You take great care of your chickens while they are on your plot, so when you sell them you need to know how to transport poultry safely and humanely. So ensure proper care during catching, crating, loading onto the vehicle and then transporting them.
Likewise if you are going to buy a few birds to bring home, plan their trip to ensure the least amount of stress to your new acquisitions.
Check the condition of the birds
Perhaps a good point at which to start is to decide whether the bird is in a fit state to travel.
Only load or transport birds that are free from infirmity, illness, injury, fatigue or any other cause which may induce undue suffering during the expected journey.
Do not load a bird that is weak or not alert or that has dark red, purple, or black combs or wattles. Also do not choose birds that have discharge from eyes/nostrils, bloody or prolapsed vents, a swollen head or neck or where the skin on its head or neck is dark red or very pale. Emaciated and weak or injured poultry will not travel well.
Crates for transporting poultry are readily available at poultry equipment shops. For two or three birds, if you are not travelling far, a large cardboard box will be adequate, as long as there are sufficient ventilation holes. You could also use a large basket that you use to take your cat to the vet.
Catching and Crating
If your poultry is free ranging, be careful in the way you catch your birds. Don’t herd them in a way likely to cause smothering or piling.
As a rule the best way is to quickly grab their feet from under them. Do not chase your chickens around grabbing at their tails or wings. This will only cause them panic and might injure them. Try to work slowly and calmly with them.
If you are dealing with a large number try to minimise the passing of birds between people.
If the chickens are in a cage, remove them holding two legs. Take only one or two birds from a cage at a time, depending on the size of the cage door. Remember that end-of-lay hens are more fragile than other poultry.
Do not carry the birds by the wings or neck and don’t squeeze the legs. Also do not swing, throw or drop the birds.
Place birds upright and gently inside the crates. The temperatures on the day will influence the number of birds you load per crate. Live mass for every square metre of container is a better way to assess capacity, rather than working in numbers. In moderate conditions it is recommended that you work on 63 kg/m2 for broiler chickens and 98 kg/m2 for turkeys. If temperatures are high, reduce that to 54 kg/m2 and 83 kg/m2 respectively.
If you are moving chicks, the numbers should also be reduced in very hot or humid conditions. Chick boxes must be loaded in such a way that air can circulate easily.
Do not load wet birds in cool or cold weather as they cannot maintain their body temperature. Protect them from getting wet during loading. Use caution when loading wet birds in moderate conditions.
Check on traffic reports to ensure that there will be no road closures, road works or any other reason that might make the journey too long for the well-being of the poultry.
The birds must be protected from extremes of weather. The type of protection will depend on whether you are working in great heat, cold or stormy weather. If they are being transported in crates on an open bakkies or truck, a sheet should be used to cover them.
Once you reach your destination, park in the shade during warm weather or in the lee of buildings in driving rain. Do not park inside a building as there will be insufficient air for the birds.
If the unloading cannot begin immediately it’s better to keep the vehicle moving. This maintains the circulation of air.
Rapid unloading of the birds is necessary, especially for chicks. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with the smooth unloading of the vehicle.
The Code of Practice of the South African Poultry Association lays down the responsibilities of the driver, as well as details concerning the conveyance of chicks, pullets, broiler and adult birds.