8 Week Olds Caught in 32 degree cold for several hours

Barry Natchitoches

11 Years
Sep 4, 2008
My wife put our two eight week old chicks in the "peeper pen" this afternoon. This is a special part of the outdoor chicken yard that is protected not only from predators but also protects baby chicks from older birds. Unfortunately, in locking the babies up away from the older birds, we are also locking them away from the henhouse. Of course, we make sure that they have a feeder and a waterer in them when they go into the peeper pen, and we normally allow them in there to play only when temperatures are decent.

By noon today, it was plenty warm and so my wife let the chickens out to play, including the two peeps in their special peeper pen. We normally ALWAYS get them back into the henhouse before the cold sets in.

But about 3:00pm, my wife got an emergency call from a lady in the church whose son had been injured at school. There was no way she could leave work, and she asked my wife to get her son and bring him to a minor emergency clinic for treatment.

My wife left the house in such a hurry that she forgot completely about the peepers being locked up. The older birds could go into the henhouse at dark, where we have a heater running, so they were OK.

But the two 8 week old babies were caught in that peeper pen clear up until about 8 pm tonight when I finally got home from work. My wife got home even later than myself.

I found the two little babies snuggled together at the door to the peeper pen. They knew that sometimes that door would open, and I guess that they probably tried their best to open that locked door and get themselves back to the warm henhouse when the cold night hit.

It was about 32 degrees when I finally got home to rescue them. The wind was blowing, which means that the wind chill factor was even colder for them.

I snuggled them both up against my jacket with my large hands, and got them into the house ASAP. Right now, I have them in the rubbermaid container that they used to live in, before they moved into the big henhouse. I figured as cold as they were for as long as they were cold, that it would be best to keep them in our heated home overnight.

My question is this: Are they likely to get sick because of several hours in the freezing cold?

And, are they likely to be psychologically traumatized by their being trapped in the cold out there tonight?

Right now, they look OK, just tired. They fell asleep a few hours ago, even before I put the blanket over their box.
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Sometimes life gets away from us.. I dont think you have anything to worry about .. 32 degrees at 8 weeks is not a problem.. My 6 week olds went out last year when it was in the low 40's then we had a freak frost and terrible storm, they never became sick... As far as Trauma , they are chickens and have a VERY short attention span.. Keep em warm and make sure they are eating and drinking and they should be just fine....
I'm sure they are just fine! Eight week olds are fully feathered, and they had each other to cuddle with. What they did--snuggling up by the door, is exactly what mine did when I first tried to acclimate them to a mini-coop. They are not traumatized for sure! I would be careful not to overheat them too much at this point, as you want them to stay acclimated to cooler temps, and the temperature swings would be harder on them then just being cool. Don't worry so much--leave a little box (with a small doorway) out there for them to snuggle in out of the weather, and if you don't get to them right away they will be just fine.
8 weeks! They'll be just fine! Relax. 8 days, they'd probably have poopy butts if they were outside for a few hours, but by 8 weeks, my spring birds have been on their own without heat lamps for at least a week if not two, and temps are 30s at night, 40's in the day. As for trauma, they won't begrudge you or anything. Think of two month old babies as rebellious teens.

Had a broody mom walk her three day old chick out into the pacific northwest drizzle when it was in the upper 30's low 40's. This cuddly, fluffy, down covered baby, essentially a day old, was running around following mom in the rain.... they're tougher than most give credit for!

The little peepers spent the night inside the house, then we put them outside this morning. It was colder today than yesterday, so they spent about two hours playing in the peeper pen this afternoon, at the heat of the day. The rest of the day they spent in their special dog cage inside the henhouse.

They do not seem hurt in any way as a result of being out in the cold for a few hours last night. They slept well last night, and are eating, sleeping and pooping normally. No signs of any respiratory illness yet.

They even seemed happy to be outdoors, where they could scratch in the autumn leaves, eat dirt along with their starter feed, and practice both their running and flying.

I gave them some little pieces of whole wheat bread while they were out there -- threw it at them, actually -- and they had loads of fun chasing each other around over the treat.
Don't worry about respiratory illness. A single night of cold isn't going to cause a sudden immune system crash alone. You don't catch "colds" by getting cold, just getting exposed to viruses in combination with a "defenceless" immune system.
It has been well over a week now since my two little ones got left out in the cold.

They are doing just fine. They never got sick, and did not seem to have any fear of going back into their peeper pen.

It probably helped to bring them into the warm house that evening after we retrieved them out of the cold, but by morning, they acted as if it never happened.

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