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Raising fall chicks through northern winter

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi, I am completely new to chicken raising, but thanks to my son (it's a long story) we are the proud owners of 6  chicks, 1 week old - 3 Coronation Sussex and 3 Birchen Marans.

We live in SE Michigan where temps rarely rise above freezing in January and February and drop below 0F.

I understand the chicks should be fully feathered around 8 weeks.  At the moment they are in a large rubber maid tote with heat lamp in the house, but I am thinking they will need to move into something larger in the basement until they are ready to move outside.  Outside we have a large traditional barn with some small windows and electricity.  We intend to keep the chickens in a horse stall in the barn.  There is hard flooring in the stall (I think we will use deep litter method) , and then dirt floor in the remainder of the barn where I am thinking they can access during the day.

I guess my worries are:
1. Will they be hardy enough to go outside by about 8 weeks (mid December)?  If not when?

2. I am thinking we will need to erect some sort of protected area in the horse stall with heat for them to stay warm under if needed.  Any suggestions for this?  Will heat be necessary?

3. On Craigslist I have seen a brooder described as having " the GQF adjustable thermostat 250 watt heaters. they are 24" X 48" by 12" high)  It looks like this (the pic shows 3 of them):

http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/uploads/109565_5v25t35w53n53k93maba7c765707997c41ee6.jpg

Would this be suitable for the young chickens to stay warm in in the barn?  Enough room for 6 of them together?  Or would something more open be better for them?  Would this be okay for them to live in in the basement in the meantime?  Again I'm concerned about the space?

4.  Anything other tips to get them through the winter?

Many, many thanks as we need all the help we can get for these little guys (actually we are very much hoping they are girls, but only time will tell....)

post #2 of 9

I have chicks that are 2 weeks old right now and I've got someone hatching out chicks for me that will be hatched next week.  So yeah, we're in the same boat.  I also have a barn with horse stalls in it.  I'm going to put my turkey in the horse stall this winter since my coop isn't quite finished yet.  (and she is too big to put with my chicks) But to answer your question, my coop will be done here soon and it's already cold here- in the 40's right now.  My chicks are in the garage and they are all huddled under the heat lamp out there.  So my plan is to leave them with the heat lamp this winter when they go out to the coop in a few more weeks.  I don't plan on heating them when they are adults for next winter, but this year, they are still going to be little thru the winter, and especially with more baby chicks coming soon.  I would set up your horse stall with the lamp in a corner with their feed and water-- that way they can find their way back to the food/water easily and be warm while doing it.  How big is your stall?  Mine are 12X12 at 7 feet high, so if you only have 3 chicks right now, that is really all the space they will need for the time being.  You could adjust or add to their space later on if needed-- let them out in the breeze way?  But with them being little, I'd keep them confined until you were sure your horses won't step on them or another animal won't get them.  My horses don't really watch where they go, I can see them stepping on a chicken.  So yes, I'd have heat optional for them this winter.

One more thing-- you could buy a cheap crate for them to get into in the stall.  You could even tip a water trough on it's side and put hay it in for them to snuggle into.  But yeah, I'd offer something like that, too.


Edited by Hawkeye95 - 10/18/11 at 5:54am

Bearded BBS Silkies for exhibition and to SOP, WCB Polish, Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes 
My Coop Page  and  Cookie Tin Heater Instructions  and  My Chicken Page

American Silkie Bantam Club Member

 

 

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Bearded BBS Silkies for exhibition and to SOP, WCB Polish, Barred Rocks, Silver Laced Wyandottes 
My Coop Page  and  Cookie Tin Heater Instructions  and  My Chicken Page

American Silkie Bantam Club Member

 

 

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post #3 of 9

Last fall, I brooded out chicks in late September through early November, out in the barn, under a 250Watt lamp.  By Thanksgiving, they were feathered out.  I chose to acclimate them gently to ambient air, which was around 35F up here in Northern Michigan.  It works.  You just need to be proactive in the acclimation and trust Mother Nature!!!

The last week in the brooder, (week 6) I no longer provided meaningful heat during the day.  This forces feathering.  At  night, I only provided 150 watts of heat.  Yes, they liked and needed the nightly heat, as temps fell into the upper 20's.

At week 7, the went into their grow out pen.  This was merely a partitioned off portion of the barn.  Nice yellow straw to burrow in.  They LOVED it!!  No heat during the day.  Temps inside the barn were likely 30-34F.    At night, I suspended that 150W lamp 2 feet above them.  The next week (week 8) was now December and it was snowing.  I raised the lamp 4".  Week 9, still no heat during the day.  Night time lamp raised yet another 4".

By Christmas?  10 weeks of age?  No more heat.  They didn't even sleep under the lamp anymore.  This was their choice.  They slept in a row on the low run roost, side by side, tucking the heads under their wings and lowering themselves to cover their feet. 

Frisky, healthy and started laying early February!!  The've laid up a storm right up until now.

Hope this long winded story encourages you in acclimating the chicks to the cold.  Trusting nature to feather them out.  In January, without any heat at all, those young birds were feather/down balls and we got down to -20 and -30 for a couple nights and they were fine.  Not just fine, but active and busy.

 

 

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post #4 of 9

Thanks for the great information!  My chicks are 3 weeks old and I'm still using a 100 watt light on them indoors.  I think I'll give up the light altogether and gradually get them used to the temps outside.  The are pretty well feathered up right now, still some fuzz in spots.

I started turning the light off during the night to get them used to sleeping in the dark.  It's been going fine - no huddling.  I think I'll get rid of the lamp and use the heat in the room to take the chill off before they bed down for the night.

No heat in the coop outside - I have a 16 week old pullet out there who's fine.  I want to get the little girls acclimated so they can join her asap. 

Gotta trust Mother Nature!

A+ in chicken math:  1 BS + 1 BR + 1 BA + 1 GC + 2 EE + 1 BO +1 SLW + 1 SS + 1 LO + 1 GLW + 1 BCM + 1 AW + 1 BCF = 8.  I am married to The King of Coops and I have a firefighter daughter who's my hero.  We also have a spoiled designer dog (a/k/a expensive mutt), a deaf calico cat and Brutus, the wonder cat.

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A+ in chicken math:  1 BS + 1 BR + 1 BA + 1 GC + 2 EE + 1 BO +1 SLW + 1 SS + 1 LO + 1 GLW + 1 BCM + 1 AW + 1 BCF = 8.  I am married to The King of Coops and I have a firefighter daughter who's my hero.  We also have a spoiled designer dog (a/k/a expensive mutt), a deaf calico cat and Brutus, the wonder cat.

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post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone - that is really helpful smile  I would love to have them acclimatized to the Michigan winters, and work with Mother Nature.  So it sounds like I can skip the basement and move them to a brooder in the barn in a couple of weeks and gradually reduce the heat, see how they cope.

post #6 of 9

welcome-byc
     I'm not a chicken expert but, our chickens have endured 2 Northern Wisconsin winters (getting to temps -30 on occasion)  in a coop that is not insulated, with only one heat lamp.  This year, I'm going to invest in a heated waterer for the ladies, because their water often freezes overnight.   
 
     I would think your chicks should be feathered out enough in 6 weeks, to put them out in the barn.  It may be wise to get them used to the temps in the barn instead of the house.  I wouldn't let them range in there for awhile tunil they get used to the stall as their "home".  In fact, the first time we let the chicks use the coop (8x15) they had so much room, they didn't go outside all fall/winter.  They were August chicks.  So from Aug-March, they were in the coop and happy with the amount of room they had for the most part.  (make sure they have really good quality feed with appropriate amounts of protein to prevent feather picking problems).

     Sorry, I cannot help you with a brooder box.  I just used a large, wire, dog kennel with a heat lamp sitting on top for our chicks.  I have even put this kennel inside our chicken coop for meaties until they were featherd out and could join the rest of the flock.  It has a large wire bottom that I nestled into the wood shavings deep enough for the chicks to have bedding inside the kennel, worked great. 
     
   Don't forget to address predetors.  If your chickens are able to be safe enough in a barn without worry of rats, 'coons, skunks, etc., then great!  If not, hardware cloth (fence with tiny squares) may be necessary to keep them safe. 

     I don't have a vast amount of knowledge (if any!hu) to share with you, but I hope it is better than nothing!  Good luck with your chicks, this forum has been a life saver for me!  You can search anything here and there will be a posting on it!

post #7 of 9

Fred's Hens :

Last fall, I brooded out chicks in late September through early November, out in the barn, under a 250Watt lamp.  By Thanksgiving, they were feathered out.  I chose to acclimate them gently to ambient air, which was around 35F up here in Northern Michigan.  It works.  You just need to be proactive in the acclimation and trust Mother Nature!!!

The last week in the brooder, (week 6) I no longer provided meaningful heat during the day.  This forces feathering.  At  night, I only provided 150 watts of heat.  Yes, they liked and needed the nightly heat, as temps fell into the upper 20's.

At week 7, the went into their grow out pen.  This was merely a partitioned off portion of the barn.  Nice yellow straw to burrow in.  They LOVED it!!  No heat during the day.  Temps inside the barn were likely 30-34F.    At night, I suspended that 150W lamp 2 feet above them.  The next week (week 8) was now December and it was snowing.  I raised the lamp 4".  Week 9, still no heat during the day.  Night time lamp raised yet another 4".

By Christmas?  10 weeks of age?  No more heat.  They didn't even sleep under the lamp anymore.  This was their choice.  They slept in a row on the low run roost, side by side, tucking the heads under their wings and lowering themselves to cover their feet. 

Frisky, healthy and started laying early February!!  The've laid up a storm right up until now.

Hope this long winded story encourages you in acclimating the chicks to the cold.  Trusting nature to feather them out.  In January, without any heat at all, those young birds were feather/down balls and we got down to -20 and -30 for a couple nights and they were fine.  Not just fine, but active and busy.


This is pretty close to what I do with my fall chicks. For some reason I continue to hatch after October every year! I think this will be my last year to do so though!

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Great advice - thank you!

Fred's Hens :

At week 7, the went into their grow out pen.  This was merely a partitioned off portion of the barn.  Nice yellow straw to burrow in.  They LOVED it!!


Our horse stall (no horses) is about 10' x10' - what kind of sized partitioned off area did you have?  was it covered on the top?  Should I be worried about drafts, as the ceiling is about 12' high and 2 sides of the stall are only protected by bars (i'm thinking to protect these with the hardware cloth)?  Do you also use shavings on the floor or just straw?

Sorry so many questions!

post #9 of 9

http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/uploads/69833_dscf2028.jpg


This is the lean to half of the barn in my avatar. It is 10x24.  I can subdivide it into as many or as few pens as I need.  As you can see, it is not insulated.  It is entirely enclosed, of course. The ceiling reaches from 7' on the right to 11' on the left, as viewed.  You can also see I like yellow straw, or big wood chips or even a mix of both.

I use deer netting to subdivide this side of the barn into three pens of 10x8 each.  Right now it is divided into two pens, one large double pen, one small.

 

 

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