post #21 of 21

I understand everyone's worry and concern about putting chicks outside.  It's stressful for the owners and it's even more stressful for the chicks.  Chickens (and chicks) don't do change well, and when they've been in one place with one routine for weeks and suddenly it's all different, it's hard on them.


I wondered if anyone actually read @azygous's article, using the link she provided, on the way she broods chicks outdoors and the benefits it provides?  Her experience - and mine - shows that chicks raised outside from the start are calmer and don't have all that stress from changing environments over and over again.  We imitate a broody hen, rather than follow a book.  Conventional "wisdom" has us raising our chicks inside in a box with a glaring light until they are darn near ready to lay eggs!  We make it all so much harder than it has to be. Why not start them out in the environment where they will be living the rest of their lives?  Makes much more sense than all this fussing over temps, lights, and chirping.  They already know from day one that day is light and night is dark.  They know from the start that when it starts to get dark, they need to mosey over under (or on top of) their cave and settle in for a good night's sleep.  They aren't eating and drinking 24/7 - after all, under a broody hen when the sun goes down the chicks burrow under her and go to sleep all night long, without needing to run around and eat at all hours.  I started doing this last year with 3 different batches of chicks, and now a lot of other people, like @azygous, have been doing it too with the same results my chicks enjoy. I watched a video by Patrice Lopatin about her chicks being raised outside, then @Beekissed talked about using a heating pad, and I knew I had to try it. I've never looked back!!


I raise my chicks outdoors almost from the start.  When they first arrive (or come out my incubator) they are kept inside until I know they are eating, drinking, know where to go to warm, and aren't suffering any shipping stress. Then out they go and I raise them in a brooder pen in the run with a heating pad cave. We are talking temps in the teens and twenties and even some snowstorms thrown in just to keep it interesting.  The first time I put 4 day old chicks outside to live I was amazed at how little time they spent under the heating pad - they spent almost all of their time exploring, eating, playing, and watching the adult chickens all around them.


Temps in the 50s are no problem for most chicks to go out, especially at the ages folks here are talking about. They'll chirp their little heads off because they are used to you doing everything for them - they've never learned how to be chickens.  And as I said, they don't like change!  If you throw a strange object in the run or coop with adult chickens they'll run as far from it as they can, then stand together in a tight knot staring at it, bawwking the whole time.  When you take chicks from an environment they are accustomed to, they react the same way - they gather together in a tight knot of feet, beaks, and feathers and protest loudly.  Makes you think they are dying of cold or something.  In reality nine times out of ten they are just yelling at you because they are NOT happy.  They get over it, I promise.  In order for them to be retrained to accept these changes, you have to be retrained to accept these changes.  That's when a bottle of wine or a margarita can come in real handy!  :lau