Sunday, January 11, 2015

Have Chicken, Will Travel

We got back the other day from a wonderful trip home to Wisconsin to visit family and friends.  We usually make the sixteen-hour drive to and from Denver in one shot, alternating shifts and driving through the night.  Preparations for being away typically entail making snacks to keep us awake, packing clothes, gifts, and other food, and finding someone to check in on our chickens.

Fortunately for our chicken-checking volunteers, the chickens are generally well behaved.  But what happens when, a week before the trip, one of the chickens gets injured and needs extra care?  Talk about a wrench in the plans!

We were going to cull her, but the injuries didn't seem to involve any vital systems, the only serious symptom being that she couldn't walk very well.  We kept her in a 10-gallon tote in the laundry room for the week leading up to the trip, and she seemed like she was intent on eventually making a full recovery.  Plus, we had just spent six-plus months rearing her into egg-laying shape and culling would have meant a lost investment on that end.

So, we decided to take her with us.

Thoughts of driving through a feather-filled ruckus from a panic-stricken bird, of inconveniencing anyone we visited, and the possibility of an overly-interesting traffic stop aside, we decided it would be a shame to cull her, and hard to ask our chicken-care volunteers in Denver to take on this extra burden.  Plus, what if she took a turn for the worse or had other unexpected problems?  At least if she was with us, we'd be the only dumbfounded ones.

Chicken setup in tote in laundry room.  Feed and water containers supported on wire hooks over edge of tote.  Water (yogurt) container has poultry nipple on bottom.  She hasn't even tried to escape, except on the second day in the tote when she somehow got out to lay an egg on the kitchen floor, but couldn't get back in.

We made room for the tote in the already-jam-packed car, packed a little extra food, and hit the dusty trail.  1000 miles and four states later, she was still happily doing chicken stuff and seeming ever-so-slightly more healed.  Since we drove most of the way through the night, she just slept, only making some annoyed chicken sounds because of the bright lights when we stopped for gas. She generally just hung out in the back seat, better-behaved than any human under the age of ten (and most humans older than that).

The tote fit nicely behind the driver's seat, and the cooler fit sideways such that the passenger seat still reclined.  That was critical for through-the-night driving!

In the time we were home, she stayed in a dog kennel in a heated garage (sans dog, of course), got to free range--or rather, free-hop on her one good leg--on some choice Wisconsin pasture (a rarity for this time of year!), eat some aquaponic lettuce, see four different relatives' houses, and entertain a cadre of young cousins.  And through it all, she was the definition of stoic.

The lesson?  If your chicken is more chill than Cub Foods-brand soda, don't be afraid to travel with it!  It was easier than traveling with a dog, and chickens don't shed.

Here's hoping she continues to recover and starts laying eggs again sometime in 2015!

Have you ever had to travel with chickens?  Do you have any funny stories or helpful tips?  Let us know in the comments section below!


  1. Well, why not! LOL. Folks do have pet chickens and I'm sure those chickens get to do some vacation traveling as well. I'm sure she enjoyed it!

    1. The forums at Backyard Chickens, where many of the folks do keep them as pets, gave us some confidence that it could be done. :-) We don't really want to think of her as a pet since that will make it harder to put her in the stockpot when she stops laying in a few years, but it will be interesting to see if she's noticeably tamer than the rest of the birds when she gets her legs back under her!

  2. Still seems like there could be a joke this guy and his wife were driving down the highway with a chicken in their back seat....and then...I don't know how the joke ends. Just a funny story. And she was "tote-ally" cool with the whole arrangement!