Putting "indoor" chicken outside in the cold--

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by ChickenBiffer, Dec 11, 2016.

  1. ChickenBiffer

    ChickenBiffer Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 30, 2015
    I am assisting with a sort of peculiar chicken situation at a school where I teach. (I have chickens at home and it happens that the school has chickens as well!)

    The school has three hens and after a series of summer changes, they started fighting pretty badly (two picking on one). About six weeks ago, the two hens managed to injure the third until she had a bloody wound on her head. Injured hen was brought inside (temporarily) to live in a brooder in a classroom until the wound healed. People got busy and also anxious (worried about hen's safety) so moving the hen back outside with the others was sort of procrastinated. (The students LOVE having a chicken in their class, wandering around while they study...!)

    CURRENT PROBLEM: this hen really has to go back outside in the coop/run with the other two. It's been in the building for nearly two months now and basically missed the entire fall season of gradual chilling to winter. This hen has been living in a toasty 70 degrees for weeks and now it's 30 degrees outside.

    Are there any dangers to putting this hen outside to experience this sudden change in temperature? Will she just roll with it and be okay?

    We realize the social dynamics of re-introducing this chicken are yet another challenge...We know that we need to transfer the new chicken back in the coop in the early morning when everyone is still groggy and asleep... Our plan is to keep all three hens together in the coop for a whole first day. Because the coop is the exact enclosed space where the hen was most vulnerable to attack (couldn't get away from the other two), I've also sewn a heavy vinyl curtain/partition. The curtain I made is a physical barrier splitting the coop in half (heavy weights at the bottom, hens won't be able to get around it), including a clear vinyl window so they can sort of see each other without being able to touch each other. We are hopeful that the hens will get along reasonably well in the run, where everyone has more room to run away from each other. We're thinking that this coop-curtain could be adapted over time (like swapping out the vinyl window for mesh, enlarging the window, etc.) as coop-relations improve.

    So does anyone have any advice or suggestions about how to approach this problem?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Poultry parent

    Poultry parent Chillin' With My Peeps

    put the hen in a run by the coop so the others can see her, that can help. she should be ok with going outside, she will seem cold, but as long as shes acting like a normal cold chicken she'll be fine.
  3. rebrascora

    rebrascora Chicken Obsessed

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    How big is the coop and how big is the run ie. how many feet long by how many wide? My guess would be that a lack of space may have caused the problem in the first place and putting her back, even with a "curtain" may not help the situation, I would be inclined to give her her own space by putting her in a rabbit hutch in the run. The curtain may also cause problems with ventilation, especially if it is made of vinyl. I think there is also a strong likelihood that they will have a go at her in the run as well unless she has her own protected area for at least a couple of weeks.

    Edited to add that providing she is in a well insulated relatively small space like a rabbit hutch with plenty of straw and good food, she should cope with the temperature change provided that she is fully feathered, but she will need to be monitored regularly and brought inside again if she is not coping.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    I will be addressing the same situation soon with chicks reared by students at home. In the upcoming semester kids will be bringing chicks / juveniles back together. Introductions will be carried out where no one is on home turf. Once social structure worked out, then all placed in coop that is rearranged on the inside. I that fairly often.
  5. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    For BYC being sort of dormant at this time of year, you sure have gotten a lot of responses! I'll jump in with my advice, too

    The key to any change for chickens is to pull it off gradually, especially where climate is involved. You already express a wise concern about subjecting the hen to a sudden change from balmy to freezing. You need to acclimatize her to the colder temps. Day excursions to the outdoors and gradually increasing exposure over several days will groom her for handling colder temps. At the same time, if the heat in the classroom can be turned down at night, that will help, too.

    But then you have a reintegration issue as well. The same tenet applies to that. Gradual exposure to the rest of the flock is best, even though they will recognize her from months before. The social order still needs to adjust itself, and that will be stressful for all the chickens. Periods where the hen is forced to mingle and participate in the new ordering of ranks should be interspersed with periods where she can be in a safe place and rest. (I wrote and article for BYC about integrating a single hen. It's linked below my post here.)

    You need to examine the space issue. Do the chickens have plenty of space to get away from any aggression? How about perches? Chickens need perches in daytime, too. Perches provide a place to loaf in peace and to get away from a pursuer. Even tree stumps will work for this.

    I would forget about the vinyl curtain. What works better and is sturdier would be an old chair or table. You can't have too many horizontal surfaces. Chickens love variety and being able to find a cozy place above the fray. It will help immensely with any aggression problems.
  6. ChickenBiffer

    ChickenBiffer Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 30, 2015
    The run is plenty big (I don't know the measurements) and the coop, while not generous, is adequate for FOUR birds. The hens did grow up together and (before the summer) got along fine. It's not a space issue, things got difficult after a few big changes. E.g. They spent the summer a couple blocks away in an alternate location and when they returned to the school in September, we discovered the fourth bird was a rooster and he was removed. It was all the upheaval of moving back and forth and fourth bird leaving that ramped up the conflict.

    The curtain is about defining safe space (with perch, nesting box, food & water) for the bird that was being picked on, exact same amenities on the other side for the other two. It's not sealing up anything or impacting ventilation (it's open a couple inches at the top, not enough for a chicken to get through). The coop isn't big enough to erect anything larger than a simple wall-type barrier. In the run, there is much more space for the hens to get away from each other-- the hen only gets really hurt when all three are confined overnight in the coop (hence the curtain).

    The awkward thing about the school arrangement is that the chickens can't free range... I incorporated a single hen into my flock last year and I did a lot of free ranging, as well as having the single hen in a tractor near the run. It went smoothly and there was zero drama but we really took our time with it, spent a whole month getting them acquainted before we confined them together.

    I'm very relieved to hear that the temperature shock isn't likely to hurt the hen. She's definitely fully feathered and won't be exposed to any drafts in the coop.
  7. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    So the coop is at least 4 feet by 4 feet? Anything smaller would not be sufficient for 4 adults...
    It does sound like coop space is too small as far as the individual birds are concerned.
  8. I am baffled no one has said that yes temp change will be a shock to her system......??

    She will need to be used to the temps outside....They do grow extra downy feathers and their bodies prepare for colder temps.......Same as any other animal going into fall/winter......

  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Chicken Obsessed

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Personally, I would pull one of the pair, and put the injured with one other hen. For a couple of weeks. Then reintroduce the more aggressive bird back to the pair.

    Instead of a vinyl curtain, try a chicken wire curtain, tie a post to the bottom, to give it weight, and nails along a rafter to hang it from.

    In your run, put up barriers, hideouts and other roosts, multiple feed stations and water places, one behind a small wall, so that when eating from it, cannot be seen from other feed station.

    Mrs K
  10. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    Tough situation....sounds like you know the risks of integration and are ready to handle it as best you can.

    It would be better if you could expose indoor bird to cooler temps for a week or so before going to 30F.
    Put it's cage outside during warmer day light time, near the other birds, and maybe spend nights in a cooler than 70F room inside.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2016

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by