raising chicks out of season in Montana

Discussion in 'Where am I? Where are you!' started by cmc08, Nov 20, 2016.

  1. cmc08

    cmc08 New Egg

    2
    0
    7
    Nov 20, 2016
    Hi Everyone,
    I just joined BYC and am looking for advice on raising chicks for the first time. We welcomed 32 newly hatched chicks in mid-September. They are my joy. Anyone from Montana or other similar mountainous areas experienced with raising new chicks through Winter?
     
  2. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    12,673
    5,415
    436
    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    So by my calculations your chicks are about 8 weeks old...should be fully feathered by now and living outside already? If so, they'll acclimate very well with just a little effort on your part. If not, turn off the brooder lamp and get them out and let them get used to dropping temperatures.

    I'm in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming, almost touching the Montana border. Got the Big Horns to the east, the Absarokas and Beartooths to the west, and the Pryors to the north. So I'm in an area similar to yours. I don't heat or insulate my coop. I put my first chicks out on April first of 2014. At first I put a heat lamp out there (nasty, dangerous things if you ask me) but they they were snuggled in a ball of beaks and hineys in front of the pop door, nowhere near the warmed spot. They were 5.5 weeks old, the temp out there kept dropping past 20 degrees, and I spent the night putting a coat over my jammies and boots on my feet to run out and "check" them. They were fine - I was freezing! Second night, same story. So the third morning I pulled the heat lamp. If they weren't going to use it, I wasn't going to run up my electric bill and risk a fire. That night it snowed. <sigh> And we didn't get our last snowfall until June 6th. If I'd kept them in and waited until the conditions were optimum for raising chicks, they'd have been in a box in the office laying eggs.

    I have a run that's partially covered with clear, reinforced greenhouse type plastic (my run is a hoop run made from cattle panels and steel fence posts) and leave my pop door open year round, 24/7. They can leave the confines of the coop and go out into the run at will. They spend most of their time out there, where I have lots of boredom busters. A few filled suet cages hanging from the sides of the run gives them added fat in winter while it entertains them because they have to work to get it out. A couple of roosts give them a place to sit in the sun in the south side of the run where the low winter sun comes in. A small stock tank heater rated for plastic containers placed in their 5 gallon water bucket, with horizontal nipples, keeps them well supplied with water. Sure, I have to go out there and fill it once or twice a week, but it beats hauling water a couple of times a day and them having to wait until I get out there to give it to them. I open the people door to the run and many of them head out to play in the snow. Not all of them are so bold, but those that do enjoy themselves immensely.

    Humidity is the enemy - not the cold temps themselves. Keeping your coop very well ventilated allows stale, moist air to escape and be replaced with fresh, dry air. It's critical to the health of the birds. Humidity in the coop comes from a few sources - their respiration, droppings (and since they are in the coop longer during the extended darkness of winter there are more of them, that's for sure) and their water source all add to that humidity. I keep my water out in the run to avoid the addition of moisture from it. Wind is also something you want to protect them from - and in our areas a day without wind is a rarity, right? Think of their feathers and down as toasty warm, expensive winter coat you'd wear outside. Works great, until the zipper breaks and all that warm air trapped next to your body begins to escape. It's very difficult to regenerate that lost heat. If chickens are in a draft strong enough to make their feathers ruffle, just like the broken zipper on that coat the warm layer of air next to their bodies is escaping.

    You can get in touch with people from your area by typing Montana in the search box and they'll have a lot of good advice for you. Some will insulate and heat, others don't. You just choose what you think will work best for you and your flock, and let common sense help guide you. You've got this! Welcome to BYC!

    Edited to add: I no longer brood chicks in the house and don't use a heat lamp, evah!! I brood them in a wire pen outdoors in the run with the adults using just a heating pad over a wire frame, forming a cave. You know what springtime temps are like in the mountains.....they absolutely thrive!

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/yes-you-certainly-can-brood-chicks-outdoors
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2016
  3. cmc08

    cmc08 New Egg

    2
    0
    7
    Nov 20, 2016
    Thank you so much for the good information. How many chickens do you have? I would love to see pictures of your run and coop. I like the idea of boredom busters. I am going to get to work on that.
     
  4. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    12,673
    5,415
    436
    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    I am on the road traveling back to Wyoming from South Dakota at the moment but can post some pics later- though it may not be until tomorrow. In the meantime you can click on My Coop under my avatar for details on our build. I have 20+ chickens at the moment.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by