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.
Rather 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.
Then 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.
We 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.
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.
The 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.