Outdoor Brooder

Wee Farmer Sarah

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I'm considering converting my rooster pen into an outdoor brooder and grow out pen. Last year I installed a 10 square foot post heated brooder pen inside the coop. It seemed to work OK, however, the older chickens got the idea that the little ones weren't allowed anywhere else in the coop. I thought it would be a better idea if I enlarged the little "mini coop" I built for my rooster while he was going through his hormonal crazies. This would allow the babies to be in their "see but don't touch" stage and they could have space to roam around and roost and do normal chicken things. This is all inside the original run and is secured from predators. The footprint of this is 4 x 6 feet and has plenty of room for little chicks. I will likely add another 12 to 16 square feet to their run that will include a small door for them to "free range" when they are old enough. Here's a picture of the "bachelor" pad. The mini coop is 2 x 2 feet and I need to add another 4 square feet to allow adequate space as they grow and feather out. I'm planning on 4 chicks. Any thoughts or suggestions? There is also an open space under the "coop."
new brooder.JPG
 
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aart

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Sounds good, though I can't really tell what I'm looking at in the photo. 🤔
I can't either.
Is this the 'coop'?
1582727971517.png

They'll need a chick sized ramp, rather than that 'ladder'.

As long as coop is wet and wind proof, has a heated and cooler spot, and is easily accessible by you to tend to them, should be fine.
I love brooding in coop(from one week after hatch) and integrating by 4-6 weeks.
You've probably seen this before, but....
https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/integrating-new-birds-at-4-weeks-old.72603/
 

Ridgerunner

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I'm also having trouble understanding what I'm seeing. I think that is 4' x 6' elevated "coop" with solid sides to protect against weather but which would prevent the chicks inside from seeing and being seen by your other chickens. So they are not really raised "with the flock" until they can get to the wire pen. Or maybe it is a 2' x 2' that you plan to change to a 2' x 4'? In either case it will be big enough as a brooder for 4 chicks until they are big enough to be allowed out in the weather, say 5 weeks old.

Many of us brood outside. Mine go in my brooder in the coop straight from the incubator or post office. To me the biggest challenge to brooding outside is the temperature swings. I've seen it go from below freezing to 70 F in 36 hours. My brooder is set up so that one area stays warm enough in the coldest temperatures while another area stays cool enough in the warmest conditions.

I don't know how much total room you have, that can heavily influence how you integrate. You mention "free range". Does that mean no fences for a pretty big area or is that space pretty limited? I'm not quite sure what you have to work with.

I have two different basic ways that I integrate my chicks, depending on how crowded the main coop is. The one that I think comes closest to what you plan to do is that I move my chicks from the brooder to my "grow-out" coop when they are 5 weeks old so they don't need additional heat. The grow-out coop is 4' x 8' and elevated about 2-1/2 feet. It has an 8' x 12' run associated with it next to the adults. I used to leave the chicks in that coop section only for a week or more before I let them into the run section but I don't do that anymore, I just put them in the coop/run area.

I had hoped that by keeping them confined to the coop section only that they would put themselves to sleep at night. That never worked out. They'd always go to sleep at the base of the opening into the coop but at ground level. I'd go down there every night an lock them into the coop section until they learned to put themselves to bed. Sometimes that only took one time, sometimes it took three weeks for the last to go in. Typically it takes me about a week with 20 chicks. I think the elevation is the problem. I have a ground level shelter I sometimes use, they have no issues going to bed in there. Yours will look different from mine so you may have better luck.

I don't use a ramp. My chicks are "standard" and can fly quite well, not Silkies or other breeds that have trouble flying. If they want to mine will fly up, no problem. If they don't want to they won't. It's not about ability, it's about desire.

After my chicks put themselves to sleep in the coop section at night I let them roam with the adults during the day. It's never been an issue but I have a lot of room and they have been raised with the flock, not isolated for their first five or more weeks like I think yours will be. In your situation I'd definitely want to chicks to be putting themselves to bed at night and to have spent at least 2 weeks in sight of the adults before you try to integrate. Those small holes are probably a good idea.
 

Wee Farmer Sarah

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Sorry all for the lack of clarity. And yes @aart that is the tiny coop I had bought for my rooster last year. The one that was supposed to hold 4 to 6 chickens that I had to enlarge just for my poor boy to squeeze into. I've decided to brood the new chicks on the covered front porch until they feather out. That will give me additional time to modify or reconstruct this pen. Right now that pen is 4 by 6 feet. I think the best way to address this is to add an additional 4 x 6 foot of fenced in pen and just tear down the old tiny coop and rebuild with something larger. So I would like it elevated, but I'm not sure how high I can go with 6 to 8 week chicks. Thanks again for your input.
 

aart

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4x6' should be fine for 6 chicks, especially if they have their own run area too.
My chick area is 4x6' at one end of coop, attached to a separate 8x12' run about 10' from main run.
I've had 16 chicks in there.....but I put them out there a week after hatch then start integrating at 4 weeks by opening the tiny doors in the temp wall that separates the chicks coop from the main coop. It's worked incredibly well.
Did you check out my article?

And integration last year was a nightmare so I want them to have plenty of room if they have to be there for more than a month.
What age did you integrate?
I tell ya doing it when chicks are younger really helps.
Too small to be a 'threat' and too fast to be caught.
 

Ridgerunner

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So I would like it elevated, but I'm not sure how high I can go with 6 to 8 week chicks.
I've seen a broody hen get two-week-old chicks up on 5' high roosts. They first flew to the top of my nests, a little over two feet. Then some flew about 3 feet over and another two feet up to the top of my droppings boards, then another foot up to the roosts. Others flew from the top of the nest straight to the roost. From watching them I'm convinced they could have gone a lot further if they wanted to. That's at two weeks of age, not 4 to 6 like you are talking about.

The entrance to my grow-out coop is about 2-1/2 feet off the ground. I do not have a ramp but a few years back I built some steps to help a small handicapped turkey get up there, trying to get it to butcher age. It did not work and was my first mercy killing. But I left the steps for the chicks. Some use those steps but many just fly up there and back down. For years I did not have ramp or steps and my chicks had no problems flying up there when they wanted to. It's that experience that convinces me you don't have to have ramps or anything else to help them get up there unless you have chickens that can't fly, like Silkies. You have to make them want to.

If they don't want to they won't use a ramp, steps, a ladder or anything else. If you do build a ramp, in another thread Aart suggested what amounts to a 3-4-5 triangle for the slope. If the ramp is 3' tall, go out horizontal 4'. The angled face will be 5' long. The slope will be about 37 degrees. If you use those proportions for 4' high, the horizontal distance will be 4 x 1-1/3 or 5-1/3' and the length of the ramp will be 5 x 1-1/3 or 6-2/3'. How much room you have for a ramp may limit how high you can go though some people save room by doubling the ramp back, having it in two sections. The limit on how high you can go is not the age of the chicks, it's how much room you have if you use a ramp.

I can appreciate an elevated coop. I did not do it to give them a place out of the weather under it, mine actually doesn't do that. But it is really convenient to me to have something at waste height to work in. I think a ground level coop is easier to get the chicks to go to bed in there at night, especially when they are so young they have not started roosting at night but spend their nights on the ground. There are trade-offs.
 

Mrs. K

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I vote too with earlier, verses later.I keep the chick in an unheated garage with day time heatlamp with a warm area and a cold area for a week. I start with mine in the run, in a safe zone, with a daytime shelter. In the shelter is the wooly hen. They can go in there for warm up. I put the shelter in the coop at night after the chicks have put themselves to bed.

The first week the safe zone is enclosed, the second week, I turn out the big girls, and set the safety zone so that the chicks can get out and in on all sides, make sure there are low to the ground pallets as hideouts through out the run. I sit down there with my coffee, and pretty soon a few will venture out. After a bit, I give a mock chase, so they scurry to safety and figure that out.

After that I let them work it out and within a week, chicks are eating with hens, and are fully integrated.

Mrs K
 
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