Last week my husband and I went to London to celebrate my 30th birthday (more on that later), which left us with the task of finding a chicken-sitter. My in-laws kindly watch our dog whenever we’re out of town, but with a stationary coop, we needed to find someone willing to come to our house every day to take care of our girls. We didn’t want to ask any of our friends because none of them live within a 15 minute radius of our house and we didn’t want anyone to feel put on the spot, so we reached out on Facebook to see if we had any volunteers and my good friend Stacy quickly offered her help. We are SO incredibly grateful for her! I wanted to share my experience of finding someone to watch our chickens as I believe more people will find themselves in similar situations as backyard chicken keeping increases.
With dropping temperatures in mind, here are the lengthy directions we left for our chicken-sitter:
“In the mornings, whichever time works best for you (keeping in mind that chickens usually get up when the sun comes up), the waterer will need to be checked. If the water is frozen, you’ll need to bring the waterer into the mudroom and use hot water to thaw it, and then fill it back up.
The chicken feed is in the big blue bin, but they don’t go through food too fast. If anything, you’ll probably only need to fill up their food container once. [Surprisingly, since we did not allow our girls access to the yard, they ate more feed than normal. Our chicken-sitter reported that they needed to fill up the feeder on three occasions!]
It’s completely alright to just leave the coop-to-run door closed, especially if it’s really cold out. But, if you do decide to open it for them, keep the run-to-backyard door closed to ensure they won’t go missing! The coop-to-run door will need to be closed around sundown (ish) if you do decide to open it. [Normally we allow the girls access to the entire yard everyday, but there have been a few occasions where a chicken temporarily went missing (in a tree or outside of the fence), and I wouldn’t wish the stress of losing a chicken on anyone. Additionally, because the temperatures were so low (in the teens) and the girls had avoided going outside in the few days leading up to our trip, we felt comfortable keeping them inside for a week.]
Chicken poop piles up underneath the roosting bars and creates moisture in the coop, so if every 2-3 days you could use the little rake (in the corner of the coop) and just push around the poop by spreading it out and covering it up with shavings, that would be great!
I’m going to leave Vaseline on the kitchen table in case you notice any of the combs getting frostbite (but they should be ok). We’re going to put some on Molly’s comb (she’s the only one with the single comb) tonight just as prevention. Here are some pictures if you want to know what to look for: The Chicken Chick’s Frostbite in Backyard Chickens: Causes, Treatment & Prevention.
I’m also going to leave two chicken reference books on the table in case you have any questions that may come up, and an egg carton for any eggs you collect. They usually lay inside of the nesting boxes. If you could collect these each morning, that would be great. Anything you find you can take home and enjoy! They don’t need to be washed, and you don’t even need to refrigerate them if you plan on eating them within the next few days.
If you’re walking straight lines from the house to the coop, or from the gate to the coop, you shouldn’t run into any dog poop…if you stray from the path, I can make no promises! [We don’t scoop in winter!]”
After seeing the directions I left, which I felt looked overwhelming, I sent a short and sweet summary:
“Summary: Fresh water, collect eggs, toss bedding, look out for dog poop!”
As a thank you, we left our chicken-sitter an empty egg carton (to use when collecting eggs) with a plastic egg inside stuffed with cash to cover gas. We also wrote a thank you note in a Dominique chicken themed note card from a set I was gifted (I believe they’re from Etsy). I felt this was a cute way to say thank you!