- If you do not already have enough pet carriers for all your animals, please go out today and buy some. Two hens usually fit in a cat carrier and 4-5 hens in a dog carrier. If you are desperate you can also use two laundry baskets tied together (with string or cable ties) to create a makeshift carrier that will hold four hens. Carriers are very useful anyway if you need to take animals to the vets. I always keep one in the car during bushfire season in case I need to pick up any injured wildlife or lost pets.
- Have the carriers all ready to go with some bedding in the bottom so that the hens will be comfy and will not slide about. They may have quite a journey ahead of them, so we need to make sure they are well ventilated and as comfortable as possible. Ideally have clip on food and water bowls on the cage pre-filled with food and water. If your carriers have wire tops you will need a cloth or something to shade the hens with.
- Just as you should have an emergency kit for you and your family you should also have an emergency kit for the animals ready to go. This should include:
- Any medications that your hens or other animals may need
- Bowls for food and water
- Bottles of water, food
- A bin bag to throw out any old bedding
- Some fresh bedding
- It may be a good idea to add some electrolytes or vitamin supplements to your bag in case the hens are stressed or injured. I recommend Spark liquid electrolyte and energy replacement which is great for heat stress too.
- If you have space in the car and are going somewhere without a chicken enclosure you could even bring some star pickets and plastic chicken netting to make a temporary enclosure.
- You can also take medical records and your vet’s contact details.
- Have a plan to round up your hens and other animals. You may be able to ask your dog to hop in the car, but it is not always as easy to catch hens, especially if you only recently adopted ex-battery hens who may still not be used to people. The easiest way to catch them is to round them up into the carriers. Create a pathway using spare carriers, wheelie bins and anything else you have handy, so that in the event of evacuation you can easily round the hens up into an open carrier which you will place at the end of the pathway. You may even wish to have a practice run to see how long it takes and so that you are extra prepared.
If it is likely you will have to evacuate then keep the hens in a more enclosed area than usual. For example if they usually roam an acre of land perhaps create a smaller pen for them out of star pickets and chicken wire so that they will be much easier to catch.
In a catastrophic fire warning it is probably best to place hens in carriers inside the house (in the air con) so that you don’t waste time rounding them up if you need to leave. It is advisable to do the same with cats, ducks and any other animals who are not always easy to catch when stressed.
- Plan where you will take your hens and other animals. If you do not have a temporary home for your animals planned please get it planned today. You may like to have a look at the following resources to help you find a safe house for your animals.
- Remember animals die in hot cars. Please do not leave hens or other animals in a car. Put the air con on and if the hens look like they are suffering heat stress (wings held out to the side and panting) stop once you are in a safe place and dab her down with some water under her wings to help cool her down. Only put the hens in the car just before you are about to leave. Perhaps bring some wet towels to help keep their carriers cool in the car.
- Please do not leave it too late. It is better to evacuate early and take the risk that it may have been unnecessary, rather than risk the lives of you and your animals. It will be much harder to round up the animals if you are under real threat from fire.
- If like most people, you are work away from home, talk to your neighbours about your animal evacuation plan. Make sure there is a way to get out. If the possibility of evacuation is high it is probably best to stay at home so that you are ready to evacuate.
- Smoke Inhalation – Do not leave the hens outside if it is smoky as they can die from smoke exposure. Instead put them in carriers and bring them inside or arrange to relocate them.
- Wildlife – If you live in a bushfire affected or nearby please leave out plenty of water bowls for wildlife. They will be suffering and providing water will help them survive. If you find injured wildlife please contact WIRES – http://www.wires.org.au/
- If it is too late to leave, bring your animals (including hens) inside where you will be sheltering. Have wet towels ready to cover their carriers as you take shelter.
Have horses? Please check out this article to help keep them safe http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animals-and-livestock/horses/emergencies/horses-and-bushfires
Search Facebook for your local Lost, Found and Injured Pets group. This is a good place to post to ask if anyone can offer somewhere safe for you to evacuate your chickens and other animals to.
Contact your local fire brigade. They should be able to tell you about evacuation centres that will accept animals such as show grounds.
Reach out to your own social network and ask if anyone can provide a temporary safe haven for your animal family.