Evacuating during a fire threat with chickens is challenging - as my partner and I found out recently. M wanted to leave our eight feathered friends to fend for themselves but I just couldn't. Now, that I've taken them away and brought them home again, I'm thinking rather differently. It's hard work looking after pets in someone else's house, no matter how close your friends/family are. Plus there are the questions of how to transport them, and where to. I'd planned the evacuation, I just hadn't stopped to think where to take them. I assumed they could go to my Mum's place but at the time she was having a major plumbing emergency, with workmen crawling all over the place, so that wasn't an option. And not everyone wants eight chickens to arrive unexpectedly, especially if you haven't thought of how you will house them!
Thankfully, we managed to build a make-shift home for the girls under some bird netting cast over a friend's lovely teak outdoor setting. They (the hens) handled the evacuation with aplomb, even managing to lay 6 eggs while they were there, much to the delight of my god children, who were super excited to have a menagerie of beasts come to stay.
NSW Hen Rescue
Now that we are safely home I've been thinking about if there were a 'next time' and what I would do differently. I found the helpful page “Bushfire Evacuation for Hens” on the NSW Hen Rescue website. It has some good advice on what to do with your chooks. In summary, make sure you have:
- enough pet carriers for all your animals - two hens can fit in one cat cage/carrier
- the carriers all ready to go
- an emergency kit for the animals (food, water and any medication)
- a plan of how to round up your hens and other animals
- a plan of where you will take your hens and other animals
Of course there's no place like home but for future emergency accommodation there are plenty of store bought mobile coops available that could fit on the back of a trailer for an easy escape. My cheaper DIY idea is to repurpose a tent by cutting out the floor while leaving enough of an edge to peg it down. I’d put netting over the top, like a fly, and have all the window flaps open. It could house eight chooks for a short time and would be easy to put up and relatively safe.
Next time - like the Hen Rescue page mentions - I'd have more cages on hand. Our girls are 'big boned' and stuffing three into a cat cage was not comfortable for the poor dears. But let’s hope there isn’t a next time.
Jacqueline’s 8 heritage breed hens, currently residing in the opulent Summer Palace in Lawson in the Blue Mountains of NSW, include Amelia the Dorking, Fluffy the Cochin, two Wyandottes (buff-coloured Buff and silver pencilled Daisy), a cross Barnaveldar/Araucana called Gum Nut, Blossom the Light Sussex and two backyard all-sorts, Margie Best Chicken, and the trouble-maker, Pippy. There’s always one!
By: Organic Gardener
First published: February 2014