I know, weird title right? I was trying to make it succinct. So, long story short, I am in the process of "acclimating" my flock of 12 to outside temperatures. They're about 6 weeks old and I want to move them outside to their coop b/c they're getting too big for their current brooder. The temperatures are relatively cool, with the nights getting to just at freezing, and where they're at right now stays around 55F. That's only been the past few nights, however, and the freeze warnings should be passing soon, I hope (I live in Southern Louisiana).
So, as I was saying, "climatizing" my chicks. This morning I turned their heat lamp off to start the whole process, and I'd be lying if I didn't say they just shut down. They haven't eaten nearly as much as when they did with the light on all day. Usually I have to fill their feeder three times a day - it's a small one. I'm just about to change it for a second time, and it's 10:30PM. With the lights off they don't eat, don't really drink - they just hang out in a big huddle, moving around a little bit. They aren't active at all. Only when I turned the light back on just now did they start boogeying around again. Is this normal behavior? If so, how do I get my chicks acclimated to the temperatures if I have to keep the light on so they'll actually eat? I'm sure it has something to do with their day/night cycle and such. Anybody else have this issue?
I really appreciate y'all helping me out on this one. First flock, still new.
Oh, also, ambient light. They have ambient light during the day from windows and such, but the sides of the brooder are covered in cardboard to stop drafts and such (we have them in an old but large wire dog kennel). The cardboard also blocks out any light source outside the heat lamp. Should we remove them to allow other light sources in?
Once again, thanks for the help.