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Leaving them for several days

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Hi. We’re fairly new to chicken keeping, but have read up as much as we can on the topic as well as trying to purchase good equipment and feed/nutrients.

My wife and I would like to go away for long weekends (3 days) now and then and occasionally, maybe once a year, even a whole week. We’d like advice on how this is possible iro feeding/watering the chickens. Although we have a helpful neighbour close by, she is quite elderly and we’d like to limit asking her to check in on the chickens or change feed/water.

We have 4 four month old Pekin Bantam pullets currently in a Cube Mk2 with a 3m run and an automatic door. The run is almost completely covered with a glass tarp (with a shade section at the middle/top) with the exception of the door end and a 25cm gap at the bottom down both sides. We also have remotely accessible CCTV inside the run to check the door opens and closes when it should and the chickens are all acting normally. 

Although we have a lot of urban foxes in our area, the three nocturnal visits they’ve made into our garden thus far (all caught on CCTV) have lead to complete frustration for them. The run/coop is on flat ground and pegged down. So they have thoroughly investigated every nook and cranny, but found no way in and then given up.

Our hens are fast approaching the 500g mark where apparently a Grandpa’s treadle feeder will work for them. Being Bantams, the standard Grandpa’s treadle feeder should supply ample feed for a week or more. We haven’t actually bought the feeder yet, so we’re open to advice on whether there’s a better option for leaving feed for up to a week whilst keeping rodents/slugs out?

The biggest challenge we envisage is leaving them with safe water. A couple of days of untreated water seems doable, but 3+ may be pushing it, particularly in the summer. So again we are looking for advice on this. Adding ACV may reduce any bacteria, but I’ve also considered adding Virkon H20. Whether this would be enough to get us to a week of them being left unattended, I don’t know. Again we are looking for advice.

Finally is there any other thoughts or advice folks have on leaving chickens unattended for periods up to 7 days?

We appreciate your time in helping us.




Edited by Noddydog
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I would try to find someone who can check on them every day. Someone has to get the eggs. And might one fall ill, you would still need to act faster than 3 days.

It would be great if your carer didn’t have to fiddle with the food and water every day. But a daily check is not just a luxury.

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Whilst you clearly have the means to check on the girls remotely, which is helpful, you would need someone on hand who could go straight in to sort out any problems (ie; if the door got stuck, etc). Is there a sensible local teenage who could be co opted for a little extra pocket money? 

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Not sure where you live but it’s worth trying to contact other people with chickens and start a mutual support group.  Chicken keeping is very popular now. When I started 12 years ago, there were two of us who had chickens.  Now, there must be at least 10 within a couple of miles.  I know several of them so when anyone goes away, we’re on hand to step in, if needed.   You might also find a family who will love to look after them in return for eggs.   

I would be relatively relaxed about leaving mine overnight, and at a pinch for a long weekend, but not any longer.   

Another option is to research if someone is offering hen holidays, we used to have a list of such people on here, but sadly I guess it’s out of date. 

Good luck, let us know how you get on 

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What I did to simplify things is buy one of these for feed. This can store a whole 20kg bag of feed, rodent secure. Reduces wasted food. Mine is hung on a tree in the run. 


They also do a standing version on 3 poles. 

Then for water supply, I use these:

Going to a 25l water container. 

When going away I also put in a glug, and another water supply with chicken nipple drinkers like this. I didn't buy from this seller, but seller I bought from doesn't have any listed at the moment, and these look the same:


You can just drill a holes in a container and screw these in. (Note small chicks younger than about 3 weeks will not manage to push these type of nipples)

This way, when we go away, we can ask people to just pop in to check the hens and roosters are ok, water supply and feed is ok. And they don't really need to do anything but help themselves to eggs. When it's freezing, just need to ask them to check water is not frozen over.

Also it makes it easy just day to day. Just need to top up the water with a watering can every now and then, and add a bag of feed when the drum runs low. 

Edited by dutchie
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We're looking to leave ours for a few days inside a secure enclosure with sufficient water and feed. Freezing water and egg removal are big issues though. Your water system will freeze Dutchie, both the small dishes and particularly the pipework, so being away in Winter won't be an option. Removal of eggs is essential, as one being broken and eaten will start an egg eating habit that you may be unable to cure.

We have friends here that will be able to collect eggs and have experience of poultry so will be able to spot problems. But asking them to defrost water systems or hose down runs in Summer is too much, so if we do go away we will have to chose our moment carefully. The last time we went away (11 years ago) we had a friend offer to look after them. He lost the keys to the coop padlocks the first day (theft was a huge problem for us in England) and so to collect the eggs £50 worth were cut through and discarded. Ironically I found the keys in a few minutes when he said they were in his top pocket; you had to lean over into the dustbin to reach the feed! The lesson here is things can go wrong that you can't predict.

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In 6 years the system has proven reliable. Feeder has been faultless. Having multiple water sources gives contingency, and the nipple drinkers have never frozen. The other has frozen up a couple of times, but as I said, during freezing weather we ask those popping round to specifically check for that and they can easily top up a glug with some warm water if needed. 

Having a composting run, I've never hosed mine down. 

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Thanks Dutchie (and everyone else). I’m currently looking into the products you posted.

So far I’ve been in touch with the eBay seller over the feeder drum. He seems to think it requires 130cm clearance from the floor to the roof of the run, whilst the drum is 55cm high without the spring. Given our hens are bantams, thus smaller than average, i’m wondering whether it really does need 130cm’s?

I suspect you will all know the run set up with the Cube, but I’ve attached a photo of ours just in case. I imagine I would have to hang the drum from the centre tube support/strut in the middle of the run. The seller suggests only filling half the drum, ie 15kgs. Hopefully that won’t be too much of a strain on the structure.

I might just go ahead and get one to find out, particularly as it’s nowhere near as expensive as the Grandpa’s treadle.




Edited by Noddydog
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we are new to all this too. We have two 7 months old ISA Brown hens and we went away three weeks ago and took them both back to the farm where we got them as they do hen boarding thinking they would love it but they were very quiet when we got them back and although they have picked up a bit they haven’t laid any eggs for over two weeks now. 

Not sure it was a good idea. A neighbour has offered to have them next time 



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Sorry I was away camping. 

I've just checked the height of mine, and it's hung so that from the top of the barrel to the floor measures 98cm. I have bantams and hybrids. I have had it hung lower at the start, as I was unsure of what height the bantams could manage, but I raised it to 98cm as I thought that would make it less likely that a mouse or rat could reach up at it. 

You could also just buy the spring feeder on ebay, and attach it to a smaller container of your choice. https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/POULTRY-PHEASANT-SPRING-FEEDER-FOR-BARREL-BRAND-NEW-MULTIPLE-QUANTITIES-AVAILABL/132696856300?hash=item1ee55956ec:g:TkUAAOSw2DdbO5YX

Also I just remembered this other system from Oz I found when researching this all a while back, and I note they now sell it in the UK. Slightly more expensive though. https://www.dineachook.co.uk/ 

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Thanks Dutchie. I did buy the drum feeder off eBay and Jerry-rigged the spring onto a 2L bottle. But the problem is the chickens peck at it to make the pellets fall out and then they only eat a fraction of what’s on the ground, before they start pecking at the spring again. So there’s quite a lot of pellets on the ground that will probably draw rats.

Have you tried the dine-a-chook feeder?

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I haven't tried the Dine-a-chook one. My chickens only peck to release more when they finished what's been released on the ground. Maybe I have tidier or lazier chickens. 

Perhaps hanging it higher makes them peck it less often?

Also noticed this 10l feeder, but no experience with it. https://collinsnets.co.uk/product/the-wise-feeder . That site has a few other DIY feeder options as well, like the pan feeder attachment that doesn't drop feed onto the floor. 

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