My Off-The-Brooder Page
Mid June 2011 - Currently I have 4 laying hens in my suburban backyard, 2 Production Reds, 1 Red Sex Link and 1 New Hampshire Red.

I will be adding to my flock 5 Australorps and 2 Rhode Island Reds. I got the chicks in mid June 2011 and I plan to have them fully integrated into my flock around mid August when they are about 9 weeks old.

During weeks 1-2, I used a cardboard box and a regular light as a brooder and kept them under the kitchen table. I did not use a heat lamp because of the fire hazard, but the chicks did just fine with 24hr light.

I moved the chicks to my outdoor brooder at week# 3. I used a dog crate and I attached a 250 watt heat lamp to a ceramic outlet that I fastened to the roof of the brooder. I read somewhere that plastic outlets will melt. I ran a 16 gauge cheap extension cord to my chicken coop and set the brooder on the outside of the coop. I sealed off the area with chicken wire to protect my pullets from the bigger hens and from stray cats. They totally love being outdoors.

At week# 5, I created a gap on the bottom of the chicken wire, so the pullets can get out but the bigger hens cant’ get in. The pullets run back and forth from their area and the bigger chicken run area. My laying hens have accepted them into the flock.

At week# 6, I turned off the heat lamp during the day and only turn it on at night time. The pullets are still in the brooder area separate from the bigger hens.

At week# 7, I removed the brooder and placed the heat lamp inside the chicken coop. The pullets now have to sleep with the big birds but they don’t perch they just huddle in the corner. The heat lamp will help keep the pullets warm during the nights but I think the red light is confusing to the bigger hens since they are used to it being dark.
The pullets will not “coop-up” without the heat lamp and the hens will not “coop-up” with the heat lamp. So this is how I do it; I let the hens go to bed first with the light off then I turn on the light and the pullets follow it right in. Then I just leave the light on for the rest of the night. The bigger hens will not leave the coop because it is dark outside so they just go to sleep. However, in the morning the hens are up way early before sunrise.

At week#7.5, I’m still following the “put the chickens to bed procedure” by getting the hens into the coop first, then turning on the heat lamp to draw the pullets in. But I don’t leave the light on all night. Once all my chickens are in the coop and sleeping, I turn off the heat lamp so that it will be dark. The first time I turned off the light, two of my pullets ran outside but then they ran back in. I need to get the pullets trained to sleep in a dark coop and not a lighted brooder.
At week#8, I removed the heat lamp from the coop and there is full integration of the flock.

I did not lose a single pullet to predators or disease. I now have a nice big flock in my backyard.