Going on Vacation
For a Small Farmer
Today we’re talking about how to take time away from your small farm without everyone dying.
Before we begin, I do not recommend leaving animals by themselves for extended periods of time! These tips are for a maximum of one week. It’s still a good idea to find a neighbor or family member to come by daily if possible to check on things.
If you do your homework and set things up properly, your friend or neighbor should have no problem quickly checking on your animals with little effort. This will probably make them more willing to help you again on your future vacations!
Disclaimer: These tips are based on personal experience. I’m not familiar with god forsaken, snowy, frozen winters. Some of these methods may not work up there in the winter. I insulate my water pipes and hoses to prevent freezing, but water bowl heaters are not necessary for my area.
I found a great seed supplier, Hoss Tools has a great selection of seeds and they come in these awesome plastic resealable pouches. No more spilled seeds, no more dirty paper seed pouches!
All animals need water, so what I do is set up automatic waterers for all areas where my animals stay. These are actually cheap and easy to set up. All you need is a water source, which can take some work and money to set up correctly if you’re animals are located far away from your water source. Water hoses can work short term until you’re ready to run water lines under ground.
We can get into this later, but running water lines to your livestock areas can be done by YOU the farmer! That’s right, we don’t pay people to do our work around here except pouring concrete. Farmer leaves that work to the professionals.
Back to the automatic waterers. The ones I have found that are easiest and cheapest that actually work better than some of the others I’ve used can be found at your local feed stores, or you can buy them here.
This waterer will attach to any bucket and takes a regular old water hose. Cleaning is easy, just dump the water out, scrub the bucket out and set it back, it fills back up with water automatically. I attach mine to short feed buckets so that my chickens are able to drink from them. They look like this below.
Larger animals can knock water buckets over, you may want to go with a different style waterer like this for pigs, horses, donkeys, cows, etc. They work the same way but you can attach it to a post or wooden rail so it can’t be knocked over. The reason I don’t like these as much is they are harder to clean if you attach them to something.
These waterers will work for most of your animals, chickens, dogs, cats, goats, cows, all can drink from these. Since they automatically refill themselves, you don’t have to worry about filling up buckets, or animals dying of thirst. The only animals you probably won’t be able to use this for is rabbits, and small chicks.
Autist Note: Small chicks can drown in a bucket of water if they fall in. The ones I use are only about 5” high, so it’s easy for the chicks to hop up on the ledge, but they easily fall in, and their legs are too short to touch the bottom. Leaving small chicks free ranging around these buckets requires a piece of 4x4 wood in the bucket to give the small chickens something to climb on if they fall in!
For rabbits you can get waterers like these and fill them full of water before you leave for your vacation, but this will only work for a few days. An adult rabbit drinks 750 mL per day, the container you see below will last 2 days. You can buy 2 or three and attach along the cage. It’s important to clean your waterers for your rabbits each time you refill them.
This causes extra work for your daily chores since they need to be refilled often due to the amount of water rabbits drink. Therefore, you will want to move to an automatic waterer for your rabbits as well! I have not done this yet, but it’s on the list.
The system I’m planning to incorporate for my rabbits uses a 5 gallon bucket to supply the water through smaller feeder tubes into the cages. There is an automatic valve on the 5 gallon bucket that keeps it full of water and takes water from a regular garden hose. Here is a link to buy a good rabbit automatic waterer. I’m definitely switching over to these soon.
Chickens that are in cages or restricted to a fenced in coop will need their own waterers. If you can run an automatic water inside their coop area, great! If not, you’ll want to go with waterers like these, grab one or two of these and fill them all the way up right before you leave. How much water you need depends on how many chickens are in the pen.
Chickens require one pint of water each, per day. So 8 chickens would drink a gallon per day. I recommend hanging these in your chicken area if possible to keep them from getting knocked over or pooped in.
Ruminants can easily get by in the summer time when there is plenty of green grass and forage in the woods. They can certainly get by without sweet feed for a week as long as they have plenty of hay and green grass.
Free ranging chickens could probably get by as well. I don’t recommend leaving chickens out without proper protection. We have a Large Guardian Dog that stays outside at all times watching over all of our animals. We don’t even have a door on the chicken coop!
Technically, our birds would be fine without supplemental feed for several days in the spring or summer. They are able to find enough food free ranging in the woods, garden, grass, and compost around our property. However, I still like to give them access to layer pellets to supplement their nutrition.
It’s easy to set up your birds with feeders so that they can stay properly nourished. Birds in cages will definitely need feeders. I recommend these and it helps to hang them on chains so that they don’t get knocked over and also prevents them from perching on top and pooping all over the food.
Chickens can eat up to 1/4 pound of feed per day! So 8 birds need 2 pounds of feed per day. Adjust the amount of feeders accordingly. I hung some feeders in my chicken area like this.
Rabbits are really the hardest ones. I’m new to raising rabbits, so I don’t have them set up the way I would like. After reading and researching for this article, I’ve decided to set my rabbits up with the automatic waterer like I mentioned earlier, and add one of these larger hang on style rabbit feeders to each cage. This would allow my rabbits to require less care throughout the day.
Dogs and cats are pretty easy, I have a dog feeder like this that holds 50 pounds of dog food. It keeps the food dry, I leave it out by the chicken coup so that my sweet guard dog can eat whenever she’s hungry, gotta keep her happy!
The cat’s could technically eat the dog food, but we leave them a huge bowl of cat food out on our back porch and that keeps them fed for several days.
The biggest problem you’re going to run into is if you have dairy animals. These animals must be milked daily or twice daily to keep their milk production up and keep your milk providers happy. We plan our trips around milking season. Dairy goats breed in the fall, so we dry them out a month or two before then. This gives the nanny goats time to gain strength so they are in prime health for kidding. We currently have no milking responsibilities.
Other chores like cleaning the coops and animal areas should be done right before you leave so that it’s not a huge mess when you get back.
Well that’s all for this week, I hope ya’ll are crushing it out there. Please hit me up if you have any questions. I love to hear from you.