Fall chicks and moving out

SnootyHen

Songster
Apr 18, 2020
391
1,015
196
Illinois
I have 5 3-week-old chicks in the brooder in the house. Ideally I would like to move them out to the coop before it gets too cold so they have a chance to acclimate a little better but our weather took a dive here about a week or so ago and I don't know if it's going to get any warmer. We went from low 70s to low 40s with no in between. 🤪 I had them outside in a dog crate for about 30 minutes one day last week when we were in the mid-50s and sunny because I want them to start getting used to outside. But it hasn't been warm (or dry) enough to get them back out again since then. Does anyone have any advice for how to get them ready for outside life at this age when we may not have many warm days left? Will taking them out for short periods of time in the crate help at all or am I just making work for myself that isn't productive?

My plan was a few trips out in the dog crate (I put it right next to the run so the 2 flocks can see each other) and then eventually put the crate inside the run and let the chicks stay out there for longer periods of time. Right now, they are small enough to get out of the dog crate so I can't leave them out in it unattended but once it's inside the run, they can probably get in and out of the crate but not out of the run so they can stay out there without constant supervision. It's just been too cold and wet here so I was afraid to keep going with this plan. Any thoughts?

Will they feather out faster if I have them outside a little or is it better to just keep them inside and back off the heat lamp a bit faster? I don't have electricity in my coop so brooding in the coop is not an option. Am I stuck with house chickens until April? 😂
 

Offshoreorca

Songster
Apr 15, 2020
552
1,291
143
Nova Scotia
My Coop
This is a tough one - the best situation would have you be able to keep them outside but with access to a heat source (whether a heating pad/blanket or brooder with extension cord? I know you mentioned no electricity, but diligently changing some sort of wrapped heated bean bag might do the trick as a creative alternative). You don’t want them out in cold if they aren’t fully feathered, and I don’t think putting them out young will speed this up too much. Beware of the larger chickens picking on the little ones too and make sure they can easily hid and know how to do so. Once they’re fully feathered, heat is less of a concern and you can harden them off like you would plants in the spring by increasing the increments that they’re outside for. Just keep a close eye on them and make sure they’re well sheltered.
 

rosemarythyme

Crossing the Road
Jul 3, 2016
12,609
23,556
792
WA, Pac NW
My Coop
I'd work on getting them fully weaned off heat indoors and then get ready to move them out when you have a day that's a little warmer.

I don't worry about "dry" - we rarely get dry unless it's summer. I brooded my last batch of chicks outdoors even through rain, so as long as they have access to shelter, that's really all they need.

Doesn't hurt to take them out to play around but it won't do much for integration purposes if they can't stay out for your older birds to get used to them.
 

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