A happy hen walking around outside the RV.
Keeping chickens is a common part of a sustainable lifestyle, and RV living can also be a sustainable choice. But can the two go hand in hand? Can you keep chickens for eggs when RVing full time?
It might seem like an impossibility to keep livestock when you don’t have a permanent abode – let alone a backyard. But a number of full-time RVers do just that! Okay, those goats, pigs, sheep or cattle are obviously out of the question. But some RV owners living in their vehicles do manage to keep a few chickens to keep them in eggs during their travels. Chickens are more adaptable, easy and portable than you might think.
One man recently traveled the world with his chicken on a boat! It seems she got along just fine. So surely chickens could also cope with living (and traveling a little) in an RV? As long as your chickens get plenty of time to scratch around in the dirt, and a little love, they should get along fine with life on the road.
Many people imagine that chickens on the road will stop laying. Chickens often stop laying when stressed. But as some full-time RVers have already found, hens can easily get used to live on the road, and once they are used to the routine, many will lay just fine, and be very happy with the RV lifestyle.
Why Keep Chickens in an RV?
Chickens obviously provide eggs – if you can find them! Free range hens may hide their eggs out and about. This one is off to find a hiding spot in the bushes!
The most obvious and immediate answer as to why you should keep chickens when living in an RV is for their eggs. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamins, and could be a great addition to the fruits and vegetables you grow in your RV.
Growing your own food in an RV need not only be restricted to plant life – keeping chickens could potentially allow you to be almost self-sufficient in food, if you follow an ovo-vegetarian diet. Keep four feathered friends and you could enjoy up to four eggs a day – especially during the summer months.
But keeping chickens can also bring a range of other benefits, especially if you are attempting to grow at least some of your own food. The chickens will help keep pests at bay – eating slugs and other pests that might munch the plants you place outside your RV door or RV cover when you stop at a site.
What is more, you can add the chicken poop and nest box sawdust/ wood shavings in your compost, and use it to add fertility to your pots and containers for your plants.
Above and beyond these practical things, keeping hens can also be a lot of fun. Chickens are amusing and characterful creatures, and they sure can keep you entertained! They could also be an excellent talking point at campgrounds and other places where you stop for the night.
Is Keeping Chickens Right for You?
They may look cute and neat – but chickens sure can make a lot of mess!
Though it is certainly perfectly possible to keep chickens for eggs when Rving full time, it is certainly not for everyone. Before you decide to get some chickens to take on the road, it is important to make sure that you are fully aware of what exactly you are taking on.
The first thing to bear in mind is that chickens will poop – a lot! If you plan to house your chickens within your living quarters, it is important to bear in mind that no matter how carefully and how frequently you clean them out, there will be some smell! While this is manageable in most scenarios (we’ll talk more about how and where to house your chickens below), it might not be the best choice to keep chickens if you are particularly sensitive to smell, or a total clean freak. If you can’t stand the thought of cleaning poop then keeping chickens is definitely not for you.
Another thing to consider is that no matter how much you go the DIY route, preparing to keep chickens and keeping chickens will cost money – often more than you might save through not having to buy eggs. So if you are on a very tight budget, keeping chickens might not always be the best move.
Another thing to bear in mind is that chickens should really have plenty of time to scratch around and forage, so while they can be taken on the road, if you plan to spend extended time traveling and will not stop very often then keeping chickens probably isn’t really the best choice -for them or for you.
Another thing to consider is where you plan to travel, and what the general weather and temperatures will be like. Hens can cope with a wide range of temperatures and conditions. However, they are not very good at regulating their body heat in hot temperatures. Chickens (like dogs and some other animals) don’t sweat. This means that they will definitely struggle if you will be traveling through hot climate country, or desert regions.
For many full-time RV travelers, however, hens can be excellent traveling companions. If you think that keeping chickens in your RV might be right for you: read on.
Where Can You Get Your Hens?
If you have decided that you would like to keep chickens, then you may be wondering where you can get your hens. Most chicken owners will get their chickens from a local farm. Sometimes, they will choose to get them as chicks, so they have longer with their ‘pets’ and can bond with them.
However, another avenue to consider is sourcing your hens from a hen rescue charity. These charities take hens that have spend their first 18 months – 2 years in a factory farm. These are chickens that would ordinarily be killed, as they have passed their peak productivity. Choosing to give rescue hens a home could be an excellent ethical choice. Why not allow some older girls to enjoy a ‘retirement’ traveling with you in your RV?
How Many Hens Should You Get?
How many hens you should get will, of course, depend on how much space you have to house them. The more chickens you choose to home, the more space you will require (the more poop you’ll have to clear) and the more eggs you will get.
Hens are sociable creatures, and would naturally live in flocks. It is not really a good idea, therefore, to house only one. Ideally, you should keep at least three. Between three and five birds is generally a good number for full-time RVers.
Where Will RV Chickens Live?
One of the biggest questions that you will need to answer is where your chickens will live. You will need to think about where they will be while you are on the road, where they will roost at night, and where they will lay their eggs.
In a larger RV, you could consider converting a room (a section of a room) or a portion of the main living space into a coop for your hens. The coop should have:
- A roosting bar (with a ‘poop deck’ below it which can easily be cleaned).
- Nesting boxes (ideally in a position where you can easily collect the eggs).
- Flooring that can be easily cleaned (or ideally floor covering that can be removed for cleaning.)
- Space for food and water which the hens can easily access.
You may wish to make it possible to confine your chickens to the nesting boxes/ floor area while you are in transit, so they do not fall/ hurt themselves while you are on the road.
Ideally, the chickens area should have access to plenty of natural light, and you should make sure that there is adequate ventilation.
There are plenty of ways to create your own built-in coop area for your RV. You could also consider towing a coop on a trailer, to keep chickens out of your own living area. Another cool solution is to affix a coop to the rear bumper, so the smells are kept separate.
What Else Will RV Chickens Need?
In addition to needing a space while you are on the road, and somewhere to lay their eggs and roost at night, chickens will also require a run to stretch their legs in when and where you cannot let them loose during the day.
A portable run can be folded down in transit and then erected when you stop. It can keep your chickens corralled and safe from opportunistic predators during the day.
To keep chickens you will also need:
- a chicken waterer
- a chicken feeder
- bedding for nest boxes (wood shavings/ wood chips)
- entertainment – chickens need entertainment like all other animals. Give them plenty of features to explore to keep them occupied. (For example, you can hang up old CDs for them to investigate.)
What to Feed RV Chickens
Of course, chickens will also need to eat. If you can allow your chickens some time to free range at an off-grid destination, they will forage for a proportion of their sustenance – eating both plant matter and insects/ worms etc.). This is ideal. However, even free-range chickens will still require some feed to be provided.
You may choose to purchase a ready-made chicken feed. As a rough guide, each hen will eat approximately 150-180g of layers pellets each day. For their health, your own health (as you will be eating the eggs) and the planet, it is best to choose an organic, GMO free mix if possible.
However, ready-made feed can be expensive and you could also consider making your own chicken feed, or supplementing layers pellets with foraged/ grown produce/ fruit and vegetable scraps. Chickens can enjoy a wide and varied diet, and the more you can feed them from nature and from your own growing efforts, the better they will thrive and the less money you will have to spend on keeping your RV flock.
Keeping Chickens Safe & Healthy
One you have taken care of all your chickens’ basic needs, you will also have to consider their health and safety. Chickens should be wormed regularly and may need other treatments from time to time. It is important to budget for these things to keep your little flock in good health.
Placing a little apple cider vinegar in their drinking water can help to keep them in fine fettle. You should also be sure not to leave them in full-sun, where they could overheat and become ill or even die when unable to cool down. They should have frequent opportunities not only to forage but also to take dust baths, which can help them to keep clean and get rid of any bugs.
Wherever your chickens forage, they will tend to be pretty good at avoiding poisonous plants. But it is a good idea nonetheless to keep an eye out and prevent them from eating anything that will do them no good or cause them harm.
Another thing to consider is that you will need to take steps to keep the chickens safe from predators. The types of predator you are likely to encounter on your travels might inform the design of the coop, and determine where it is best located.
It is also worth keeping in mind that you may have to be wary on campgrounds and in more populous areas for dogs or cats, as some of these may decimate your little flock if given half a chance! You may also have to look out for birds of prey in certain areas. Other human beings may also pose a threat – often merely accidentally. Chickens may run into traffic and can sometimes tend to have no fear, so you should usually keep them confined to a portable run on campgrounds or near busy roads.
As long as you prepare correctly, go into it for the right reasons, and take good care of your feathered friends, keeping chickens for eggs when Rving full time can be a great choice. Are you considering keeping chickens in your RV?
Elizabeth Waddington has an MA from St. Andrews University and a Permaculture Design Certificate. She is a green living consultant, with a passion for sustainable travel, permaculture and the natural world. She lives in rural Fife, just north of Edinburgh, close to the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland.
No stranger to RV travel, Elizabeth has travelled all over Scotland, the UK and beyond in search of natural wonders in her RV. Her camping adventures have taken her to the Grand Canyon, up the Pacific Coast of the US, to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons and to explore the wonders of Utah. She has travelled extensively in the Pacific Northwest, and around New England. In Europe, she has taken trips through much of the western part of the continent, travelled up to Norway, and down through Romania and Bulgaria to Istanbul. She looks forward to further eco-friendly adventures.