Ready to move outside? Tips & advice welcomed!

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Christabean, Jun 29, 2016.

  1. Christabean

    Christabean Out Of The Brooder

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    I think my four chicks range in age from 4-5 weeks, but am open to expert opinion on that, if they may be a little older. They are getting stir-crazy in their brooder (large Rubbermade storage bucket about 20"x30", so just barely a square foot each) and I'm not seeing much aggression, fortunately, but they are desperate to get out. We let them out to stretch once or twice a day and they hate going back in. I'm in California so it's very mild but with summer fog it's dipping down into the 50s at night, up to the 70s in the day. Do they have enough feather cover to move into the coop this weekend (in 3 or 4 days) or should I wait another week for the younger ones? (See the two in front in the top pic; Buff Orpington is just losing her last head fluff now.) Based on their behavior I removed the heat lamp a few days ago and am giving them time to get used to (unheated) room temperature that dips to 60 and they seem fine, not huddling. They won't get much sun to speak of outdoors, though, coop is under a tree.

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    Based on advice on here and other chicken sites, I think I should block off their nest boxes for a few months, and keep them in their coop (kit-built raised chicken house with small, secure run) for a couple weeks before letting them into their larger daytime run area. Does that sound good?

    And last but not least, these guys were purchased by my sister at a feed store across the bay. As hatchery chicks I assume they are vaccinated for Marek's but don't know about cocci, so their first bag of food was medicated. However, my hippy "biofuel/urban farming" feed store in Berkeley sneers at medicated chick starter and doesn't carry it. Their organic locally produced starter is higher protein and results in healthy-looking poop consistency, AND is cheaper, so I've been feeding that for about a week. Should I leave them on it when they move out and hope for the best, or reintroduce medicated feed for awhile until they acclimate to outdoor dirt?

    Thanks so much for your time, guys!!
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    Don't worry about the chicks being able to handle cool nights in the coop without heat. You would be surprised at what chicks can handle. The older more feathered chicks will keep the younger ones warm, so don't worry.

    There is also no need to restrict the amount of outdoor space for the chicks. Provide them with as large a space as you can and they will decide how far to venture forth. Typically, chicks will be very conservative in adventuring very far from the security of what they find familiar. When I have my chicks mingle with the adult flock, they also are free to venture out of the run to free range if they choose. Yet it's weeks before they feel comfortable going very far from the run.

    They seem to know on a certain level of awareness that they are small and vulnerable and they will stick close to cover until they get pretty close to two months old.
     
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  3. yyz0yyz0

    yyz0yyz0 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A week locked in the coop is probably enough time to get them to realize it's now home. Then you can try leaving the door open for them to go out. You may have to "put" them back in a couple of evenings but they should learn to go on their own real quick.
     
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  4. Auntie Moose

    Auntie Moose Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Along the same lines, my chicks are a couple of weeks from going to the coop. When should I start offering them a place to bathe in the dirt? Even before they leave the brooder or after they've been confined in the coop a bit?

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  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Chicken Obsessed

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    Just be sure it doesn't get too warm in the coop. If they have a secure run (covered on the top, and mesh tight enough that they can't squirt through... and they can't wedge themselves anywhere towards evening that you can't crawl to to get them to put them to bed, you could keep them in the coop for the first day, then let them come and go from secure run to coop at will.

    I let my chicks have their first dust bath just as soon as they've figured out what food and water are all about.
     
  6. Christabean

    Christabean Out Of The Brooder

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    My little chickies are out in their coop for their first night! Poor things seemed a little nervous. :-( I put them in their little roost at sunset (with food and water just in case they weren't done for the night) and will open the door to the rest of the coop in the morning. I blocked off the nest boxes with some chicken wire until they're laying, so I hope they like roosting as opposed to sleeping in wood shavings.

    I'm still working on the run so they'll stay in the coop a day or two by necessity, but once it's done I'm excited to see them enjoying room to actually "run." We've been letting them into a pen with us for a daily stretch or two, and they definitely like hopping and flapping!
     
  7. ChickenKeep01

    ChickenKeep01 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    you should let them out at about 6 weeks but before you do but them in a cage that they can see out of in the coop of your existing flock so they can see each other but not hurt each other
     
  8. Christabean

    Christabean Out Of The Brooder

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    They're just about 6 weeks old and fully feathered. Well, the cochin has a patchy butt, but SO much leg feathering she can squat if she gets cold! ;-) I'm a beginner and these are my only four chickens in their new coop, so I don't have to worry about introductions.

    As a spoiled Californian it seemed chilly to me last night; dipped into the 50s, but they slept quietly and weren't hudddled when I opened the sleeping area door. A couple of the bravest briefly ventured out and the other two just poked their heads out. I expect after the morning fog burns off and it reaches the 70s the outdoors will look more inviting. It's basically forecasted to be 55-75 for the next three months, and rarely do we get much hotter. My chickens don't know how lucky they are!
     
  9. Christabean

    Christabean Out Of The Brooder

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    I finished the run/pen and after a week in their little pre-fab kit coop, they were so excited and happy to forage on this beautiful day. It was so adorable. I'll try to upload some pics tomorrow, they look so grown up! Just like mini adult chickens already. Some of the fencing at the entry gate is too low for securely keeping them in, but the whole yard has 5-6 foot fences so I risked it with supervision. They had little to no interest in escape and I was so pleased that they put themselves to bed as usual. Now that the nights are warmer (we had a cold spell last week that dipped under 50 at night) I'm leaving their door to their sleeping roost open so they can wake up earlier than me. I latched the coop door at sunset and it's set on hardware cloth surrounded by paving stones, in the range of motion lights, so should be secure against our biggest predator, racoons. At least for long enough for the dogs and chickens to sound an alert.
     

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