Safely Transporting Chickens in a Car: Tips and Tricks

Safely Transporting Chickens (1)

Are you facing the need to transport your chickens or ducks in a car? There are a lot of things to be aware of to keep live poultry safe in transportation. 

Until recently, one of the things I never thought I’d have to worry about is — how to safely transport chickens. The recent cross-country move had me figuring out just that, so now I am an expert on safe poultry transportation.

In case you’re in the same predicament,  from moving homes or  taking your prize chicken to the vet, here’s everything to know about how to safely transport your chickens in a car in five steps.

Important Aspects Of Safely Transporting Chickens

To safely transport chickens in a car, it’s crucial to figure out what to place your chickens. The movement of the vehicle will likely stress out your birds and it’s important to transport them in something that won’t harm them if they start flapping or moving from stress. Chickens whose wings get caught, or who bang into other items face injury. Some of your options include a cardboard box, a cat, or a dog crate. 

Did you know? Transportation is one of the main causes of poultry stress, and it can lead to:

  • Poor egg production
  • Weight loss
  • Immune suppression
  • Anxiety
  • Susceptibility to diseases 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on safely transporting your poultry.

Step 1: Prepare Ahead of Travel to Prepare Chickens For The Added Stress. 

Taking steps before transport is vital for helping to ensure that your chickens are ready for the added stress and change of travel. Take steps to fortify their immune systems against the changes so that your girls will have minimal disruption to their egg laying. Taking the time to prepare for a smooth transition will make a big difference. Focus on fortifying their diet and preparing their new coop and chicken run.  

Before and after transportation, adjust your poultry’s diet. Use a diet that has electrolytes, probiotics, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins. A diet rich in these will help the chickens recover faster from the stress of traveling. 

You can add ammonium chloride or potassium chloride to the water they drink and ensure they have the electrolytes they need to travel.

If possible, prepare your poultry’s new habitat before they arrive there. 

Provide them with

  • Clean bedding
  • Fresh food and water
  • Safe environment

The sooner your hens can settle into their new home and get to know the new space, the faster they will adjust. Making sure that bedding, food, water, and a safe coop are available will make your flock feel safe and content in the new environment. They’ll be able to forget about the transportation stress as soon as they arrive.

Step 2: Get Your Vehicle Ready for Transporting Hens

If you have a small flock, you can easily transport them in your car. But, there are a few things to watch for depending on what kind of a car you have, or how functional it is. 

If you are driving for more than about 15 minutes, it’s a good idea to service the car to make sure everything is in working order, especially the AC or the heater. 

Note: When under stress, chickens easily overheat, so ensure to provide good ventilation and consistent temperature in the car. The AC is the most important feature for traveling in the spring to fall. Chickens can overheat a lot faster than they will freeze, as most chickens can adjust to colder temperatures.

Step 3: Safely Crate the Chickens

Choose a safe way to transport your chickens during the trip. There are many reasons not to simply allow chickens access to the inside of your car or truck. In addition to the mess they will make, chickens are more likely to harm themselves if they have the ability to move around the vehicle. 

In a truck bed, hens are likely to get out and be at risk of harm from other traffic. Here are some ideas for safe transporting:

  • A cardboard box that closes with cutouts for ventilation
  • Dog and cat crates
  • Small cages
  • Rabbit cages

Pro tip: Chickens hate not having solid ground under their feet, so make sure whatever you choose for their transportation has a solid bottom. If your rabbit or dog crates have a wire mesh, then take some time to place a cardboard cutout in the bottom for your chickens. This will also serve as a good container for poop and other messes.

For their optimum comfort, put a 3-4 inches thick layer of straw on the bottom. In this way, the hens won’t slide around. Straw is also more difficult for the chickens to kick out of the cage than shavings. It will also help your chickens not to smell as much as straw and wood shavings will help to absorb the droppings.

Note: If you’re going on a short drive, you can comfortably use a cardboard box with holes for air. But, if you’re traveling long distances, it’s better to use a cage or a pet kennel. 

Go for a medium-sized crate. Here you can comfortably fit two full-sized chickens, and it can be stored in the SUV.

A crate or a kennel gives the hens enough room to stand and move around a bit, but they’re still contained enough to prevent flapping or getting jostled and injured during the ride.

Safely Transport Chickens (1)

Step 4: Pair up the Chickens to Help Calm The Flock

When it comes to pairing up hen travel companions, you have two options:

  • Pair buddies with buddies
  • Pair the hens by temperament

If you pair your hens by temperament, put chickens whose tempers are mellow together, and pair up those who are more sociable, so they can expend their energy on each other. This will keep squabbles with other ladies to a minimum. 

Also, if they sense the presence of other chickens they know, it will help keep them calm. The one exception to this is to be aware of pairing up the hens that fight for the top of the pecking order. You may want to separate them out as they will be a lot more likely to fight and harm each other if traveling in a cage together. If you have a very dominant hen, place her with your rooster. If you don’t have a rooster, place the dominant hen alone. 

Step 5: Ensure Optimal Travel Conditions For Hens

It’s time to hit the road. There are a couple of things you can do to make your flock feel comfortable. It will be important to keep your hens comfortable and to provide conditions that will keep them calmer. 

Keep the crates dark: Chickens go into a sleep-like state when in the dark, which will help keep them relaxed. The darker you can make your crates, the better. 

Pro tip: Throw a blanket or a towel over the crate or a kennel to keep them calm. Don’t forget to check the air holes to make sure they still have enough fresh airflow.

Be aware for food and water needs. If you’re going on a 15-minute drive to your vet, you don’t need to worry about food and water. 

But, if transporting your hens long-distance, you must keep them fed and hydrated. Give priority to hydration as chickens should have water every 3-4 hours. If your hens aren’t eating as usual, don’t worry. It’s probably just the stress because of the journey.

There are a few ways to safely give water to chickens without worrying it will end up all over your car. To prevent spills  from happening, you have two options:

  • Make occasional stops — Make a break every 100 to 200 miles to give the chickens food and water from open dishes. It’s also a good idea to stop occasionally and check for injuries, and signs of exhaustion, such as wings held out, panting, etc.
  • Install waterer and feeder — Standard waterer and feeder can make a mess and make the crate or box soggy and dirty. To avoid this, use a nipple waterer. It’s fully enclosed, and there’s no risk of water spilling.

If you go for a waterer and feeder, check every couple of hours that it’s filled. You can also give the hens a treat, such as dried mealworms, veggies, and black oil sunflower seeds.

Did you know? You can also give your chickens slices of watermelon, cucumber, and cabbage leaves to munch on. These have a high amount of water and will also keep them hydrated during the trip.

Plan to avoid loud areas, construction, or stop-and-go traffic. Plan the route you’ll be driving in advance, and check the information on road conditions. If possible, try to avoid routes with loud traffic and tons of construction. You should also avoid rough roads with potholes and uneven gravel.

Go a bit slower, and drive steadily to avoid sharp turns, sudden stops, and turns, which can all jostle the chickens and cause sliding around. The less bumpy the ride is, the lower your flock’s stress levels will be.

Pro tip: When you’re loading everything up in the car, you can do some soundproofing. Put blankets, rubber mats, or packing foam around the container your chickens are in. This will also reduce hens anxiety.

One final piece of advice for safe poultry transportation is to use natural calming remedies during the trip using herbs. And, your hens will love the herbs and be distracted by the treats! 

You can make herbal bundles yourself and hang them in the chicken container. 

Use lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, and rosemary, and tie them in a bouquet. This can serve several purposes:

  • Keep the hens calm
  • Repel the flies
  • Serve as a treat for chickens to munch on

If you don’t feel like making a bouquet on your own, or you don’t have access to these herbs, that’s alright. You can buy a remedy for pets. It’s a natural herbal liquid that calms pets. You can use it to add a few drops to the water the chicken will drink during the trip.

Adjusting Your Flock When You Arrive At Your Destination

You’ve made it! Now it’s time to unload the chickens and put them in their new home.

If you had a chance to prepare in advance for their new coop — great. If not, then make sure you have fresh food and water and somewhere for chickens to sleep in until the new coop is ready. You can use the transportation containers temporarily, just clean them regularly. 

Give your chickens time to adjust to the new environment, and don’t expect eggs straight away. A change in routine can cause a reduction in egg production.

Note: Keep an eye out for signs of stress after a big move. This can result in soft-shelled eggs, pale combs, lethargy, and more. If this happens, consult a vet straight away.

If your chickens are going to be free-ranged or locked up at night and let out in the mornings, it’s important to teach them where they need to gather at dusk. You can do this by locking them in the coop for 2-3 days and not letting them out at all. This tells them that the coop is their safe place and the place they come at night. 

If you don’t lock them up when you arrive, you may struggle to gather your hens at night and keep them safe. 

Conclusion

Transporting chickens can be intimidating and stressful, but with a little planning, both you and your girls can make it through safely and with minimal stress. For more information on helping new chickens adjust to an old flock check out this article.

Jeremy Chartier

Jeremy is a writer, artist and homesteader. He focuses on ethical animal raising, heritage breed preservation and sustainability. He has been raising poultry since he was seven and enjoys all the nature that surrounds him.

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