Outdoor brooder safety

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by MichelleT, Mar 25, 2017.

  1. MichelleT

    MichelleT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been scouring websites and threads on this site for over a week looking for information regarding raising baby chicks and introducing them into an existing "flock" (mini-flock of 5). While I have found a lot, I am now on overload trying to find exactly what I'm looking for and was seeking some advice and/or pointers to where I can find the answers I need. The knowledge here is so great!

    We have 4 adult hens (retired from an organic laying operation) that we got 2-1/2 years ago. They're slowing down (although we still get 3 eggs a day most days now, in March, so they're not slackers!) and we wanted to add to our flock. Our intention is to get 5 baby chicks from a reputable local feed store. My husband has a new coop/expanded run plan in motion to accommodate the larger flock. I've been sure of our coop and run plan, how we intend to introduce the youngsters when the time comes, and what breeds to get. Now the brooder question.

    We live in the city limits and I do not intend to brood chicks every year. In fact, I'm thinking only as needed to retain a flock of 6-9 birds. So, every few years is my estimate. I do not have the room to store a big brooder set-up that I only use every few years. I'm looking for something that will be safe and will fold up easily until the next use. I found this thread and decided that the brooder cave is the way to go! I like the set up on the video here, with the straw and protection from elements. I really like the idea of keeping the set-up outside, where they will live eventually anyway. Safety is my biggest concern, though. We have coyotes for sure (although they have never been a problem with our current set up) and on occasion, raccoons. The raccoons are the ones that scare me as far as the hens go. So far, we've had absolutely no predator problems. Our run is made of hardware cloth and protected from diggers. The new set-up will be as well.

    I'm thinking about getting a dog cage perhaps - made of wire - to put the chicks in when they arrive. If we get a big enough one, we could keep them in there until they're ready to join the others. I have found lots on Craigslist so it's affordable and they can be stored easily. Seems perfect... but what am I missing? Would it be strong enough to endure a raccoon (if I put the brooder outside of the run)? Or should we just go ahead and make the brooder a part of the run so that the girls get acclimated to each other immediately? I wasn't originally planning on putting them near the adults so soon, due to quarantining concerns.

    Thoughts???
     
  2. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    The issue of quarantine will depend on where you are sourcing the new birds -- if you are starting new chicks that have never been exposed to an adult flock (either from the farm store, a hatchery, or a breeder who has incubated and brooded the chicks away from the adult flock, and avoided the risk of contamination in the time the chicks are in their care) there is not any need to quarantine them -- however chicks that are not new hatchlings (started birds) that have been raised along side or in an existing flock other than your own *may* have been exposed to something.
    A standard wire dog crate/kennel is not sufficient protection in and of itself against predators. Their small size (even the largest of them) allow for predators such as raccoons to reach in and access birds from every side and leave no real safe area for the birds due to the surprising reach of their limbs. Additionally, the spaces between the wires in the construction are easily taken advantage of and not small enough to keep predators out or strong enough to prevent break-in from larger predators. What you *could* do is to wrap the kennel in smaller opening wire such as hardware cloth, but that is not necessarily a very efficient approach and, if you go that route, you may as well construct a brooder from hardware cloth and lumber. Or, just go ahead and brood in the coop/run, which is (presumably) already well secured. This approach has the advantage of making integration pretty much a non-issue.
    On the matter of cycling your flock, rather than looking at it as a 3 year approach you might consider what many folks do which is to start chicks each spring -- starting enough birds to replace about half of your flock (personally, I start about twice the number I need to allow for potential losses, mis-sexed birds that turn out to be cockerels and/or to allow me to choose the birds I want to keep based on personality, markings, etc). The advantage here is you assure continuous supply of eggs. The first group you start will lay from about 6-18 months and then molt and take a break (if you don't supplement light, potentially not laying again until the following spring) -- if you start the second group when the first are about 12 months old, the second group reaches the point of lay just about the time the first group starts to molt. At this point you cycle half of the first group out, replacing them with the newly laying second group. The second group will lay through that first winter, while the first is off or laying more sporadically, and into the following fall. In the spring, the first group birds pick up production, the second group are laying strong and you introduce the third group......lather, rinse, repeat. The first group birds will have very productive second laying cycles leading up to their second molt, which will occur about the same time the second group is also molting. Because the third cycle, and each following, tends to be where you see the decline in overall production and quality of eggs, this is where I cycle the last of the first group birds out (unless there is a favorite among them, lol), replacing them with the now laying third group birds.
     
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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  4. MichelleT

    MichelleT Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Um... duh! I thought of partitioning off the run but not the coop. Not sure why, but this is DEFINITELY the way we're going to go. The coop isn't made yet (DH and DS are buying lumber next weekend and starting soon after) but they can definitely add that to the blueprints.
    Thanks!
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I designed a partition area into my coop from the get go, so glad I did.
    Put a separate people door into the partition area...will be much easier to use that way.

    ...and I added a pop door and separate run later, as the main run is at the other end of the coop from the partition area.
     

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