Chicken Sitter Checklist

A complete guide to leaving your flock with a chicken sitter

Your vacation is booked, and your luggage is packed. But what about the chickens? Who is going to look after them? Read below to find out all you need to know about hiring a chicken sitter so you can relax and enjoy your vacation worry free!

A flock of chickens free range on green grass. A chicken sitter watches from a distance.
Prepare your chicken sitter for success while you are away from home.

Adult chickens don't need a lot of supervision. You can leave them for a few days, provided they have plenty of food, water, and outdoor access, so they don't get bored (or overheated in a closed coop!) A chicken sitter is needed if you will be away from your home for more than a few days. At a minimum, it's recommended to have someone who will check on the flock just to ensure they don't knock over their waterers, for example. Or to ensure someone is around in case of an injury or emergency.

What to look for in a chicken sitter

Ideally, it would be great to find a chicken sitter with prior experience being a chicken babysitter or someone who owns a flock of their own. If that isn't possible, consider someone who is at least comfortable with chickens. Invite them to meet your flock and determine if they are someone you can trust to be reliable and follow your directions to ensure the safety of your flock. Make arrangements for pay or compensation ahead of time, so there are no surprises about expectations.

How to find a chicken sitter?

  1. Check with neighbors or family, or friends that live nearby.
  2. Consider hiring a local pet service.
  3. Call your local veterinarian and ask if they have any pet sitter recommendations.
  4. Call your local 4-H club and ask if any local members are interested in pet sitting.

What instructions should I leave for my chicken babysitter?

Be sure to share detailed instructions with your chicken sitter, so they know what to expect.

  1. Water - Ask your chicken sitter to check daily to ensure the water has not been knocked over. Refresh daily or as needed. Let your sitter know where the hose is located or which sink to use if you give them house access.
  2. Feed - Have your chicken sitter check the feed daily to ensure that they have enough. Be sure to have plenty of feed to last for the entire time you are away. If you usually store your feed in a garage or shed, ensure your chicken sitter has access.
  3. Treats - Don't forget the treats! Treats can be an excellent way for your pet sitter to win over the affection of your chicken flock.
  4. Egg collecting - Leave your sitter empty egg cartons or a basket and instruct them to gather the eggs at least once daily. As an extra bonus, offer to let your sitter keep the eggs that they collect!
  5. Review chicken behavior - If your chicken sitter is new to chicken sitting, warn them about some chicken behaviors. Always warn them about a broody hen and her antics. You may even want to offer your sitter a pair of garden gloves for protection when collecting the eggs. Ask them to make sure the broody hens drink and eat. You might also warn them about sunbathing, and dust bathing, which could also fool a person inexperienced with chickens into thinking something is wrong.
  6. Practice good biosecurity - Remind your sitter, before and after working with your birds, to wash their hands with soap and water, preferably followed by a disinfectant. Ask your chicken sitter to dedicate a particular pair of shoes when at your coop or clean their shoes with disinfectant before and after working with your flock. Following these best practices will help protect your flock from HPAI and other illnesses.

What your chicken babysitter should do in an unexpected situation

  1. Have an emergency plan - If a chicken should get injured somehow, even if it's not bad, instruct your chicken sitter to separate her from the rest of the flock. Provide a safe place for your sitter to separate the hen, such as a second coop or a dog crate. Whatever you use, be sure it protects your injured hen from predators and weather elements.
  2. Contact info - Leave your chicken sitter your contact info and the contact info of your Veterinarian. You can also offer the contact info for VetTriage, a 24-hour video televet service. Consider leaving them a contact of a person close by who can come and help in an emergency.

What do you tell your chicken sitters? Have you ever forgotten something important? Have you added tasks to your list after a bad experience? Please tell us in the comments, so we can help other chicken sitters!

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Sharon
9 years ago

Yes! I have written a 3 page "chicken sitter guide". It has everything I can think of.... including "what to do if a chicken passes away"... guide is laminated & kept in the feed bucket.

Gwen
9 years ago

Hahaha :). That's funny. I thought the same thing with my first broody chicken.

Kim
9 years ago

This is a great post! I am going on a little trip soon and have a chicken sitter coming. Thank for the information! The chickens in the first picture are soooo extremely cute!!!!

Karen
9 years ago

I am a petsitter and loved this article. There are so many things that get over looked until they happen. Usually 9 times out of 10 everything is fine, but it sounds like poor John the long suffering found that 1 item.

It was mentioned by another poster and it's something NONE of us want to think about but that list should include what to do if the pet passes away while owner is gone. Does the owner want to know right away? How does the owner want things done by the vet? Does the Vet have that plan in the pet's file? It's hard to think about but it will give everyone a peace of mind to know what to do.

My own experience was rather scary funny - I was dog sitting at a home WAY WAY out in the country. I was in bed for the night and I heard something that sounded human like run across the roof. After 2-3 hours of this, I finally called the police. (In hind sight, I should have known if the dog didn't care I shouldn't have cared either) It turned out to be a family of raccoons using the roof as a highway back and forth between the giant Oak trees around the house. Phew!! When the owners returned their response was, "Oh yeah, I guess we should have mentioned that" YA THINK?!?! Thank goodness I loved them like family! HAHA

Susie M
9 years ago

Too funny! I'm glad you put the dust bathing and sun bathing in there, that totally freaked me out in my first chicken season. I might add two others

1. Eggs are nicknamed 'cackleberries' for a reason, how much noise would you make if something that big came out of your butt? Look how small those hens are in comparison. You have no idea how many times I ran outside to 'save' my girls from a predator, or my neighbors would call to have me go check in case a fox had got in there.

2. During free-ranging, don't be surprised if, when you go to the back door, or even just peek out of the window to see what the girls are up to, and they see you, they come running at full speed to the house. All of them, and they tell the others, and they all come too. They are NOT attacking. It is a compliment, they trust you, and have connected the sight of you with treats. Of course, now you will know no peace out doors, but it is wonderful when one likes to sit in your lap.

9 years ago
Reply to  Susie M

These are all good ideas! Maybe I can do a follow up post in a few weeks with a collected list of things to share, suggested by other chicken owners. I felt so bad for John. We were just sure he was going to have a blast! 🙂

Katherine
9 years ago

Omg i want to be a chicken sitter. Best sitter job ever.

Lol poor John! I understand that completely being a pet sitter also.

Only I had the worst happen and had a pet get killed by three of the other pets, omg is that a story. Moral- hamsters are active at night- dogs, like cats, too, will play with rodents. I could have contacted the owners but the hamster was already gone and there was nothing they could do, so without ruining their stay I told them two days before the came back as a warning. The cats knocked the Hamster tubing lose While i had run home to lock my hens in at dusk. Escaped hamster + dogs= disaster. I probably would have wante to know right away if something had died but I know i for sure would be worried about it for the rest of the trip. I guess its a judgement call- or depends on the danger of the rest of the animals.

Lol I left a comment about my mom being scared by our broody hen- I guess there are more people out there with broody scares too!

Lol however once I was taking a nap during the day and I get called by my aunt. "There's something wrong with the chickens!!!!"
"what?! What's wrong?!" I come running.
"they are rolling around! Something is wrong!"
I stop at the stairs and sigh- half way to the coop " there's nothing wrong. They are dust bathing." and I turn around and head back to bed.

Heather
9 years ago

I timed a hatch poorly. I have an incubator full of eggs starting to hatch and I am leaving for the weekend. I think my sister can handle it though. She is pretty chicken savvy. 🙂

kakasailorette
9 years ago

Hmmm...Last night a coyote was screaming the alert to his buddies that breakfast was right here at my house at 4 am. I hung out around my chicken coop with my headlamp until I felt he'd become discouraged for the night.
Next day my girl Dazey had laid a soft egg and an alien; fright I presume??? Can anyone tell me if they've seen their hens lay a weird lump with white tentacles!!!!!

9 years ago
Reply to  kakasailorette

Your chickens are lucky to have you there to look out for them! I bet the "alien" was merely the egg membrane, or else egg membrane material. A fright like that, you're right, can cause your girls to go off laying, or to lay odd shaped eggs or eggs with other unusual characteristics (too small, wrinkled shell, etc.) You can read more about soft-shelled and shell-less eggs on our website. Hopefully it won't take them long to recover their equanimity--and their regular egg laying!

Stevee Salazar
9 years ago

How lucky are you all who have chicken sitters! My mom is the only one I trust to watch my girls. My girls free range during the day but have to be cooped at night due to predators. One thing I would want to remind my mom or a sitter, if I could find one I trusted, is that some hens will lay their eggs on the ground -in or out of the coop - and its perfectly ok. People new to chickens might be unfamiliar with the "pecking order" which also might make the list. Even if you have a nesting box for every hen they will most likely all fight over the same one or two boxes!! Don't be alarmed to see an egg on the ground, its all part of the nesting game. Also hens will find some very interesting places to lay... not always where you expect! I've even caught my hens sharing a box once. .... oh how I love my chickens.

9 years ago

I had to be out of town and needed someone to feed my hens. Actually, I had arranged to be able to return home once a day and feed them. Then, when I was iced in, I ha to depend on two people who had odd schedules to coordinate.

Luckily, the woman who was afraid had her father visiting over the New Year, and he had had chickens all his life before marriage. Then, the guy, a neighbor who could walk here in case it was too icy, had been reared around chicken houses. The woman did not want to walk in poop. I was so nervous because I did not know about the father who had raised chickens and the friend that had been raised around them.

Dust bathing chickens do look like they are in death throes. Two bathing together looks like a fight to the death.

I have a friend who comes to help me once a week. He came in all the time reporting strange behavior. It was all normal, like being broody, dust bathing, pecking order, and things I cannot remember.

Donna
5 years ago

One thing you might add is that if you have a rooster, he may think he has to protect his girls from the evil stranger that's hanging around. I was chicken-sitting for my nephew once when his rooster flew at me and spurred me in the stomach! For a few days there, it looked like I had two belly buttons! For the rest of the week, I had to go to the coop with a tennis racket to shoo him away from me. Believe it or not, my experience of chicken-sitting for him was what convinced me that I wanted chickens of my own...just no roosters!! ????

Donna

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