Black Feather Dust Everywhere....

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Pipsqueek, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. Pipsqueek

    Pipsqueek Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2015
    Northern VA
    Hi, I'm raising 5 chicks indoors. I put them in one of our bathrooms and they live inside a portable cage I bought online. I thought this would be ok, and I would just keep the bathroom cleaned and vacuumed. For the past couple weeks I've noticed a lot of black dust which obviously is coming from their feathers (they're all black, Black Copper Marans breed). But now I'm noticing this dust is going farther beyond the area they're in.

    It's Jan. 1, they are 6 weeks old, fairly decent size and I'm wondering if they would be ok outside? The dead of winter hasn't even hit us yet, though, and they've never experienced being outside. So throwing them in the cold doesn't sound like a good idea unless I heat whatever pen I use. I don't know what to do, but this dust is just not healthy, I'm sure. I do have an air cleaner in my bedroom, which is just outside this bathroom, but this is getting worrisome.

    What can i do about the feather dust? And can they be introduced to the outdoors in the beginning of winter?

    Thank you for any advice.
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    It would help if you told us what region you live in and how cold the night time temps are on average. (Fill out your profile.)

    Six weeks is plenty old enough to move out to the coop, and I'm hoping you have one ready for them.

    The chicks will require hardening off to the colder outside temps, how cold dictating how long they'll take to acclimate. You can do it one of two ways. Either provide a small amount of supplemental heat when you first move them into the coop, or open a window in the bathroom, turn off the heat, and let them slowly get used to colder temps before moving them out.
     
  3. Pipsqueek

    Pipsqueek Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2015
    Northern VA
    Good to know they're old enough. Thank you. No, I don't have an outdoor coop ready for them. : \ We are planning to build an entirely new chicken area in March and I thought this would be the time to put them out. But the discovery of this feather dust by my husband has him ****** and he's ranting about it. I admit I do think he is right. The poop and cleaning is not a big deal, I just keep up with cleaning it twice a day every single day, but this dust is concerning. I don't see it getting better : \

    I could put some screening material over the pen, but I don't want them to become sick from their own dust and it would make cleaning their pen a real PIA. the stuff would fly off anyway..... blah. I totally regret hatching in fall/winter. Bad advice I took from a local chicken person who does it herself, all year long.

    I'm in Northern VA. We occasionally get near zero temps at night, but not often. I'd say the average cold night time temp is 20˚F. We're in a low 7 Zone area.

    They're all so healthy, I'm afraid of them getting sick. The acclimating process is tricky right now. I will begin by unplugging their brooder heater, which is still used, but not very often. I sometimes find one sitting on top or one underneath. They usually huddle together on their perch at night. I have opened the window for them quite a bit in the past two weeks because we've had extremely mild temps. They don't seem to mind it, but I did notice they stayed near the heater during an afternoon nap. But I will take the heater away today. I def think that can be put away now.

    My husband just asked lets go to the shed place and look for a coop. So off we go. Shew, thank goodness. He says we can use it later as the "sick bay". I'm so glad he has calmed down. Not only did he get me all worked up but he upset my daughter who is very much into her chicks and cares and tends to them all the time. When she was a toddler I took her to a petting zoo out in the countryside, she liked the animals but was extremely attached to the bird area of pheasants, quails and doves. She asked to go there a lot afterwards. I had to sit on a log and let her enjoy them for a couple of hours. Yes, hours. She sat very quietly and would patiently hand feed each one. So when we got chickens a couple years ago, and she was older, I had feeling she'd be excited, and she truly was. She cares for them really well. Our rooster doesn't get nasty w/her like he does everyone else. If he jumps at her she just picks him up and holds him and he sits there like a rock!

    Well thank you for the advice. I'll check back in later.
     
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    A stop-gap solution to the dust and dander fall-out would be to place a furnace filter over the brooder. Many people do this to catch the fine particles that rise upward on warm air currents. The filter does a great job of trapping most of it.

    Good luck getting a coop put in place. Those chicks really need to be outside in a larger space as soon as you can manage it.
     
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  5. Pipsqueek

    Pipsqueek Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2015
    Northern VA
    Thank you for that tip. Last night I laid a couple beach towels over their pen. I think this is definitely going to help in the interim.
    I saw many sheds to choose from but they were closed. I'm really nervous about acclimating them because they're are pretty healthy and have not dealt with the outdoors ever. Only a bit of sunlight and sky through a window. But they're a pretty hefty size now.

    Is this dust from baby feathers being replaced? I've kept a couple sick chickens indoors up to two weeks and never noticed this dust. I'll go to Lowes and look for this filter material.

    Thanks again.
    Marsha
     
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2016
  6. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Lots of Chickens Premium Member

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    Be careful about covering the top of the pen at night as ammonia can quickly build up. Your chickens are just as bothered by all the dust as you are, it is normal dust that comes off of birds, I have a parrot and she puts off a lot even with regular baths. I would get those chicks into an outside pen with a heat lamp for a few weeks than start weaning them off extra heat, at this time of year in your climate I wouldn't stop extra heat until they are around 10 weeks. Hopefully you can get a shed set up quickly, otherwise a garage pen can work temporarily, chicken dust is bad on the lungs with prolonged exposure.
     
  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Don't worry about the chicks acclimating. They're well feathered by now so they should be comfortable without any heat while indoors.

    Meanwhile, if the day is sunny, even if still cold out, if the wind isn't blowing, take the chicks outdoors and let them romp. I use a pet crate to transport them outside from the house. I place the crate on the ground and open the door. They will come out after screwing up the courage. Then stand back and watch them explode into flight. It's a wondrous thing to behold!

    Don't worry about losing them. Stick closely with them so a predator won't swoop in and carry one off. When the chicks get their fill of racing around, they will return to the crate. If they huddle together in the crate, it's a signal they may be chilled. Bring them in then.

    That dust is mostly feather dander. There's a lot because the chicks are growing so fast, replacing down with feathers. If you keep most of the poop scooped up, there won't be any ammonia buildup with just five chicks. Besides, the furnace filter is designed to permit maximum air circulation while trapping fine particles.
     
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I live in Northern Wyoming, and we get a whole lot colder than you do. I was where you are my first year with chicks. Oh, the DUST! The peeping and cheeping all night long! I evicted mine on April 1st when they were 5.5 weeks old. The coop wasn't done, but I was! Nighttime temps were 20 and below, daytime highs probably struggled into the mid-30s. The first two nights they had a heat lamp out there, but when I'd check on them they weren't anywhere near it...they were cuddled in a pile of beaks and feathers in front of the pop door. So the third day I took it out. If they didn't need it, I wasn't risking a fire. That night it snowed, and we didn't get our last snowfall until June 6th. If I'd kept them in the house all that time, I'd have been gathering eggs from the brooder! Nope, not for me! They did beautifully. Those feathers are designed for protection, and they do their jobs well!

    I did as @azygous has suggested for you and weaned them off the heat a few days before. They actually got madder about being in the dark than they did the chill. Boy, they screamed and fussed when the sun would go down and they were in the dark. Oh, well. Far as I know Momma Broody Hen doesn't have a nightlight under her wings either, and at 5.5 weeks old they wouldn't all fit under her anymore anyway. So the heat was off, the window in the office where their brooder was was opened during the day, and left cracked open at night. They acclimated faster that I ever imagined. Resilient little stinkers, those chicks!

    Now I skip the indoor brooding completely and brood outdoors from the start. If they have been shipped, they get the first 24 hours in the house in a dog crate. After that, if there are no signs of shipping stress, out they go.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/yes-you-certainly-can-brood-chicks-outdoors

    If you can make yourself put up with the dust for just a couple more days, acclimating them, and if you have a safe, dry, out of the wind place for them outside, they are more than ready at this age.
     
  9. CoopedUpChicken

    CoopedUpChicken Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Put those babies outside! They are plenty old enough.

    1. Harden them off:
    Day 1: Turn off the heat all together - permanently.
    Put them outside in the cage in the sun for a couple of hours during the day.

    Day 2: Keep bathroom window open all day long and shut it at night
    Put them outside in the cage in the sun for 4 hours during the day

    Day 3: Keep the bathroom window open all day and all night long
    Put them outside in the cage for 6 hrs during the day

    Day 4: Move them permanently outside


    2. Build or Buy a Coop/Pen
    When you move them into the coop/pen - keep them confined in it for about 3 days so they learn that is their home. Then, they will return to it every night once you start letting them roam


    Hint: I was scared to put my birds outside at 5 weeks old in the spring with 50 degree nights... but it was nothin to them :)
    I've got 1.75 week old chicks running around in 40 degree weather eating and drinking and flapping. They go back to their momma when they've had enough cold - but they tolerate it really well.
     
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  10. Pipsqueek

    Pipsqueek Out Of The Brooder

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    Nov 21, 2015
    Northern VA
    I do clean their pen daily mostly twice a day so there's never ammonia building up. I've gotten two large furnace filters laid on top and it is working amazingly well! Noticed a big difference since then. The sides are still open, though. They're 6 weeks old, so I'm afraid to move them just yet. I've already taken away their brooder heater since last week and they're fine and glad to not have that space open. I introduced some nice breezes through the window, and they were fine but now we've gotten a bitter cold snap as of last few days. I can't even think of putting them out right now.
    The real solution will come by ramping up the start date of the new chicken pen. I showed my husband the small coops and of course he says " I can build one 10X cheaper" (Ug) so now I'm waiting for that to be started. We'll put it in the garage (like we did our first flock) and open the door during the day and hang the red heat lamp just to take the edge off. Not a fan of those type in outdoor coops though. I saw a website selling a Sweeter Heater that sounds amazing, but it's pricey and not sure if it's worth it. Hopefully the garage pen will be done by the time they turn 8-10 weeks.

    Geez, I'll never hatch chicks in the late fall ever again! That is unless we build an addition on the house w/ an outdoor run LOL - the life of keeping chickens! Seems like we are always adding, re-arranging, putting on, taking off, try this, try that. We've always had wooden boxes for nest boxes and a milk crate turned on it's side. Eggs all winter. Late summer I bought two boxes at horse dot com, looked great, nice, hens loved laying in them and discarded the old. With this being their 3rd winter we expected a bit less eggs but my goodness it went down.One easter egger totally stopped and it occurred to us a week ago to get rid of those new boxes and see what happens. Lo and behold the one started laying again. 4 eggs in the past week! And where, the corner where one used to be. She liked laying in it but never laid an egg. I don't know if it's a coincidence, but we'll see!

    Thanks for the advice. Appreciate it.
     

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