Chickens can demand a good bit of your time, especially if you have a lot of them. As someone who has always had chickens, I know how much work they can be. But, I’m also a busy mom to three kids and I love to travel, which means that I had to learn how to manage my chickens effectively, even when I’m not around. The holiday season is much like traveling- you may be home more, but in between family dinners and shopping for gifts, your time to care for your chickens is going to be limited. Here are some of my favorite tips for taking care of your chickens, even when you don’t have time to.
Bigger is Better.
Think about what you do in a typical day for your chickens. You probably fill up their feeder, top off their water and collect eggs. What if you could cut two of those tasks out? How much time would you save?
One of the best investments that you can make to your chicken keeping system is to buy bigger feeders and waterers. Chickens aren’t likely to overindulge themselves (even over the holidays), so you don’t have to worry about them eating too much, even with an unlimited supply of food.
Buy the biggest waterer and feeder you can. Some feeders and waterers are large enough that you can refill them once a week. No more rushing to fill up the waterers for your thirsty chickens while your family waits in the car to go to your grandparent’s Christmas dinner!
Deep Litter Method
Do you clean your coop out daily? If so, that’s a huge time killer. The deep litter method involves keeping a thick layer of bedding on the floor of the coop and allowing it to compost. When done correctly, it doesn’t smell and makes a rich fertilizer. It also saves you a ton of time.
When you go out to collect eggs, simply take a putty knife and scrap any poop down into the floor from nesting boxes or roosting spaces. Cover the manure with fresh shavings, collect your eggs and go about your day. You don’t have to cover the floor with fresh shavings each day. Depending on how many chickens you have and how much space they have, you can put a layer of fresh shavings down once a week.
Technology is a wonderful thing and can cut down how much time you spend taking care of your chickens. Chickens that are locked up in a coop at night will need to be let out each morning. This means that you might be running outside first thing in the morning to let chickens out after a long night at a Christmas party. You could skip this and let yourself sleep in by having an automatic chicken coop door. There are several types available, but they all work in a similar way. They’re set up on either a timer or with a light detector. The coop door opens early in the morning and closes up at night to secure the chickens inside of the coop.
In the same idea, you could also automate your feed and water. Automatic waterers are reasonably priced and provide a supply of fresh water. Automated feeders can be a little pricey, but are worth it if you find yourself away from home frequently.
Ask for Help
If you know that you’re going to be out of town for a few days or unable to check on your chickens, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Ask a close neighbor or friend if they’ll take care of them for you. If you don’t have someone to come look after your chickens, check with your local FFA or 4-H group. There are tons of kids that love animals and are familiar with caring for them.