Today we will look at a few of the problems and issues of caring for chickens.
Of course, these issues don’t arise solely for chickens but for any livestock you care for, even pets.
Your animals and birds rely on you to feed, water, and house them, so it’s impossible to ‘drop the ball’ and ignore their welfare.
However, sometimes emergencies arise, and you need to make sure you can deal with them.
Today’s article will share how to deal with various problems, from small to large and how to create a backup plan for your chickens.
It may also help with disaster planning and preparation for you and your family.
Chicken Emergencies with Solutions
Have you ever considered what happens to your birds in an emergency?
We should all think about this at some point, preferably before it happens!
Do you have relatives or friends that would care for your birds?
Do they know how?
If you have someone that can help you, make sure you have a written daily agenda they can refer to for guidance.
Leave them with emergency contacts, too, just in case.
What if no one can help you?
Keep a list of people and organizations that may be able to help.
Some rescue organizations can find a volunteer that could help you.
This is usually in consideration of a donation to their cause.
Since we can never predict when such an emergency might happen, it is wise to scout around for potential helpers way in advance of the event- just in case.
Some people network with others on Facebook chicken groups and find help that way. There are even people who advertise themselves as chicken sitters!
Injury and Sickness (You not the Chickens!)
It happens to us all eventually. It happened to me last year.
A short hospital stay followed by lifting/mobility restrictions was incredibly frustrating!
Without my partner taking over ‘chicken chores,’ I likely would have had to reduce or sell my flock.
What would happen to your flock if you were in hospital or rehab for several months?
Could your family or friends help you out?
What would happen if you could no longer do your ‘chicken chores’ because of loss of mobility or ability?
You need to consider these questions early on in your chicken addiction.
Most people have someone who could help on a limited basis.
If you should be unfortunate enough to lose your mobility- don’t give up!
There are a considerable number of disabled people out there who keep chickens.
They may have had to reduce flock size and make accommodations for wheelchairs, but they have been determined.
They have overcome the obstacles put in front of them.
In The Event of A Catastrophe
The ‘catastrophe’ is limited because it only applies to you and your birds- it can include things like a barn fire, predator attack, and such.
Unfortunately, things such as barn fires or house fires are still relatively common among poultry keepers.
During the colder months, many people feel their birds need extra warmth and install a heating lamp in the coop, or in springtime, a heating light is used to keep chicks warm.
We have noted before in our blogs that chickens do not need extra heat in the winter.
If you use a heating lamp, be sure it is safely secured by at least three methods.
I use a metal chain, duct tape, and strong twine to secure it for chicks. I have recently started using a brooder plate which is much safer and easy to use.
The chicks like it too!
Is your coop safe from predators?
Remember that a determined predator can chew through chicken wire.
Use hardware cloth to be secure and keep your birds safe.
Although nothing will replace your flock members, do you have insurance?
We may consider our hens a hobby, but they cost money to replace.
Running Out of Feed
Most people buy enough feed to last their flock a couple of weeks or so, but sometimes situations prevent you from topping up.
If it’s just for a day or so, chickens can exist on various other foods.
It’s not ideal, but a couple of days won’t harm them- it might stop them from laying eggs.
If your own food supply contains oats, corn, etc., chickens will happily fill up on these.
They love a bowl of oatmeal!
In winter, I will give mine oatmeal with a big dollop of plain yogurt about once a week as a treat, then stand back as they start flinging oatmeal everywhere!
Corn is not ideal for the long term- it has very little protein. However, the girls love it!
Cat food/dog food is also good in a pinch.
It has a lot of protein that the birds need.
Make a mash out of dried dog/cat food. Again- short term only.
In the ‘old days, ’ chickens fended for themselves, so if your girls can free range, they will likely find all sorts of goodies.
Chickens are omnivorous, so it’s not hard to feed them. Bread, fruits, leftover meats (e.g., chicken or turkey carcass), greens, etc. will help fill your ladies.
Just make sure not to give your birds certain treats as they are poisonous and detrimental to their health.
Also, occasionally the specific brand of feed you use stops producing feed or changes its recipe.
In this case, buy the nearest you can to their regular formula.
All feeds contain minerals and vitamins.
The ingredients that usually change in concentration are protein, fat, and fiber content.
These changes will not make an appreciable difference over a short period.
Depending on where you live, various natural disasters can happen in your area- wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and ice storms, to name a few.
Without any doubt, this is something you must think about before it happens.
Preparation for such an event will improve your chances of saving your flock from harm, not to mention your family!
Several local agricultural extension sites have disaster planning pages for livestock and people.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has several informative pages on disaster preparedness.
In preparation for such an event, you must consider how you will move your flock and where they are going?
Plastic transport cages for ten birds can be bought for around $50 and reused many times.
Where are you going?
A disaster plan should be ready for your family, pets, and livestock.
Maybe you could take your birds to a friend or relative for safety.
Occasionally, a local farmer will help you out. But, if the disaster is widespread, they may also be worried about their livestock.
The local extension office may already have a plan- you will need to know this in advance.
If you are advised to ‘stay put’ during the crisis, be aware of the possible disruption of many essential services:
- Electricity- have you got a generator? Fuel?
- Water- your hens will need access to safe, clean water.
- Food- you and your flock need to eat!
These are but a few of the services that may be impacted over an unknown period.
While it would be nice to be able to predict the predator landscape over the years, the truth is new predators migrate and move into ideal locations.
They migrate based on things like prey volume, climate changes, and other changes to their typical stomping grounds.
If you are suddenly faced with a new type of predator in your area, you must be prepared.
Be ready to pivot your predator-proofing plans to ensure your chooks remain safe.
Are new owls in the area?
Make sure you have aviary netting available to cover any gaps in the roof of the coop or run.
More foxes present?
Know how to keep keen predators, who hunt by digging, out of your chicken coop.
(hint: it usually involves burying fencing below the ground, so predators become discouraged and give up.)
Are you prepared for a new neighbor dog?
Not all pups know not to mess with your chickens, so what would you do if a new neighbor dog, or stray, started preying on your flock?
Consider the conversations you will have with your neighbor to keep things neighborly.
Chicken Emergencies: Closing Thoughts
As with many things in life, things occur unexpectedly.
A plan saves you precious time, and money should such an event happen.
Most of the minor mishaps require nothing more than a quick adjustment to your routines.
However, significant disasters require much more forethought.
You and your flock may be one of several hundred people who need assistance. You significantly improve your chances of weathering the storm by being better prepared.
Let us know in the comments below what safety plans you have for your chickens!