Stressful transportation can be one of the leading causes in illness in chickens, and can lead to weight loss, anxiety, and poor egg production. Obviously, transportation is a crucial part of caring for chickens, but the primary areas of concern when taking your chickens anywhere are air, water, and safety.
While taking care of these concerns can go a long way towards making sure your chickens are ready to settle into their new homes as quickly as possible, you may want to also adjust their diet for a few days before and after any transportation. A special diet that’s loaded with electrolytes, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and probiotics will help the chickens be able to recover physically from the strain of travel much faster than a regular diet. Even something as simple as adding ammonium chloride or potassium chloride to their drinking water can make sure your chickens have the electrolytes they need to travel.
Similarly, make sure your chickens’ new habitat is fully prepared at their destination before they arrive. Clean bedding, fresh food and water, and an environment that promises visible protection from predators will go a long way towards making sure that your chickens feel safe and content in their new home as quickly as possible, and so are able to settle in and forget all about the stresses of their journey as soon as they arrive.
In a Car:
As mentioned above, the first big issue when transporting chickens is making sure they’ve got enough air to be comfortable. If your chickens are riding in the back of your car, make sure the windows are cracked enough for them to get a solid airflow without being able to lean too far out the window!
The second major concern is water. While keeping an open water source in your car while on a long trip can be an issue, it’s important that your chickens have access to fresh water so that they’ll be able to stay calm and relaxed for the length of the ride. If your ride is longer than a few hours, it may be easier just to stop every hour and a half or so and make sure all the chickens in your car can have a chance to grab a drink of water.
The third main concern is security. Chickens like to roost in dark, semi-enclosed spaces, so it may help to have a crate with plenty of air holes for them to sit in during the ride. Because chickens tend to go into a relaxed, sleep-like state when in darkness, placing your chickens in an appropriately sized box will help them stay calm and help you have a distraction-free road trip!
On a long distance trip, expect to deal with the same issues as you would on a short drive, but expect those issues to be more dramatic the longer the drive. Especially with clean air and water, a longer drive can turn what would be merely a mild inconvenience for your chickens into a potentially life-threatening situation.
In terms of water, on longer drives, it is all the more imperative to ensure that your chickens are staying properly hydrated. Depending on the type of vehicle, this may mean that you will have to be more regular about stopping for water breaks, or it may mean that you may want to look into finding a way for your chickens to access clean drinking water without threatening to spill water all over your car. Regardless of the type of vehicle, however, it is extremely important that the chickens get the hydration they need to be happy and healthy upon arriving at their destination.
As with water, clean air is an issue that becomes all the more important on long or even cross-country road trips. Make sure the crates your chickens are sleeping in have adequate ventilation for extended travel times, and that they are able to move about and access a steady flow of clean oxygen.
Another factor to consider when taking a longer road trip is the route. Chickens are sensitive animals, and are prone to anxiety when they are exposed to loud, odorous, or chaotic environments. To avoid overexciting your chickens, you may want to look for route options that will avoid snarls of traffic or big-city excitement. On the other hand, roads that are too rural may have a lot of uneven stretches or potholes that will be similarly stressful for your chickens if it turns into too much of a bumpy ride, so try to find a happy medium between the two extremes. While this may make your trip a little bit longer, so long as you provide your chickens with plenty of clean air, water, and rest, they will be far more likely to thrive coming out of the trip than if you go through noisy or unsteady avenues.
In a Truck:
As with long distance driving, truck transportation presents its own unique additions to the more basic water, air, and security concerns. On trucks, the main concern facing your chickens will be security, while water and air concerns will be more easily handled without worries of damaging the inside of your car.
Open air trucks provide a great source of oxygen for the chickens you’re transporting, but they also pose their own set of increased risks. A truck that’s completely open to the air risks exposing chickens to extreme weather–rain and snow or even just too much sun–which can tax your chickens beyond what they can handle. For this reason, you will want to either provide some sort of shelter for your chickens in the back of the truck or use a truck that is not completely open to the air. This will not only help protect your chickens from the harsh weather, but also from any changes in the road, such as loose gravel or water spray from passing vehicles, that would otherwise be a strain on your chickens’ sensitive temperaments.
Join the Sorry Chicken Club
Of course, water and air are still important factors in chicken transportation, but the fact that your chickens are in the bed of a truck as opposed to the seat of your car allows you to provide open sources of water without worrying about spills. This can help speed up your trip, as you will be able to skip the water breaks that would be necessary without a steady water source for the chickens.
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The open bed of the truck can also provide a constant stream of fresh air for your chickens to enjoy, while at the same time posing some of the threats mentioned above. However, as long as you have provided adequate protection from the roads and the weather, your fine feathered friends should reach their destination without too much anxiety and be ready to settle into their new home!
"People talk about fools counting chickens before they hatch. That's nothing. We name them."
-- Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman