The Five Chicks on their first road trip.
A few years ago when we first brought a set of three chicks on the road with us, it was out of necessity. We didn’t have any good options for their care, and the birds were too young to be left on their own for two weeks. We weren’t sure how they would cope with travel, but we did our best with a cardboard and wire mesh travel box, and an outdoor pen. This was a road trip of more than 2,000 miles round trip, from Ellensburg, WA to Bishop, CA. It turned out that the chicks took to the road just fine, without complaining about the ride or about several hours at a stretch confined to the car. Two or three times each day, when we needed a break anyway, we’d pull off on a side road and find a rest spot in the forest or high desert.
Little chickens are amazingly adaptable and well-behaved when we let them loose in a new environment. They love to explore new places, and as soon as we let them out, they run around, fly back and forth, and start finding interesting things to peck and scratch. At the same time, they’re cautious about open spaces, and they always watch the sky for danger. By now we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve taken chicks for outings, and in all that time we’ve never had a problem with the birds straying too far, or panicking or running off where we have any trouble gathering them to continue driving. We usually sit in our folding foam ground chairs, and the chicks stay within a ten or twenty foot radius, returning often to fly up on our laps.
Last year, before our second major chicken-enhanced road trip, I built a more permanent and versatile wooden cage. It has a sturdy polyethylene sheet bottom, for easy sliding in and out of the luggage area and for containing moisture. We line the pen with a few sheets of newspaper, topped with bedding of dry grass and wood pellets or wood chips. The watering system consists of a 1-liter yogurt container with a drinking nipple screwed into the bottom, and a disposable plastic bowl to catch any excess water. The chicks immediately figured out the water system and the purpose of the roosting dowel.
The drinking nipple is a wonderful invention, that we use for several different homebuilt chicken watering systems. It’s the only reasonable solution for providing water on the road, since it doesn’t spill or waste water or become contaminated. In my view, these nipples make all other watering methods obsolete. It takes a little practice to install and use them correctly, and a special valve to put them in a hose-fed system, but they’re worth that minor trouble. Each nipple, with stainless steel working parts and a durable plastic body, lasts for several years at least, and they cost well under a dollar each (e.g., http://www.amazon.com/Nipple-Drinker-Chicken-Feeder-Poultry/dp/B008AZTHNS).