Help with time line for baby chicks

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by kylara70, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. kylara70

    kylara70 In the Brooder

    May 13, 2010
    I have so many questions and there are SOOO many posts with different opinions. I know this will just bring me more but could someone with experience with Ameraucana/EE chicks chime in here?

    I just adopted 11 Ameraucana/EE chicks. They are 10 days old. (+ or -) I have no idea whether they are all hens or all roos right now. I need a helpful time line for what to expect/do with the little boogers.

    First, they are in a large rubbermaid on straw right now. It is in the house. Is this big enough for 11 chicks or should I make a bigger box?

    I have a light on them and it is running at 85 degrees. How long do they need to have the light? This next week I drop to 80 degrees and then the following week I drop to 75 and they can go outside? This would make them almost 4 weeks old. At this age they can not go in with my laying hens, right? I can let them see each other but not mingle until they are fully feathered? Or what is the trick to adding my chicks in with my laying hens?

    Any help would be appreciated, I will post pics as soon as I can (maybe in a few minutes).


    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  2. SkyWarrior

    SkyWarrior Songster

    Apr 2, 2010
    Wilds of Montana
    Cute little guys!

    I would switch to pine shavings (not cedar). Straw gets damp easily.

    I'm not sure how big your rubbermaid container is. Right now, I have 5 4-5 weeks old in a medium dog crate in the coop where the chickens can interact with the chicks, but can't touch them much. They should probably be separated until big enough to defend themselves. I'm doing that with mine to be on the safe side.

    My current chicks didn't have a light when I got them, but [​IMG], technically I think they did. But seeing as they're acclimatized well, they're okay.

    If it's warm there (over 85F), you can keep them outdoors in the daytime now. Night, they would need heat. I set up my own brooder for my older chicks (who are now 21 weeks) to where they could just move away from the heat. (I had a really big brooder that now is the coop). Some folks will tell you that you need to keep them at the appropriate temperature day and night, but again, I never did. Eventually, they acclimatized themselves and I only had a couple of chicks hang out under the lamp because they liked the feel of the heat but weren't under it constantly.

    My thought is that you should be able to move them out by week 4 or 5, but probably keep them warm at night if it gets cool. If it stays warm, then they're probably good. A lot depends on observation. If the chicks are comfortable, then you're doing everything right.[​IMG]
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  3. madrona

    madrona In the Brooder

    Dec 3, 2009
    Hi there! I like your photos.

    I have a different method of raising chicks than most of what you'll read about, but you might find it helpful just as a sort of reference for what's possible. Chicks are remarkably hardy, actually -- they're not like tropical lizards who need a heated rock all the time.

    For about the first week and a half, we keep them indoors in a wooden box (like a big deep dresser drawer). I just put rough paper towels on the floor of it, and clean it twice a day. Once they start getting jumpy, I cover it with a screen. We're off the grid, and don't have the electricity for heat lamps. Daytimes, I don't add any heat source unless they bunch up and cheep, which they don't tend to do at normal room temperature (say, 65 and over.). It's very true, as SkyWarrior says, that they let you know if they're uncomfortable. At night, when it's colder (spring and early summer here is cold), I give them a hot water bottle wrapped in a few paper towels. I personally have always felt that since chickens are so very sensitive to day length, it's important to keep them in natural light and not under a light bulb 24 hours a day. Nighttime darkness is very restful to them; they stay perfectly still and quiet all night long in the dark. (I know, because our bedroom is the only cat-proof room in the house, so that's where they all start out.)

    At around 10 days old or so, we start putting the chicks outside for the afternoons, in a 4-foot by 6-foot moveable pen with no bottom. We put it out on the grass and let them peck around. I keep an eye on where the sun is, so they stay warm. (Temperatures around 65 to 70 outside.) Half of the pen is covered with a roof, so they can get into the shade when they want. They like dry dirt in a little pile to roll around in. (And food and water, of course, always.) When it starts getting chilly, or windy, we bring them back inside. (However, since they're not under any heat source when they're indoors, it's not a huge temperature shift for them to go in and out. They have to be conditioned to coolness; if you kept them under a heat lamp and then put them straight outdoors, I'm sure it wouldn't be good for them.)

    By 2 weeks old, they're outside full-time and we have our bedroom back. If the nights are still below 60, we give them a hot water bottle in their outdoor pen before we go to bed, and make sure they're well-protected from rain and drafts. (The covered part of the pen has solid walls and roof.) We put hay on the ground in the back of the pen for them to sit on, to get up off the ground a bit. After about three weeks, they're on their own for warmth, and they do just fine, even with nights dropping down into the low 50's. Daytimes, they're hopping around every which way, full of energy.

    Yesterday my latest batch just turned 5 weeks old, all beautifully feathered out, and I opened a small door in the side of their pen for them to come out and free-range. It's fun to watch them venture out to explore the big world. They learn really fast how to go in and out, and they come back to their pen for snacks and naps throughout the day. They put themselves to bed before dusk, and I close up their little door til the next morning. We're lucky that we don't have too many predators here. The cats accept the sad fact that the chicks are not available as prey, (though I do have to keep an eye on our bratty 1-year-old cat, and make sure he's got lots of cat food in his dish!) and so far the owls and eagles don't tend to come right into our yard.

    The big chickens free-range in the afternoons, and they meet the chicks out in the open grass and woods; that way, they all get to know each other without territorial pressure. The door into the chick pen is too small for the big chickens, so they can't steal all the chick starter feed! (Mama hens raising chicks is a whole other routine, of course.) Anyway, I really love the whole experience of watching chickens grow, and I end up with strong healthy birds who know their way around our land. I feel that fresh air and natural clean earth and lots of exercise and normal day/night cycles are all very important to their health.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  4. kylara70

    kylara70 In the Brooder

    May 13, 2010
    Madrona, thanks so much for your very helpful reply. I live in the south where it is so warm even at night that I actually would need to worry about them being too hot outdoors more than too cold, so I guess I need to just relax.

    I am thankful for both replies as it serves to remind me that the chicks are hardier than I think they are.

    I will continue with straw because that is what I have on hand. I do not mind changing it daily and adding to the compost pile so that is not a problem.

    These cheepers peep a LOT. Does this mean that they are unhappy? Does it mean they need more room, etc.? They are not clustering under the light any more, pretty much sleep whever they are.

    Thanks for any more help.
    Carol O.
  5. Mahonri

    Mahonri Urban Desert Chicken Enthusiast Premium Member

    May 14, 2008
    North Phoenix
    My Coop
    You'll need to keep them separate from the big girls until they are at least 16 weeks old.

    Don't expect eggs until they are between 6 and 9 months.
  6. maurerwerks

    maurerwerks Songster

    Jun 29, 2009
    Hi Madrona, I loved your response. Chickens have been around a lot longer than electricity and I remember my grandfather talking about getting chicks from a hatchery, so they weren't all raised with a momma chicken either and my grandparents didn't have electricity. I'm a first time chickaboo mom, but I went ahead an put my girls out in the big girls' coop at 3 weeks (that was 2 weeks ago). I haven't used the lamp since then. I just go out and close up the coop in the early evening when it starts to get cool and all of them have been very happy out there. Unfortunately, we don't have the run finished yet, so they haven't experienced the great outdoors yet (maybe this weekend). We can't let them free-range because we've got a LOT of coyote, fox, owls, hawks, and loose dogs in our woods, but their run is pretty good size. Thanks again for reminding us not to get our knickers in a twist about exact temperatures, etc. Animals in general do very well with good nourishment, clean surroundings, and lots of fresh air and exercise (and that includes us)!
  7. theFox

    theFox Songster

    Sep 21, 2009
    Standish, Maine
    Quote:They used to use oil heaters to incubate and brood chicks without momma among other methods.

    The heat is easy to come by.

    ETA: My mother in law's family raised chickens for both their own egg and meat operations plus several others. They operated their own hatchery as a result.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2010
  8. blueberrychickens

    blueberrychickens Songster

    May 12, 2010
    Hudson, MA
    Oh off the cool!! Good for you!! I can only dream of such a thing, maybe someday! [​IMG]
    Kylara, I just moved my 4 week olds out to the coop last night, they did very well w/ the transition. You might want to make a cover for that rubbermaid box as they will soon learn how to jump out, mine sure did at about 2-3 weeks old. Oh & take lots of pics as they grow so fast!!! [​IMG]
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    First, they are in a large rubbermaid on straw right now. It is in the house. Is this big enough for 11 chicks or should I make a bigger box?

    I've kept chicks in a brooder that gives them about 1/2 square foot each (6" x 1') until they are 4 weeks old so I am comfortable with that. I had 28 chicks in a 3' x 5' brooder. I'd start thinking about a bigger area after that age.

    I have a light on them and it is running at 85 degrees. How long do they need to have the light? This next week I drop to 80 degrees and then the following week I drop to 75 and they can go outside?

    I assume you are talking about heat when you say light? Chicks normally are fully feathered out at about 4 to 5 weeks old. When they are fully feathered out they do not need additional heat. If you were in subfreezing temperatures when they hit this age, I'd suggest removing the heat source a bit gradually so they can acclimate, but that is not where you are at.

    This would make them almost 4 weeks old. At this age they can not go in with my laying hens, right? I can let them see each other but not mingle until they are fully feathered? Or what is the trick to adding my chicks in with my laying hens?

    This one gets hard to answer. It is so dependent on how much room you have, your management practices,how many chicks versus adults you have, the individual personalities of your chickens, and many other variables. I merged mine (17 chicks this batch) with the flock (6 hens and a rooster) at 12 weeks. I started with the brooder in the coop so the adults saw them from day 1, then moved the adults out to a tractor when I let the chicks into the coop but kept the tractor where the adults could see into the run. I did keep the chicks in the coop and not in the run for a couple of weeks. My run is not completely covered and I worry about hawks with young unprotected chicks. I let the adults free range so they can go right to the run if they want to, but they usually don't. Then when the chicks are about 10 weeks old, I alternate the free ranging. One day the adults do it, next day the chicks. At about 11 weeks, I let them free range together but they return to their own sleeping quarters at night. Then at 12 weeks, they started sleeping together, but I made sure I let them out of the coop to free range by daylight for about a week. This was by then the young chick's territory, not the territory of the adult birds. After that, it did not matter. By 15 weeks some young roosters were mating with the adult hens. Looks fairly well integrated to me. The groups still don't hang out together but that is normal for groups raised together to hang together. I keep separate eating and drinking stations set up because the adults will keep the young ones away from food and water if the can. They are bullies.

    There are so many variables that nothing will work for everyone. There are no hard and fast rules. Every flock has its own dynamics. I think a big part of it is to keep them within sight of each other as much as possible, watch what goes on, and try something when you feel it is time.

    Good luck!
  10. kylara70

    kylara70 In the Brooder

    May 13, 2010
    This has been very helpful, you have helped me get my mind into order about this "Process", artistic though it may be. I have a large hen house, a pen where I can keep the big girls away from the little girls, and I let my adults free range during the day so when I am ready to let them see and be seen, but not mingle I can let the chicks into the run and let the big girls out to range. That is awesome and not something I would have thought of. Thanks Ridgerunner!

    I only have 4 adult chickens, 1 roo and 3 hens so they will be outnumbered when the chicks go outside.

    Carol O.

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