have kids? and if so, are the kids good around animals (calm, responsible, caring)?
If you can, find someone who loves animals and knows about caring for animals. Better yet, find someone who is interested in having their own flock of chickens one day! Keep in mind that if the person has kids they may want to bring their kids with them to care for your flock. If that is the case you will want to make sure the kids know how to act around chickens.
Payment is not always necessary, but it is a good way to recruit chicken sitters. Payment does not always have to come in the form of money either, especially when we are talking about chickens. Allowing the sitter to take home any fresh eggs that they collect can be payment enough for some! If the sitter has their own pets, you could offer to pet sit for them some time while they are away in return for caring for your flock.
An easy method of payment if kids are involved is to have a little ‘prize’ for the end of each day that they help care for the flock. The little prize can be anything from a sheet of stickers to a little matchbox car. Charts can also be fun and exciting for kids. Being able to check off or put a sticker on for every chore they help do can be rewarding for them.
#3 Be Prepared
I have found that chicken sitters are more comfortable about watching your flock if they know that you prepare ahead of time for anything that might arise while you are away. Here are a few tips for getting prepared:
- label- it may be helpful to label items in your coop that the sitter will be using (e.g. food tin, poop shovel, poop bucket)
- checklist- I always print off a checklist for chicken sitters of everything that they need to do on a daily basis
- provide your phone number for emergencies
- have your chicken first aid kit easily accessible
- leave everything clean and tidy
- set out everything that the chicken sitter will need in easy to see spots
Be sure that you prepare for any possible emergencies that the chicken sitter might encounter. If you have roosters, make sure you are for sure and positive that they will not fight. Never leave an injured chicken or one that looks like it might be ill. A good back up plan for emergencies is to have a separate cage or pen all set up for any bird that might need to be quarantined while you are away. Having a little print off of possible problems and how to treat them is handy for chicken sitters too.
Here is a simple print off that I use for my chicken sitters, Chicken Care List. You can fill in the blanks to customize it for your needs.
#4 Keep it Flexible
If you can, keep your chicken schedule flexible. Your chicken sitter will like to know that they don’t have to be right at your house at a specific time to care for your flock. Filling your feeder full will ensure that the chickens have food all day long. Have several waters placed around your coop so that you can be sure that your flock always has water. Water is more important than food. Staying on top of your cleaning will really help too. Having a clean coop when you leave will make it easier for both the chicken sitter and for you.
One tool that I have found really helpful is an automatic chicken door. I now have more flexibility both in my daily routine and for when I want to get away for a few nights. Yes, they do cost a pretty penny, but I have found that they are totally worth the initial cost. I can now leave my flock for one or two nights without even finding a chicken sitter! I just make sure all the waters are full, the feeder is full, and the coop is clean. Then I can leave and not worry about them while I am gone for a few nights! Automatic chicken doors also give your chicken sitter the freedom to skip a day or take off for a night. Just make sure you stress the importance of making sure the flock has plenty of food and water.
#5 Give a Preview
Having your chicken sitter over to run through the routine with you is very helpful. That way you can be sure that the chicken sitter understands everything and that you haven’t forgot something in your instructions. Show them where everything is located (cleaning supplies, first aid kit, food, water). It may be helpful to share some chicken knowledge with them. That way they don’t feel like they are totally blind as to what to do with chickens. Give them print offs at this time or show them where they can find information or checklists. It is often helpful to keep a checklist pinned out at your coop, just incase your chicken sitter forgets to bring their checklist. Make sure your chicken sitter is comfortable and ready to care for your flock while you are gone.
#6 Make it Simple
Make your chicken chores simple, easy, and fun and you will find that your chicken sitter may become more enthusiastic to come over and care for your flock. This may mean leaving out some less important chores. For me a few less important chores include, cleaning the enclosure, emptying the poop bucket, picking herbs for the coop, and making supplements for their feed. Planning ahead can reduce the amount of chicken chores too. If you are integrating new birds, make sure everyone is getting along very well before you leave. Also be sure that you don’t hatch chicks or have broody hens hatching chicks while you are away. We may think that caring for those cute fluff balls is fun, but a chicken sitter can find it a little stressful!
Speaking of fun, try and keep and your chores fun or at least include a fun activity! One such activity that I use is leaving behind special treats that my chicken sitter can give my flock. I make up frozen oatmeal blocks that can be given to my chickens or special scratch mixes that can be sprinkled around the enclosure.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to find a good, reliable chicken sitter who is willing to care for your flock! So go enjoy your summer vacation and relax knowing that your flock is in good care!
Also, all the photos in this post are of the chicks we are raising. There are photos of them at 5,6, and 7 weeks old.