Transporting Chickens Over Long Distances

One chicken owner is faced with the task of moving chickens over a great distance two times per year.

| January/February 2015

  • A pair of free-range Cream Legbar hens enjoying the grass on a lovely sunny day.
    Photo by
  • This chicken tractor was constructed almost entirely out of salvaged materials.
    Photo by Ryan Paruch
  • While it's easy to get carried away with building a fancy coop, at the end of the day, you just need an affordable, secure, durable birdhouse.
    Photo by Ryan Paruch
  • Two free range hens in their henhouse.
    Photo by Clerk
  • Various free range chickens feeding on grass at an organic farm.
    Photo by
  • The author purchased this DOT-certified 4-by-8-foot trailer for $230. Aside from moving his backyard birds across the country, it also could be used for hauling firewood or other tough farmstead tasks.
    Photo by Ryan Paruch

For most of the year, I live about 15 minutes west of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I teach a variety of biology classes at a community college. For three months each summer, however, I go home to Wisconsin so I can be closer to my family and teach part-time at a college in the Northwoods.

Sustainability is important to me, and, despite the challenges imposed by splitting time between homes located 1,000 miles apart, I decided a few years ago to produce some of my own food. Intending to minimize costs and mistakes, I started small: In Wisconsin, I grew and harvested blueberries and some cool-season veggies, and in Oklahoma, I grew tomatoes and peppers.

After my initial gardening success, raising chickens seemed like the logical next step. In the past couple of years, I’ve made some mistakes, but my decision to keep laying hens was a good one. The birds provide more eggs than I need, and they are always entertaining. Further, I have learned some useful things about raising chickens — particularly how to safely and easily transport a small flock over a long distance. 

Constructing a transport vessel

Two years ago, I bought Rhode Island Red and White Leghorn chicks at a farm supply store near Tulsa, then worked my way through the process of raising them in a brooder and  getting them off to a good start in a coop I built with salvaged materials.

While the young hens acclimated themselves to the coop and honed their foraging skills, I prepared for my inaugural 1,000-mile trip to Wisconsin with chickens in tow. My first project was to build a trailer that would transport the birds — and also serve aptly for other utilitarian purposes. For $230, I bought a DOT-certified 4-by-8-foot trailer from a discount tool store. After spending a couple of days laboriously bolting it together, I secured a plywood floor and constructed sides with scrap 2-by-4s and untreated plywood. The plywood quickly warped, so, in retrospect, pressure-treated plywood may have been a better choice.

In about four months, I would be transporting the chickens back to Oklahoma during the height of summer. The main concern at that time would be the birds overheating. So, I consulted with a friend who worked in the zoo industry for several decades and has a lot of experience transporting animals, including chickens. My friend said the chickens needed shade and ventilation, but he emphasized that they could not be subjected to a direct hot wind. In order to accommodate the requirement for indirect ventilation, I left a 1-inch gap between the floor of the trailer and the plywood sides. This would permit some airflow into the trailer. I also left the trailer uncovered, which improves ventilation.

12/27/2014 8:35:30 AM

Ryan, unless you have been getting the proper health certificates, permits, and proof of the absence of certain diseases, you have been breaking a lot of laws concerning the interstate transport of chickens by taking your flock from Oklahoma to Wisconsin via several other states. These laws were put in place to prevent the spread of diseases. By ignoring them, individuals are putting many other poultry owners flocks at risk.

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