Transporting your chickens can be an anxiety ridden event for you and your birds.
However it does not have to be that way.
Today we will talk about how to safely transport your backyard chickens. What you need, how to do it, tips and tricks to keep them calm, how to watch for any problems and how to deal with them if they arise.
It is really not too complex but if you have not done it before it can be a daunting task to manage by yourself.
Just make sure you prepare well and follow the recommended tips and tricks in this article.
Contents and Quick Navigation
Pre Journey Planning
Gathering everything together before your journey will help to keep you relaxed during the big trip.
You should make a copy of our list below and tuck it away somewhere safe to keep as a reference.
The first, and most important thing, is a suitable carrying container.
We recently talked about chicken crates and these are one of the safest and most secure ways to transport your chickens. The crate has a locking door, the framework is rigid and your chickens cannot escape from them. For longer journeys you will need a larger crate as it is important for your chicken to be able to move around a bit
Bantams will be well suited to regular sized crates.
You could also consider using a metal dog crate that is big enough for your hens to stand up in, move around and be quite comfortable. They give your chickens much more space to move around and in long haul situations that is infinitely better for the hen.
If you are only transporting one or two chickens a short distance, then a sturdy cardboard box will be sufficient with a couple of modifications. You will need to create air holes and have some rope or tape to hold the box securely shut.
In addition to your transport crate, you will need:
- A small feeder and waterer for each crate.
- Feed and iced water.
- Piddle pads or similar (to keep your car clean).
- A thin blanket or sheet to put over the crates.
- Straw for larger crates with rigid floors.
- Soothing herbs (such as lavender).
- Plenty of treats including flock blocks.
- Fresh fruit like watermelon.
- Extra cardboard boxes for any troublemakers.
If you are travelling for an exhibition or a show then remember to take all the things you will need to make your birds look their best – a pretty pack if you will. Whereas if you are moving to a new home then make sure that you have the required permits for transporting chickens across state or country borders. Also make sure that you are allowed to keep chickens in your new zoning.
The last thing to have in place is a veterinarian at your new town, just in case.
What To Include Inside Crate
If you have your hens in a large crate where they can stand up and move a bit, you can put a bowl of feed in the crate with them.
Try to use the one that attaches to the rails (like a rabbit feeder). Read our guide to chicken feeders here.
You can also include a water dish for them too.
If the crate has a plastic floor then you can also put down some straw for them to muddle through and sit on. Some sprigs of calming herbs in the crate would also be a good idea. You can drop them in with the straw or tie them to the rail, whichever you prefer.
Finally you can also include some fresh greens like a cabbage head or watermelon chunks – this will give them something nutritious to peck at and keep themselves busy for a while.
Moving Day: What To Do During Transport
So the big moving day is here.
Your first job is to get the crates loaded with your chickens and place them in the truck. The easiest way to do this is to take them straight from the coop and place them in the crate.
You need to pack them so that they still have a bit of room to move around in but not enough room for gymnastics. Also make sure to leave the lower halves and bottom of the crates open to air circulation so that they can stay cool.
When putting chickens in the crates you should consider the following:
- Put friends with friends because they will travel better together rather than separated.
- Any special needs chickens should be put together as you do not want them getting picked on.
- Try putting an anxious hen with a mellow, older chicken for security.
- If you have hens that are a bit difficult then transport them alone in a modified cardboard box to keep them calm.
- Lastly you should put rooster(s) in their crates with their favorite hen(s).
Make sure the crates are secure. You do not want them sliding around when you have to step on the brakes – it is not good for you or your chickens.
Once the crates are in the car you can cover the tops and sides of the crates with old sheets or blankets so they cannot see out. Some chickens get upset when they can see the world rushing by, others do not seem to care but it is always best to err on the side of caution.
Apart from some light music, do not forget to talk to them. When they hear your voice they will be reassured that everything is ok.
Finally make sure the temperature in the car is set to keep the chickens cool and that the air circulation is good.
You are now ready to set off.
Signs They Are Travelling Well
Most chickens travel well as long as care is taken to reduce stress for the birds.
Generally you should not expect to hear much from your chickens during the journey.
You should stop to check on the little travellers at least every four hours, and sooner if you hear something going on or any signs of distress. When you do check on them make sure they are not showing any signs of distress such as panting, holding their wings away from their bodies, pale combs, loose water poop or pecking at each other.
Also while you are stopped you should check on their feed and water and perhaps throw in some more treats and sit with them for a short while.
Signs They Are Not Travelling Well
At the first sign of trouble, you should stop the vehicle.
Try to stop somewhere quiet and check on the birds.
Panting may be the first sign of trouble. Why are they panting? If it is more than one or two birds it may be heat stress, check the temperature and air circulation and adjust as needed. Heat stress is also responsible for pale combs and wattles.
Give them fresh water with ice and wait until they calm down before you set off again.
If it is only one or two chickens panting then it is likely anxiety or stress. You should stop for a bit until they settle down before you drive off again.
The next sign to watch out for is your chickens holding their wings out from their body.
This means they are stressed and hot. Try cooling them by cranking the air to cold, use the A/C if you have one. Place some ice in the water bowls. Check on the air circulation around the crates and rest until they are more settled.
Although there are other signs of distress, these are the two major indicators of stress that you will see.
These signs should not be ignored or you run the risk of losing some hens to stress. If you have to travel on a very hot day then try to start your journey very early while the temperatures are still reasonable.
Ways To Reduce Stress Whilst Transporting Your Chickens
There are a few tricks you can use to keep your hens happy and stress-free during transport.
First, do not drive like you are in the Indy 500. You should keep your speed and maneuvers smooth and slick – drive like a sedate grandmother. Do not go heavy on the brakes! The less you jostle your chickens around the happier they will be and the less stressful the journey will be.
Just because you like rock and roll music, it does not mean that your chickens will enjoy it too! It can agitate and stress them so pick something a bit more low key for the trip. Something soothing will be much better for them.
Next you need to make sure your crates are secure. Fix them so they are not slopping around in the back of the car. Stability is needed because if they are constantly jiggled around they will get highly stressed and unhappy.
Finally you need good ventilation. You do not have to drive with the windows open but make sure the temperature is around 50-60F (10-15C) and that air is circulating around the cages well enough to keep them cool.
How Long Will It Take For My Chickens To Recover?
Once you have finished moving your chickens it will take a while for them to get back to normal.
This will vary from hen to hen, but do not be expecting lots of eggs for a few days.
The journey and new coop will be a bit overwhelming for them so give them plenty of time to explore their new house and grounds.
Keep them on enhanced water (electrolyte powder) for a few days and you can even add a probiotic such as plain yoghurt. The flock should start to bounce back within a week or so, but remember they are all individuals and some will adjust better and quicker than others.
Make sure to set up their routine and stick to it.
Once they are back into a structured routine they will feel more assured and calm. Plenty of treats are in order for the first few days to encourage them to relax.
Make sure you keep an eye on them as sometimes something as big as moving can cause a stress induced reaction/illness.
You may also experience some soft shelled or other egg anomalies for a week or so.
These problems will pass with time once things have settled down. If your flock does experience a flare up of any chronic illness make sure to have a veterinarian in place and ready to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many chickens can I put in a crate?
This will depend on the size of your crate and the size of the chickens.
A standard crate (29″x22″x12″) can hold 8 regular chickens or 12 bantams for short distances (less than 2 hours). Over longer distances plan for 6 standard or 10 bantams in a crate.
How long can chickens stay inside the crate?
Ideally they should not be crated for more than a few hours.
They can travel for a maximum of eight hours straight. You should release them after eight hours to drink, eat and stretch.
How do you keep chickens warm while transporting?
Chickens should be transported in a vehicle that has some sort of air conditioning. Try to keep the ambient temperature at around 60F and watch them carefully for signs of distress. Chickens suffer more from heat stress than the cold, so keep the vehicle on the cool side.
If you do transport your chickens correctly they will arrive without having endured too much stress.
You will probably be more stressed than they are.
If you feel comfortable driving in the dark, then loading up your birds into the crates and driving through the night is a very good option.
The nights are cooler and there is generally less traffic on the road so your chickens will probably sleep all the way.
It is important to have everything ready for your chickens and the other end of the journey. Their new accommodation should be ready so they can relax and explore their new surroundings as soon as they arrive.
Do not let it be stressful for you, try to look at it as an adventure with your flock!
Let us know how it goes moving your chickens in the comments section below…