Newbie adding chicks to flock, brooder in coop

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by abkline, Mar 26, 2012.

  1. abkline

    abkline Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 25, 2011
    I live practically in downtown Houston and have eight hens three (one bantam) EEs, three RRs and two bantam EE crosses. I am getting 18 chicks (six of which will be mine (3 Brabanters and 3 Silverlaced Wyandots) and 12 of which I will raise for a friend for 4-6 weeks). My hens spend most of their time in a fully fenced (including on top) run 15' by 20' They roost / eat / lay there and have two or three hours run of the yard most days. They have a coop which they almost entirely ignore except to occasionally lay eggs on the floor (nest boxes all in run) or poke around for amusement.

    Now to the question. I plan to put the brooder (built from half a large dog crate, protected from predators by hardware mesh) in the coop. I have been told that once the chicks are out of the brooder, I will have to block the hens from getting to them to protect the chicks, but until then, is there any reason not to let the hens in with the brooder at least during the day? Too worried about that light to let anyone in at night, and they all roost in the run anyway.

    Anything else I should think about with this set-up? I am as nervous as that proverbial mother hen which, apparently I will be pretending to be for the next several months.

    Any help very much appreciated.
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I keep my brooder in the coop from day 1. The adults roost in that same coop and lay eggs in the coop. They have access all the time, but I do lock them in the coop at night. I use a red light as a heat source for the brooder and have not seen any problems with the adult chickens roosting at night. You might consider a red light, but I would not expect any problems from that whether red or white.

    I like raising the chicks with the adults. I think it does help with integration. I also like having them together for another reason. I think the chicks are healthier if they are exposed to the adults at a very young age. I even go so far as to scoop some dirt out of the run to put in the brooder so they are exposed to anything the adults have at a very young age, whether probiotics or even diseases. They are going to be exposed anyway and I think they develop better immunities if they are exposed early in life.

    As long as the adults cannot get to the chicks to physically harm them, I see absolutely nothing wrong with having the chicks and adults close together.

    I've done different things as far as when my chicks get to range with the adults. I have a lot more room that you do so that enters into it, but your room might be sufficient. We all have different set-ups. In my experience, a broody will wean her chicks anywhere from 4 to 9 weeks old. I let my broodies raise their chicks with the flock, so they are integrated. Those 4 week old chicks manage fine being with the flock, though they do have some pecking order issues. From what I have seen with a broody and what I have done myself with brooder raised chicks, I don't worry that much about waiting until the chicks are grown to integrate. If space were tight, I'd might feel differently.

    I usually move the chicks to a grow-out coop and pen when they are around 4 to 5 weeks old, depending on the weather. I keep them isolated from the older flock yet right next to them until they get used to sleeping in the grow-out coop and puttting themselves to bed properly. Usually around 8 weeks of age, I let them range with the adult flock during the day but go back to their grow-out coop to sleep at night. But when I have too many for the grow-out coop, I leave the excess in the brooder in the coop until they are about 6 weeks old, then just open the door and let then range with the adults. There is a potential for a problem, but so far I have not had any.

    I don't know how much of this, if any, you can apply to your specific situation. Good luck!!!!
     
  3. abkline

    abkline Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 25, 2011
    Thanks so much for your reply. It is very reassuring. My life will be so much easier if my flock will let the new hens integrate at 6-9 weeks. I'm kind of hoping that six of them will be enough of a force that they can handle it, but the area is small. I had to find a new home for my accidental ee rooster because the hens had trouble getting any peace and the feathers on their backs were worn away (getting much better now). I traded him for the bantum EE and two funny-looking bantum ee crosses. Love those tiny blue eggs.

    Sorry for another newbie question, but is a red light a regular light with a red bulb, or something entirely different? Leaving a light on in my coop seems like such a scary fire risk, but there isn't any choice, so I have to just face my fears.

    Thanks again. This group is just the best. I have benefitted mightily from reading through these forums.
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    I use a red heat lamp but any incandescent that provides enough heat will do. The red color is supposed to be soothing to them. And I only heat one small area of the brooder. The rest cools off to ambient, whatever that is. Last fall, that was sometimes in the 40's or 50's Fahrenheit.

    I understand about the fire worry. The hardest part for me in building a brooder into the coop was the heat lamp. I built a "chimney" to hang the lamp in. That keeps the adults away from it so it won't get bumped and it is hanging well above any bedding. I strongly suggest to not depend on any clamp that might come with it. I hang mine using wire, actually two separate wires for additional safety. If one fails, the other is there to support it.

    And use a fitting rated to the wattage of the bulb. If you use a wattage too high for the fitting, it can fry the wires inside the fitting.

    I do take fire risk seriously, but it is something that can be managed.
     
  5. abkline

    abkline Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 25, 2011
    Again, much thanks. I am testing my light (with a shiny new red bulb) in the kitchen right now to check on how hot it gets at different distances. Tomorrow, I build a chimney wide enough to surround the entire fixture out of hardware cloth. I will put two metal dowels (okay, long bolts) across the chimney so that the light fixture radiator rests on the dowels. That way, the light can't fall and it surrounded by the chimney so it can't tip, either. I can move the dowels up and down to adjust light distance. I can't tell you how much help you have been in focusing my thoughts and making me feel that I CAN do this!
     
  6. abkline

    abkline Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 25, 2011
    Just reporting in that I have nine silver laced wyandottes as cute as cute can be in the coop in a wonderful dog-crate set up. I have secured the heat lamp in a hardware cloth chimney with FOUR wires, two to keep it from falling down and two to keep the chimney from rocking side to side. Next week, I pick up 15 various breeds. I am only keeping three Silver Laced and three Brabanters. The others I am raising for a friend who lost 40 little chicks to rats their first night at home and she is just terrified to have wee ones again. She will probably take them home in a few weeks and then I can have just my six girls.

    I have read in other threads that mixing one week old chicks with chicks that are just a day or so old shouldn't be a terrible problem, but I will keep an eye on the situation and set up a second brooder if there are any problems.

    Thanks for all the help. I'm sure you will have to come to my rescue again. How do you all keep from cuddling those chicks all day long? They are so sweet.
     

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