Indoor+outdoor hybrid brooding

K0k0shka

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I’m starting to plan for how I’m gonna brood my first chickens and need your expert opinions. I read about people brooding indoors and how nice it was to have the babies right there for snuggles and handling. I thought my kids would love that! Then I read the horror stories about the grimy dust that will cover everything in my life and the “never again” accounts from lots of folks... and started questioning my plans. I read about outdoor brooding and the mama hen cave and it made a lot of sense. I’m leaning towards doing that, but have some concerns. I work outside the home 3 days a week and on those days, there will be nobody home to check on the chicks from 7:30am to 5:30pm. The remaining two days I work from home. So 4 days I’ll be able to check on them however often is necessary, but the other 3 days they’ll be on their own all day... and that worries me. Or am I worrying too much? It will be late spring, end of April - beginning of May, in Boston. So not too terribly cold (might dip below freezing at night but will probably stay above during the day).

Here’s what I want to do instead. Start them out indoors and move the brooder into the coop outside after the first week. That way they’ll be more protected at their most vulnerable, but will still get the benefits of outdoor brooding. I’ll start gradually letting them out of the brooder to roam the coop as they grow, but will keep them inside the coop for the first few weeks (with supervised field trips to the run). With a MHP cave. While indoors, the brooder will be up on a table and will open on the front, to avoid scaring them with the disembodied hand reaching down from above.

Now, my questions:

- Will they still cover us with dust if they stay indoors just for the first week? In the upstairs hallway with an air filter next to the brooder. We also have air filters in each bedroom in general.

- Will they be okay all alone on those 3 days a week, especially once out in the coop? They’ll have enough food and water and the cave.

Thanks in advance!
 

DobieLover

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I have a built-in brooder in my coop with an attached covered outdoor run.
I put the chicks outside in that brooder using a brooder plate with a soft towel over it as I didn't have a heating pad without automatic shut off.
The chicks did great. The below picture was taken on a morning that was 23F.
IMG_20190503_164821496.jpg

If I'd had the run finished when the chicks arrived, I would have allowed them access during the first week. I didn't finish it and let them out until they were 3 weeks old.


IMG_20190519_164326585.jpg

Because I have a walk in style coop, I was able to sit near the floor with these chicks and they would climb on my legs and sleep there. They are much more social than the first batch.
IMG_20190607_121614404.jpg

I would never brood in the house. Chicks are unbelievably messy little buggers.
I too work away from the house 3 days a week. I just made sure that I was there during the first 4 days to check them a few times a day. They did just fine.
You'll find much less pasty butt brooding with a momma pad than a lamp.
 

K0k0shka

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@DobieLover Thanks for the response and the cute pictures! Yeah, I never liked the lamp setup, and how it deprives them of nighttime darkness. The heating pad cave is genius, I'm definitely doing that!

Good to hear they'll be fine outside. Both the coop and the run will be finished by the time the chicks arrive. I have flexibility in choosing which days I work from home, so I can time it so that I'm home for the first few days. I'll be hatching them with an incubator, so I definitely want to be there when they first start coming out wet and helpless, and ideally for the first few days after that. You think even for a week they'll still be too messy inside the house? The coop is a walk-in, and we'll all definitely be taking regular socialization trips out there to sit on the floor and play with the chicks so they get used to us.
 

DobieLover

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@DobieLover Thanks for the response and the cute pictures! Yeah, I never liked the lamp setup, and how it deprives them of nighttime darkness. The heating pad cave is genius, I'm definitely doing that!

Good to hear they'll be fine outside. Both the coop and the run will be finished by the time the chicks arrive. I have flexibility in choosing which days I work from home, so I can time it so that I'm home for the first few days. I'll be hatching them with an incubator, so I definitely want to be there when they first start coming out wet and helpless, and ideally for the first few days after that. You think even for a week they'll still be too messy inside the house? The coop is a walk-in, and we'll all definitely be taking regular socialization trips out there to sit on the floor and play with the chicks so they get used to us.
If you are hatching them out you can put them in the brooder as they dry. When everyone is out of the bator, you could keep them indoors for a couple of days but they will grow stronger and feather out quicker the sooner they are exposed to their natural temperatures.
My broody took her chicks out to meet the flock on day 2.
 

K0k0shka

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If you are hatching them out you can put them in the brooder as they dry. When everyone is out of the bator, you could keep them indoors for a couple of days but they will grow stronger and feather out quicker the sooner they are exposed to their natural temperatures.
My broody took her chicks out to meet the flock on day 2.
I'm in no rush at all for them to feather out quickly. The cute fluffy stage is so short already, I don't want to shorten it any more... That's part of the reason I want to keep them inside for 1 week. That's about how long they stay fuzzy :D so they'd be easier to get to and snuggle, haha. Or just observe and fawn over. Then after they start growing their first feathers they can go outside and feather out as quickly as they want :p
 

K0k0shka

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Ooh! I have an idea! My kids have their spring break the 4th week of April and I’ll probably need to take some time off work for that. So we can time the hatch so that the eggs hatch at the beginning of that week, and then we’ll all be home for their first few days. Oh that is going to be one exciting spring break!!! :celebrate
 

kelldos

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We have an interesting situation, but long story short we had to take eggs from broody mom and put them in an incubator. out of the 12 in there 1 hatched. We apparently are getting a staggared hatch (been turning them and we had candled them and had about two 'sets' of growth in the eggs) and this morning I heard chirping in the incubator. ANyways, the little one who hatched in the incubator has been in a little rubbermaid container and has been fine ... we bought a few little chicks also that were about the same age because I thought the ones in the bator were gonners and didn't want just 1 inside. Anyways, they aren't that dirty and I'm thinking we'll be adding them to the 'nursery area' this weekend. We have to fix the coop area (we inherited some set up that's just not working for us since a few hens and the rooster get out regularly), we'll get all the big ones out and then make the nursery a little bigger and more secure and then add these 3 to the 2 that hatched under momma. But the ones inside aren't that dirty and not very 'dusty' so far. I actually had planned to move them into the garage in a bigger box brooder if we don't get the coop and nursery fixed up.
 

Harmony Fowl

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I brood chicks outside all the time. I keep them indoors for about a week, then move them outside.

For the indoor part, the dust doesn't come from the chicks, it comes from their bedding. The chicks just help to spread it around. To get around this for their indoor time, I keep new chicks on white paper towels. It has to be white or they will peck at any pattern or picture and this confuses them as they learn what they can and should not eat. It's also really easy to just lay down a couple layers of paper towels, all still connected to one another, then, when it's cleaning time, just gather them all up with all the mess inside and pop it in a convenient garbage bag. I clean daily when they're inside. The white paper towels also help with food identification by making the food stand out to the chicks, who are curious and will peck at any bits you spread on the brooder floor.

Around 7-10 days, they start to truly scratch the way adults do when they forage for food. They rip up the paper towels and that's my sign to move them outside. I have had chicks outside in December, but keep a close eye on them. They will absolutely still need a heat source, I would plan on six weeks of heat, minimum, when the weather is still chilly. Chicks that never leave their heat source are too cold, but you'll probably find they do great. If not, bring them back in for a week, put up with a little bit of dust and try again later. I have sometimes created a sort of house for the heat source to retain heat, but the MHP method probably creates the same sort of environment.

As for the time away, they will be fine. I'd plan to put them out when you have a couple days at home to watch them and gauge how well they do, you'll be nervous about them anyway, but the chicks essentially raise themselves. With food, water, shelter and heat, they will be fine indefinitely while you're gone.
 

K0k0shka

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@Harmony Fowl This is very helpful, thanks! Sounds like what I'm aiming to do. Glad to hear it works.

While you have them indoors, do you take them out of the brooder for handling and interaction/socialization? I've seen a lot of pictures on here of people cuddling baby chicks, having them perch on their shoulders or explore a little bit outside the brooder (indoors). Ours will be in the hallway, and I'm wondering if I need to put something down on the floor around the brooder for the time when they're out. Right now it's hardwood floor, so it will be easy to wipe up if they poop, but they may slide around and get splayed legs. Maybe more paper towels? Or some kind of mat?
 

MANNA-PRO

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