Chickens / Management

Moving with Chickens

IMGP0662 A few weeks ago, we brought the chickens out to the new property in West Virginia, a two-and-a-half hour drive from our home in Virginia.  It’s a challenge to move chickens without causing significant stress, and stress can kill chickens.  Any disease which may have been laying dormant is likely to appear after a stressful event.  The stress itself can kill weaker or flightier birds as their heart rate soars or if they fly into something in a panic.

An event like a move can also break up a broody hen.  I was thankful for this side effect as I had two broody hens at the time of the move.  One had been sitting for about two months and was not breaking up with my gentler methods.  I would have loved to let them hatch out some chicks, but I knew that the upcoming move would possibly cause them to stop sitting or abandon their chicks.

IMGP0648edRather than a crazy chase around the chicken yard, I prefer to take chickens off of the roost in the morning and place them in cages while they are still sleepy.  The evening before the move, I set out the cages and boxes by the coops.  I came outside ready to box them up before they were too awake or off the roost, which was about 5:10 at that time of year.

I began with the dominant rooster and then the second rooster to reduce the chances of them attacking me while I packed up the hens.  Although neither has attacked me before, they would be more likely to do so if they felt I was threatening the hens.  I packed the two roosters into separate cages so they wouldn’t fight with each other during the trip and put in with them the hens which they usually sleep next to.

IMGP0649edThen I packed up the rest of the girls and the boys in the bachelors’ pen and got everyone some food and water.  They generally spill everything I put into a cage, so I give them a soupy mixture of feed and water which tends to be more difficult to spill.  Because it was a hot morning, I made sure their cages were in the shade and brought extra water every hour or so until it was time to go.

Most of the cages fit into the back of our friend’s truck with a camper top to keep the sun and wind off of them.  We left all of the windows open until it was time to leave and then closed down the back window, leaving the two side windows slightly open for ventilation.  The box of cockerels went into the back of my air conditioned Subaru.

IMGP0653edWe left as a caravan with the two chicken-toting vehicles in the rear.  We drove slowly on the curvy mountain roads and pulled over to let other cars pass.  Two and a half hours later, we were at our property in West Virginia!  The chickens relaxed in the back of the vehicles for about 15 minutes while we set up their food, water, and the tarp over their coop.

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I released the chickens into the coop in the reverse order that I had packed them, putting my dominant rooster in last.  Then, the chickens were confined to their coop for 24 hours.  This period gave them the time to settle down and adjust while learning that the hoop coop was their new home.

IMGP0697The next afternoon, they were allowed to range.  We kept a close eye on them to make sure that everyone seemed to know where to go for food and water and to make sure that they all found their way back to the coop at night.  There were more frequent skirmishes between the two roosters than usual as they figured out their roles in the new environment.  The dominant rooster tries to keep the lower rooster out of the coop each night, but he eventually slips in before dark.  The first few mornings, there was a lot more crowing than usual as the roosters nervously tried to carve out their own territory, but beyond that, they have settled in quite well.  There has been no illness and the unbreakable broodies are finally ranging with the rest of the flock.  The chickens are settled into their new home, and hopefully, we will be settled soon as well.

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23 thoughts on “Moving with Chickens

  1. I was so happy to see that moving with chickens is doable, not that I am moving soon, but we’ve made our coop with screws so we can move it with us if we ever need to.

    • Definitely doable. I think we were really successful in part because we made a separate trip that was just about the chickens. We only had to worry about their welfare and comfort, so we weren’t overwhelmed by other parts of the moving process. It was a great idea to make your coop easily disassembled. It costs a little more upfront, but you save far more because you don’t need to rebuild a coop from scratch at your new place.

    • Thanks! I was relieved that it went so well. It was certainly a big job, but definitely do-able. Now, if we had moved to Arkansas as we were planning, the 17-hour drive would have definitely presented more of a challenge!

  2. I just signed up for your blogs…loved you yutube videos…and this was a much needed topic for me…we are finishing up the pen, have the coop all ready to go, and getting the feeders, etc soon…these will be our first chickens and clearly I will have to bring them home!!…so, this blog is exactly what I needed, because I hadn’t gotten to the point of thinking beyond the dog crate –> feed, water, bedding were not on the list yet!…so, thanks for the sharing and providing me with more info about chickens!!… Sharon

  3. Glad to hear that moving with chickens is do-able. I’m planning a move myself soon and will need to do a 4.5 hour drive. I was thinking of moving them at night after they’ve roosted and just move them into covered cages for the move and then into the new run in the am. They’ve done nights in cages before when we’ve had hurricanes and such and I wanted everyone close to me and ready to go should we have to evacuate.

  4. Relating a perplexing problem here- I gave 2 one-year-old hens (from a flock of 23) to my sis-in-law in April. They traveled comfortably in the shower/bath of a motorhome from S. Colorado to S. California, from a rural set-up to a suburban back-yard with a small coop, from 6 roosters to 0. They STILL aren’t laying (after 4 months). I know I didn’t give her laying ‘duds’, and suggested putting egg-shaped things in their new nesting area to entice them to lay. There is a large dog in close proximity, but they had my mouse-hunting pom in their space almost daily here. Could moving stress have caused this issue-or could they possibly have gone into molt? What to do? Thanks for any ideas…

    • It is probably the stress, not only of the move but also the social stress of trying to find their place in the new flock or the stress of being on their own if they are the only two chickens at the new home. There’s also a new coop and possibly new food and less ranging. It is also possible that the stress actually induced a molt, if she is noticing that the hens have been losing a lot of feathers. If they appear otherwise healthy, then I would expect them to begin laying again once they’ve settled in, whenever that happens to be. It may also be that they are flightier individuals or of a flightier breed and are taking the stress of moving a little more severely. I hope they begin laying soon!

  5. Thanks for the moving tutorial.We are moving from Vt to Maine at the end of September, and the stress of how to moved the girls (9) was getting to my husband. Now we can both relax as we know that it is doable. It is a good 7hr trip. Any more advice that we might need?

    • It is definitely doable. The hardest question is how transporting the flock will fit into the rest of your move. For nine hens, you will need a few cages which will take up most of one vehicle at least. Think about the weather, although I doubt the end of September will be too hot or too cold. On a seven hour drive, you will definitely want to make sure you stop a few times and give them a chance to eat and drink. You can do it! Good luck.

  6. I’ve done this. My 13 chickens were in 4 boxes for 4 days. I stopped the middle of each day and let them out into a temporary pen for food and water (about 10 minutes), a box full at a time. They also had the same treatment each evening before bed and each morning before we left. The big issue for me was making sure that they didn’t overheat. Fortunately, we had mostly cloudy and coolish weather, so things didn’t get too warm in the back of the truck. We covered over 3000 miles and the hens settled into their new home just fine. Yes… it did induce a moult and it took them a bit to recover, but I’m glad we did it. I still have the original 12 hens I brought with me although the rooster has since died.

    • Gwen. Thank you SO MUCH! I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. I feel much less worried now about the move. Did you happen to move to a colder climate? What do you think about that? Will chickens that were raised in relative warmth struggle with the cold of a Wisconsin winter (assuming we give them a warm habitat for nighttime)?

  7. This is a wonderful article! Thank you for the detail. We are thinking of moving more than 2000 miles away. I have 2 questions: 1, will the chickens make it through 2 days in the back of a truck? 2, we live in California now, but may move to Wisconsin. Can chickens that have lived all their life in Northern California’s temperate climate, adjust to the cold and heat of Wisconsin? I would be most grateful for everyone’s thoughts and experiences.

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