Reasons for Tossing Out Your Indoor Brooder and Start Raising Your Chicks Outdoors

By azygous · Feb 24, 2016 · Updated Feb 25, 2016 · ·
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  1. azygous
    My early brooders

    Six years ago when I got my second batch of day-old baby chicks, I thought I had arrived at the ultimate solution for a brooder. I had just joined BYC and stumbled onto a thread where everyone was lamenting how scared of them their chicks were. I saw that the one thing everyone, including me, had in common was we were raising our chicks in a brooder placed on the floor, and it required bending over the top of the box and reaching down inside to handle the chicks.

    The sad consequence of this is chicks who are terrified of the hands diving at them from above, resembling to them an attack of a predator from the sky. Of those chicks I raised in that first brooder, the two still remaining in my flock are still afraid to have me handle them, shying away from my hands when I go to touch them.

    To solve this problem, I found a fresh cardboard appliance box, placed it on a table, and cut an access door into the side. The difference in the chicks was stunning. From day one, the new babies were calm, friendly, and easily handled. When they grew into adults, they remained easy to handle, and some have been total lap chickens.

    [​IMG]


    Beginning to get ideas

    Following that success, I then graduated to my garage plant grow window, having grown weary of all the dust and dander in every nook and cranny of the room in the house where I was raising the chicks. The window was two feet by five feet and just the right size for a half dozen chicks. It was bright and sunny and the chicks could see outside where a whole other world was going by.[​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    An unexpected dividend

    It was a simple matter to stretch netting across the back of the window to keep the chicks safe, and I draped a shade curtain over the top to cut down on the direct sunlight. It was a huge success. I realized an unexpected dividend from raising chicks where they were able to see all sorts of wildlife going by, as well as people coming and going. Those chicks were practically fearless. The reason, I concluded, was because they had a large world view from the very beginning. They weren't stuck in a confining box with only bare walls of a brooder box to look at.

    Imagine spending the first weeks of your life in such confinement, then suddenly being moved into a whole other environment with adult chickens in a coop and run with other strange, huge animals and humans running around the perimeter. How strange and stressful! What an adjustment!

    The revelation

    Then something happened to radically change the way I brooded chicks. I ran across Blooie's thread on the chick forum “Mama Heating Pad in the Brooder”. It was a revelation! I was about to get some baby chicks and I knew this was the way I wanted to go. Not only that, but I saw where I could brood the chicks right outside in my run and get all the benefits I had gotten from brooding in my garage grow window plus a whole lot of new ones! I was excited!

    The chick learning curve is shortened

    Chicks raised in the confines of a brooder box have no concept of anything other than what goes on in those few square feet of brooder space. It's as if nothing else exists. Chicks are learning constantly that are raised within the flock by a broody hen. They develop self confidence by observing the behavior of the adult chickens around them, and they gradually learn their place in the social order with very little stress or fear. Raising chicks under the heating pad system right along side the adult flock very closely simulates, and may well be the next best thing, to being raised by a broody hen.

    [​IMG]


    The chicks raised in a brooder also have no concept of dangers inherent in big chickens, and it's terrifying to suddenly find themselves thrust into this environment from a brooder box indoors after spending a good six or eight weeks in that over-protective environment. Baby chicks raised from day one in a safe pen in full view of the adults have the advantage of being accepted as flock members from the start, as well as being able to observe the adults, learning how the pecking order works before being consigned to it themselves.

    [​IMG]


    Early integration made simple Using the Panic Room Method

    For this reason, many chicken keepers don't integrate their chicks with the adults until they're almost full grown at three or four months. The chicks are virtual strangers when introduced to the flock of adults, and integration is anything but a simple matter. Chicks raised in view of the adults can begin mingling with them by age three weeks, using small, chick-size openings (5"x 7") that I call portals, and are fully integrated and sleeping in the coop by five or six weeks, unafraid of the adults and full members of the flock while other chicks are still in the brooder.

    Utilizing these portals, the chicks are able to access their safe pen from several points in my run, making it possible for them to mingle with the adults, engage in the fine sport of teasing the adult chickens, and be safe exploring the rest of the run without the risk of being cornered and injured. It's one more way my chicks are able to develop self confidence very early on in their development.

    Cold hardened chicks

    I installed my two-day old chicks right from the mail order packing box into the safe pen in my covered run, which had the sides shielded from the wind and weather but was otherwise unheated, except by the sun. The heating pad cave was placed in the center of a roomy, 100 square foot pen. It was early May when the first chicks began growing up out in the run, and the nights were still getting down into the 30s, and the days weren't much warmer than 50F. The chicks thrived.

    And that gets me to another huge advantage over indoor brooding. Chicks raised outdoors where the ambient temps are very cool will be cold hardened very early on. Some chicks remain in a heated indoor brooder for weeks, even several months in some cases. Then when it comes time to move them outdoors, it requires a period of acclimatizing to get them ready to tolerate the much colder temps. Chicks raised outdoors, whether under a broody hen or a heating pad system, require no acclimatizing at all.

    In fact, some of us have noticed that these outdoor raised chicks feather out much sooner than those we've raised previously in an indoor setting. Now, that's a bonus, if there ever was one!

    Chicks raised indoors under a heat lamp may have over-heating issues such as pasty-butt, a possibly deadly condition in baby chicks during the earliest days. Chicks in a cool, outdoor environment rarely, if ever, have this problem.

    Acquiring early immunities

    In addition to being cold-hardened early, chicks raised outdoors also may have the advantage of being mildly exposed to ordinary pathogens present in the coop and run soils during their earliest days when their bodies are open to acquiring immunities and resistance against these pathogens. They may be healthier for it. Another bonus.

    It's so much more fun for everyone

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Finally, chicks that are able to grow up in an outdoor brooding pen with lots of space in which to frolic, run around, and flex their wings and even try out the concept of flying appear to be much happier and develop much more naturally. It's certainly a lot more fun for a chick mom or dad to get in and play with the babies, and the chicks are calm and friendly and receptive to being played with.

    There is never the problem that I wrote about in the very beginning of this essay. The chicks see my entire body, and there's nothing in their DNA, when they see all of me, that triggers a primal fear reaction as does disembodied hands diving at them from the top of a confining brooder box.

    Chicks raised outdoors with the adult flock, in a safe pen with lots of space and freedom, acquire important immunities, cold resistance, knowledge, and skills that are denied chicks raised in the over protective environment of an indoor brooder. As far as I'm concerned, it's, hands down, the best way to raise chicks.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. Shadrach
    "An intelligent and well written piece."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 27, 2018
    I liked this article. You don't often read that someone has actually noticed that leaning over chicks and grabbing them from above frightens them leading to handling problems later on.
    I liked the realization that chicks kept in little coops away from the rest of the flock integrate more slowly.
    The points regarding the environment in which the chicks are expected to survive in being far removed from conditions of the brooder is also well made.
    Momo1234 likes this.
  2. karenerwin
    "Fabulous, well written article!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 29, 2018
    I actually read this article before and incorporated several of the ideas and they work fabulously!!
    I built a brooder box with the sides covered with field fence. Field fence has larger rectangular openings, the chicks could easily go through the spaces, but adult chickens can not.
    I used a heat lamp, because I could not find a heating pad that did not have an automatic shut off. The chicks thrived and had no problems integrating with the flock.
    I have been brooding all of my chicks out in the coop since then. It's the next best thing to broody raised chicks!!
    Your article is very well thought out and written. It makes me wonder if you were an English teacher:)
    Thank you very much for such an informative article!
  3. mrs_organized_chaos
    "Great article"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Jul 21, 2018
    I really like the idea of raising chicks outside. This article was well thought out, explains the author’s personal experience, and includes pictures of each type of brooding environment discussed in the article.

Comments

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  1. Bookmole353
    I am a first timer to the art of raising chickens! I started my first batch of chicks inside a room outside. This was while we came up with ideas for our pen and coop. I can’t free range and don’t want to. We had 24 chicks, 14 Cornish and 10 layers, different breeds. We then moved them to our rough coop and 16’ x 20’ run. They have done fine. We got a new batch of chicks in the meantime. Another 10 Cornish and about 10-14 layers. We built an “introduction” pen in the coop, letting the older chickens wander in and out with the newer ones. This took about 2 weeks then we cut a hole in the introduction pen for the small ones to go in and out. All told we have 4 batches of chicks, the 3rd batch is getting introduced on the ground and able to join the older ones as they are allowed to. But still can run for cover if needed. The 4th batch is still in the small brooder, 10 Cornish and 4 layers. I am hoping to have all introduced and comfortable by August. ALL but the new Cornish are all in the freezer! We also have 6 turkeys going to join them in October. So far the turkeys don’t seem to be a problem but will the 3 toms get worse as they get older?
  2. CradG
    So our 7 babies are now 3 weeks old. They have been in the coop and run with our 3 grown hens, but seperated. I am thinking in a few days it will be time to open the portals. Any advice on doing this? Do I open first thing in the morning or in the evening? Do I need to train one or two to go in and out of a portal like i did with the nipple waterer? I guess just looking for any tips or advice.
    1. azygous
      You just open the portals any time that's convenient for you to hang around and watch for a bit. Let the chicks discover the open doors to the big world. One or two are first, then the others quickly follow.

      I usually let them have just a short time the first day, usually so I know they can handle finding their way back. (They always do.) After two days, I'm usually confident enough to leave them unattended.(Note: it's my self confidence in question, not theirs!)
    2. CradG
      Just an update, I think this method is by far the best way to go. Chicks are 12.5 weeks old and I have had all the barriers and stuff away for about 2 weeks now. I would still say the adults and juveniles are separate flocks, but they share the same feeders and waterers and sometimes dust bathe side by side. Little ones mostly give the adults some space but other times they are right side by side and when I hand feed now will all eat at the same time. Worst we got was adults flapping wings and chasing off, no injuries or feather picking. Other than letting a broody raise chicks, there is no other way I would raise chicks again.
  3. CradG
    Our baby chicks are coming in about 10 days and last weekend I built the partition to separate them from the adults. The girls are very curious. Just have to move the heater and put in fresh bedding in the whole coop before they get here. Very excited to try this method. I built a partition that I think will work very well, but is easy to fold away when not in use.
    1. azygous
      Awesome! You're going to have so much fun!
  4. nwmamma
    I first read this article last year after raising 6 chicks inside and it made so much sense!
    Last week we got two more chicks and I revisited this idea. This weekend we set up a spot in the coop for the to be visible but off limits to the rest of the flock. They have their faux hen complete with heating pad. The first hour they were out there the flock visited. For two days they've all been checking each other out. The babies run right to me when I open the door. And the best part, no more dust or incredibly loud cheeping chicks! I can already see the benefits and ease. Thanks for sharing and encouraging a better and easier way.

    Update: 11 days later and I've got almost completely feathered babies. They're happy, friendly and aren't afraid of much. I'll never go back to the indoor method; this is just far too easy and fun!
    1. CradG
      Have they started mingling with the adults yet? Any tips for us about to try this method?
  5. Two Chicksahs
    I agree that that would be a big bonus. I just got a new flock and they're in a tub and they do fear the hand coming down to hold them. We plan to move ours out to our breezeway when they get a bit bigger but I still have to access them from the top but they'll see our dog and we'll be walking past them. After reading this I may move them out to the brooder as soon as they're a bit bigger and I'm able to get to it. Thanks for the nice article!
  6. SunHwaKwon
    This is one of my favorite articles, along with the info on the mama heating pad. Both have changed the way I raise chicks and everyone is better off because of it!
      nwmamma and featherhead007 like this.
  7. fur-mum
    Fascinating! I love the idea of raising them next to the adults but in a way that they're not scared of me. We let a broody raise a bunch last year, and unfortunately they were the flightiest adolescents. But we weren't able to spend the time with them that we did with the ones inside. But I completely agree, they are so freaked when I reach into the brooder. I hate it.:barnie
    1. azygous
      There's a little known secret to making broody-raised chicks very people friendly. I select a people friendly broody and I handle her chicks from the first day. When they get old enough for the broody to bring them out to the run, I handle the chicks together with the broody in my lap. The chicks see their mama enjoying being held, and they quickly learn it's enjoyable, too. All my broody raised chicks are very eager to be handled as adults as a result.
      jolenesdad, dfalco, ~Cuba~ and 5 others like this.
  8. Mrs White
    Wow! What an amazing article! I introduced my chicks to my hens this weekend, and am trying to do so at short intervals to get them used to each other, I kind of wish I had done these things you suggested! I agree totally with them being frightened by going in overhead. I'm so sad now my Noni thinks I am a predator! :(
  9. happyfrenchman
    Good article... I too got tired of the brooder fairly quickly..... Many years ago I started a policy of as soon as they have feathers they go out with the big birds... 7 to 10 days.... no special anything... they eat from the big bird feeder, drink from the regular drinker... run around with the flock... (my coop is configured for this). There is nothing more natural to a chicken flock, than having babies of various sizes running amongst it. I have never lost one using this method. They start at the bottom of the pecking order, and work their way to their spot. Usually one or two of my regular hens takes an interest in them and if that happens, I have no worries because the adults even prevent the youngsters from going out with the big birds to free range.
  10. AbisChicks16
    Great article. Very informative. Your setup is amazing... Great Job!
      featherhead007 likes this.
  11. featherhead007
    Thanks for that article, Who would have thought?????
      AbisChicks16 likes this.
  12. buttertart
    What a really great set up. Love it. Thanks so much for the article and pictures.
  13. 1CuriousCreature
    Really thoughtful and observant chick raising article! Well done.
      Better Than Rubies likes this.
  14. GGRinger
    love this idea I'm all about doing things as close to "Mother Natures" way as possible, and this sounds like it's about as close as you can get without a broody hen hatching eggs the "old fashioned" way.
      featherhead007 likes this.
  15. m1chelle1
    Love love love this article. I am needing to start my flock over, unfortunately, due to a bad coyote attack that occurred when I was out of town and my parents were helping me out with "watching" my chickens. Needless to say, I love all of the ideas you have and all of the points that you made are very sensible and sound!

    thanks so much!:clap
      featherhead007 likes this.
  16. Blooie
    We must be joined at the hip! Every time someone posts a comment on your article, I get an alert! :lau
      featherhead007 likes this.
    1. azygous
      Blooie, that's because you are featured in the article! You're a legend!
      Blooie likes this.
    2. tigger19687
      You both are legends ;)

      Great article, both of you. Lots of info and it really helps
  17. HeidiN
    can this be done in northern climates when the snow is still falling in March?
      goulaischicks and cdmadaio like this.
  18. 4 Georgia Hens
    Can i brood some outside with no heat source?
      azygous likes this.
    1. azygous
      If you have a cooperative broody hen or you live in the tropics, you can brood without a heat source, but chicks won't survive without a place under which to replenish lost body heat. Even indoors.
  19. Cryss
    I am loving this idea! I am planning a bigger coop at this point and would love to incorporate plans for this method. I'm not good at deciphering from your pics how this all lays out. Is there any chance you have a "eye in the sky" drawing of your layout?
      DownARiver12 likes this.
    1. azygous
      This is the best I can do. https://www.backyardchickens.com/gallery/albums/new-pen.6343434/?page=2 My run is a rectangle around 12' x 20' partitioned into three sections.Two of these can be closed off to isolate problem individuals or to raise baby chicks. Any run can be partitioned, and I highly recommend it.
    2. Cryss
      WOW!!!! GORGEOUS!
      Bit out of my experience range (by miles!) But it gives me ideas. Thank you!
  20. KatAtomik
    You should be so proud of your scientific approach & what others might call "over thinking things" in the name of discovery....
    I have a very specific issue. I was desperate to get my hands on some marans chicks... I finally found a few, but the only date they weren't "sold out" on& that was in near enough proximity to assure safe arrival, was March12. I live in Lake Tahoe, a very Alpine (at time being going on our 3rd straight run of 3-4 day snow storms) climate. I only have 1hen, very lonesome having lost her 2sisters(issue since solved) to a bobcat, boredom beginning to take its toll. I am a mommy& I thought, "what better way to keep a hen occupied& feeling like her life has purpose than motherhood?"
    I was told from another breeder, especially since she was the only girl of the 3sisters who hid her eggs, it was most likely that she was broody. But what if she ISNT? I have a heat pad, but cannot install another run or anything. I keep a heater installed below my girls coop with holes drilled in the flooring to allow the heat through& at night while she is closed up it gets real toasty in there... but if she doesn't take to bring broody will I have to resign them to indoor brooding? I shudder to think, as this has never been the ideal means of rearing, at least to me. I should mention, I AM disabled, so as handy as I may have been in the past, I am no longer& nobody really likes my direction or advice on how to be more efficient when in areas I am knowledgeable in. So this is likely up to me to find a reasonable solution for BEFORE I discover the problems, hoping to thereby do away with the prospect of chick loss. I COULD, hypothetically, install another segmented wall in the downstairs cubby of the coop to keep them from going directly up to the heater, pecking at wire, etc. but am afraid it would close them off to much of the heat it provides. I could install a heating bulb& give them the mat, but if anyone has any suggestions I'd be happy to hear them. Please& thank you!
      featherhead007 likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. KatAtomik
      Thank you so much for your quick response... unfortunately unless I pay a cost that is far too extravagant for a disabled single momma not receiving any benefits or govt a$$tnce to afford. "You have to be a "gold" member to start your own threads" I believe is what I'd been informed when I looked up "how to submit my own post/thread" though it seemed rather unlikely some of the submissions were that of account holders, this is what BYC staffers told me. Thank you for your advice, it is what I'd really hoped to be able to do on this site, as it is the collective advice from many experienced sources, I've discovered from my culinary submissions community, that allow one to negate mishaps& fine tune how much actual help the solutions offered will provide for their specific situation. Azygous,
      I do love your article& look forward to reading any future contributions to this virtual community. You are an inspiration, truly!
      featherhead007 likes this.
    3. azygous
      You've either been misinformed or you misunderstood about BYC membership. There is no charge for a basic membership so sign up now! You may have been given information about premium memberships which do cost, but are entirely optional. There may be a very short waiting period before you can post a thread, but your budget is safe from this community. All we desire is your participation!
    4. azygous
      Wait. I think you're already signed up or you couldn't post on this article. Try starting a thread by going to the Raising baby chicks forum and clicking on "start a new thread". You can copy parts of your posts here to the forum thread and save time. But I don't see why you can't post a thread. If you have trouble, we'll get to the bottom of it. Let me know.
  21. Nashonii
    What is the lowest temperature day old chicks have survived? I love to do this but nights are still in the 30's and it had rained every day. Even with a covered pen the chicks would get wet.
      ice2fire911 likes this.
    1. azygous
      Nights in the 30s are no problem. I place a folded wool blanket on top the heating pad to help keep the heat in when it gets down in the 30s. As long as the power stays on, the chicks will sleep cozy and warm and not even be aware of the chill outside their cave.
      featherhead007 and Nashonii like this.
  22. CradG
    I have 3 hens now that we raised from 15 week old pulleys, but have 7 one day old chicks arriving April 2nd and want to raise them in this method. Thank you for all the information! My plan is to partition part of the indoor coop and use a sweeter heater raising it as needed for heat. Our coop has 2 doors to the outdoor run so one can be used by the adult hens and I could place a dog crate at the other one so the chicks can go outside but be safe from the adults. At what age or temperature should I begin to open the door and let them get fresh air in the dog crate or should I just put a small portal on that door as well and open it at 3 weeks and not deal with a dog crate? Thanks! April in Wisconsin can vary a lot in temperature, and even with the door open they will still be able to get back inside and under the sweeter heater but I don’t want a chick too young to get confused how to get back and be in the cold too long.
      featherhead007 likes this.
    1. azygous
      Chicks in the first week can handle daytime temps down into the 50s with no problem as long as they can duck under a warm cave as they begin to chill. It's surprising how long they can run around in between warm-ups. So they can be exposed to "fresh air" from the start.

      More important is safety. Chicks shouldn't be mingling with the adults until ages two weeks and after they've been watching the adults. Then you can open portals to the run.

      It's very important that the panic room is in the run where it's handy for the chicks to duck inside. If you have a panic room or crate for this purpose in the coop but not in the run, the chicks won't be able to use it. This is why I brood in the run and then move the chicks to the coop later when they turn five weeks and are better able to figure out how to go in and out of the coop.

      I hope this answers your questions. If you need a more detailed response, please send me a private "conversation".
  23. ThatParrotLady
    Thank you for directing this to me this makes me so excited and happy to see there are natural and easier solutions to flock integration and it'll be amazing to watch them grow this way.
      ChicKat likes this.
  24. andreanar
    Very informative, thank you! I love that little hole where the chicks can run into. This has given me the confidence to put my bitties into the big coop with a few adjustments.
  25. rusty acres
    Thank you for this informative article! I'm attempting my own version in Central Florida summer using a dog crate inside my chicken coop/run. Hopefully my 9 new chicks can incorporate with my 2 Easter Eggers quicker using this method. I had older pullets kill a younger chick because of my impatience, so I'm hoping to prevent that tragedy again.

    UPDATE: Using this method, I was able to incorporate the 9 new chicks followed by an additional 2 chicks, all with very little fuss or fighting. I was surprised how easy it was.
      ChooksNQuilts and WhatAboutBob? like this.
  26. Frutfarm
    I am hoping that the way we are doing ours this year will be an improvement over the traditional method. We don't have a safe and large enough area to go all out on a method exactly like yours, but, we have a wire chicken tractor inside our coop with the chickies in it, so they can see us and with our temps in the 90s, we don't use any heat during the day. It's only accessible from the top, but they can still see us. We shall see how they acclimate all the way around. They will be average to large sized birds, and our older flock is all bantams, so the pecking order may be hilarious.
  27. dfalco
    You've convinced me! Looking into this heating pad cave...never heard of it before.
  28. culturalinfidel
    This has been a very helpful post! I may go with with the cold hardened method. Still a lot of research to do, but I do like what you have posted quite a bit
      featherhead007 likes this.
  29. Tillicans
    I'm just new to BYC and I really enjoyed this article. I loved your clean Coop makes me want to redo mine all over again. How very true, in nature chicks and older hens all mingle, I saw them especially in Kauai Hawaii, no pecking going on over there... no illness just enjoying the great outdoors. Thanks I'll re read it many times
    1. featherhead007
      i guess they don't have chicken tractors, but chicken canoos in Hawaii?
    2. featherhead007
      canoes, kanoos, never mind I can't spell it!
  30. coddledeggs
    I am new to chickens and am expecting my first chicks in April, so integrating into an existing flock won't be an issue this time, but I like the idea of raising the chicks in a more natural environment for them than my bathroom! The thing that worries me most is the thought of a middle of the night power outage. We do not have a backup generator. Would I lose my chicks to cold if that unlikely event happened? Is there a way to get an alert if the power goes out in the middle of the night?
  31. Harvest Mint
    Well this gives me all kinds of ideas on how to revamp my current coop that needs some serious TLC.
  32. WVduckchick
    Portal door is on my to-do list!
  33. song of joy
    Thank you so much for posting this article. Over the past month, I've used the panic room and 5 x 7" portals to successfully integrate two batches of 3-week old chicks (10 chicks and 8 chicks) into a flock of 10 hens and a rooster. The chicks learned to use the portals within about 10 minutes, and it took only a day or two for the chicks to learn to navigate from the panic room through the coop, down the ramp, and into the chicken yard (and back again). The chicks are much smarter and tougher than I had thought. It's pretty amazing to see them out free-ranging, foraging, and learning about flock dynamics at such a young age. After a few pecks from the adults, they quickly learned to respect the personal space of the hens.
  34. bluenosechicken
    Great article, you prove that chicken in our later life bring great joy and understanding. I am in the same boat here in Nova Scotia . I have 2 -3 day olds in the den in a brooder box and 3 week olds in the barn next to an adult trio of Marans. The rooster crows all the time and I think it impresses the chicks. Next week they will be together. At 3 - 4 weeks depend on the weather here will introduce my Jersey chicks to the adults, just hens
      featherhead007 and Cryss like this.
  35. Catandherchicks
    Very interesting, nicely documented with your experience and results and clearly written. I just saw the post that BYC is looking for articles. Please submit this. You may change the chick rearing process forever.

    BYC Article Writing Contest #8 - Write and Win!
      featherhead007 and Cryss like this.
  36. EMS2005
    Fantastic article, thanks!! I totally stole the heating pad idea as soon as I saw that thread. I have spent the past few days trying to figure out how to get this method outside ASAP when we don't have wired outbuildings, covered outbuildings...I did this whole thing a bit backwards. :D
  37. Faraday40
    I read about this over the winter & tried it out in March. (Last year I would not have dared hatching in mid March b/c it would have equaled keeping chicks in the living room until May!) I love using the heating pad & am never going back. Since then I've been successful using this method with multiple hatches. Although the recent hatches have all been for other people, my keepers from the March 2016 hatch have been sleeping with the hens for weeks now.
  38. SpinningJenny
    I'm glad I ran across this post. I took my 5 two week old chicks out into the yard for the first time this weekend and also noticed right away how much friendlier they were with me when I was on the grass with them. They wanted to follow me around and sit on my arms and generally were calm and curious and adorable, not the scared little freaks they tend to be in their indoor, on the floor brooder. I think this weekend i will modify the little run we have on the coop to be an outdoor brooder with this Mama Heating Pad!
  39. hpierce88
    Great article!. I couldn't agree more about how much calmer and more receptive to human interaction my new chicks have been using the Mama Heating Pad method with the chicks being in a brooder placed on a table with a front opening to avoid "predator hands" flying in from the top. Worlds of difference!! We've all grown way more attached to each other and they are relaxed and inquisive rather than flighty now that they've officially moved into their Big Girl coop outside. My only fear is that this BREAKTHROUGH is going to make Chicken Math even more challenging! ;)
  40. yyz0yyz0
    I started my hatchery chicks in the traditional cardboard box on the floor then moved them to a dog cage up on the table. As noted in the article there was quite a difference in the chick behaviour once I moved them to the dog crate and we were all on the same level.
  41. love laugh farm
    Do you have pictures of the heating pad set up you had in the run? I would love to build this for my own!
  42. WVDoug
    All the chicks I hand raised grew up to be extra friendly, except for the two Black Australorp roosters. The brooder was an appliance box made in to a hexagon shape and placed on the floor. I cut a fold down door into the front and would sit in front of it watching them and "socializing" (OK, playing with) them. They would walk up my arm or fly onto my shoulders and didn't want to go back!
  43. Frutfarm
    Do you think Bantys would fair well outdoors with this method, as well? I'm so sad when they run from my hands. Also, I love this for my easily stressed Brown Leghorns. Now, how to make this happen with virtually no budget. My BLs have been in an outdoor brooder and we planned to transition them to a chicken tractor and push it around the yard until they are older and about ready to move in with the BOs and Barred Rocks. Then, we will push them up next to the fence next to the chicken yard for awhile. We did this with the Barreds and it seems pretty smooth. We had the luxury of locking them into the coop for a few days to know that it was home. I don't think that's gong t work this time because the flock already out there won't appreciate being locked in. I love all these ideas and appreciate any suggestions you can offer on mine flocks!
  44. Lady of McCamley
    Great article for the next best thing to broody raising. Much better system than the floor box in the garage with the heat lamp. Well written article. Thank you.
  45. RezChamp
    Nothing short of brilliant
  46. sourland
    Excellent observations and points well made. One of the best articles that I have read on BYC. Your pens are impressively clean - just a side note.
  47. ClearSkye
    This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing.
  48. rmurrayslcut
    I've been raising my latest flock outdoors. When I started in early April, it dipped into the 40s overnight. They're in a large, heavy-duty cardboard box inside of a barn, with two heat lamps. It's a great way to avoid the mess of indoor brooding. I've constantly monitored the temperature. Wal-Mart sells digital, remote thermometers for about $10. Just place the sensor underneath the lamps at the bottom of the brooder and easily monitor the warmest spot available to them. I also find that chick behavior and position relative to the lamps is an excellent indicator of proper temperature. I worried incessantly the first few nights, but they've done fine in the fresh air.
  49. BantyChooks
    Amazing article.
  50. MsRiderUp
    I am doing this and it's working out great. We made ours 4x4 square with plexiglass sides so the chicks can see out everywhere. It's outside with a covered hip roof. The triangular gap between the top of the brooder and the two roof sides has hardware cloth over it for circulation, and so that predators don't get in. Both sides of the roof lift up. I also made insulating panels that cover the plexiglass, to insulate in cold weather. Have been giving baby chicks some weeds and they love it. They also love their heating pad mama 'cave'.

    I have thought about partitioning for added chicks also. If I put a couple of rows of board (1x1 or 1x2) so that they make slots to slide either solid boards in between the slots, or a panel make with hardware cloth so the chicks can see each other, this would work fine. I wish I'd done this BEFORE I got the chicks!

    I also made a little lift 'trap door' in the floor. This will go to an enclosed ramp so they can go below the brooder and be on grass occasionally. I haven't let them out yet because I want to make the hardware cloth panels to enclose the 'downstairs' area (think chicken tractor setup with coop on top, range area underneath).

    In any case, this is working out really well. Hubby couldn't stand the smell or dust from baby chicks inside, so this is a great solution. All chicks are lively and curious about their world!

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