Should I take these chicks now....or (impatiently) wait for Spring?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by OzarkEgghead, Oct 16, 2015.

  1. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey guys, the newbie is at it with questions again! LOL

    I happened to stumble upon what could be a really good offer from a reputable hatchery, at a really good time for me....but I'm not so sure that it's a good time for the chickens. I can get day-old chicks...ISA Browns, Black Australorp or Rhode Island Reds....at a really good price. I can get my choice of sex and any combination of breed mix 'n match I desire...if I hurry up and order before the middle of next week.

    They'd be available for pick-up Oct. 26th. I had planned on starting off with no more than 6 chicks. With this deal, I'd have to take 15....but the deal is good enough & the timing (for me) is so good, that I'm seriously considering tackling the 15 despite being an abject, chicken-illiterate newbie! I'm currently off work while caring for my elderly mother so now would be an easier time for me to give the chicks the extra care they need while so you. Plus, I'm already doing middle-of-the-night checks on 2 young puppies & a barely 6 week old kitten that were dumped on my farm so checking on the chicks overnight wouldn't disrupt things any more than they already are.

    My plan is to raise them in large Tupperware tubs in my utility room. Even with the heat currently off, the heat generated by the cycling of my deep freezer & water heater keeps the room AT LEAST 70 degrees. I have a heat lamp ready, as well. Giving them 8-10 weeks to feather out, they wouldn't be ready for coop living until the last week of December or the second week in January. Our warmest day last December was 63 degrees and the coldest night was 19 degrees. For January, our warmest was 64 degrees, with a coldest night of 1 degree. I have no electric in their coop & won't have any way to put up a heat lamp.

    The overall intent for these birds is as layers while productive & then as meat when they stop laying. It's just me, so I don't need the big broilers the meat birds produce.

    Now the $64,000 questions:

    1.) Can I safely put my 8-10 week birds in the coop in those temps without having a heat lamp?

    2.) Of the available breeds, are any of them better choices because of having to put them into an unheated coop so late in the year?

    3.) If no breed is necessarily a better choice, would I be well to mix 'n match? And, if so, how many of each...e.g. 5 of each breed, 7 ISA Brown & 8 Black Australorp or whatever?

    4.) As a newbie, am I going to be able to handle 15 birds or am I already a victim of "chicken math" and courting disaster?

    TIA of any advice, insight, opinions, encouragement, etc. that you can give!
     
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    They will be fine in those temps once they are fully feathered. Chickens are very cold-hardy creatures. The main danger in cold weather is frostbite, but if the coop is really well ventilated, it won't be a problem. You will need to gradually get your chicks adjusted to cool temperatures. You can't just take them from a constant 70* and stick them out in the coop in 30* to 40* degree weather. They need to be 'hardened off,' starting with short trips outside, on sunny days. Then gradually lengthen the amount of time they spend outside.
    All those breeds will be good layers. And the Australorps do tend to be broody every now and then, which will be useful for expanding your flock, if you want to.
     
  3. MadamPoofyBrow

    MadamPoofyBrow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would mix and match, definitely! Just because I like variety, lol!
    They will be fine in those temps once fully feathered. They're very cold hardy, and will snuggle eachother.
    The first time I had chickens, I ordered 15 chicks from a hatchery, and they sent 16. Raised them all with no problem, though BYC did help a lot, and I wasn't even a member. You can post any questions you have, and we'll help you out!
    Your situation seems ideal, so I'd go for it! They will be fine outside after ten weeks :)
     
  4. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for your answer. I'm SO excited!! I'm gonna be a chicken-Mom!!!!!!!!!!!!![​IMG]

    The coop has 3 sliding windows...one on the south side, one on the west side & one on the east side...that can be opened anywhere from just a crack to wide depending on temp & wind direction, so I don't think ventilation will be a problem.

    Kinda figured I'd have to gradually acclimate them to being outside. I know *I* wouldn't want to be suddenly tossed out in winter temps! LOL

    What about the RIR? I've read that they can be aggressive...especially towards other chickens. Is that true? Also, since the ISA Browns are part-RIR anyway, should I just split the 15 amongst the ISA's & Australorps?
     
  5. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    Here's some questions and thoughts right back at ya!

    How big is your coop? Do you yet have a run? How much winter snow do you have? Your birds will need 4 s.f./bird in the coop, and 10 s.f. in the run per bird. Can your coop and run accommodate 15 birds with room to spare? Cause, if this isn't chicken math now, it will be sooner or later!

    Is there any possible way for you to run an extension cord to your coop? I have a 100 ft cord going to my coop. It's well secured to the side of the building, with a covered electrical box on the outside where it plugs in under the eave. The box is then wired to inside the coop, where I have a 6 outlet surge protector mounted securely, out of chicken reach. I'm not suggesting that you use this plan, merely suggesting that there are ways to get electric to a coop, if it's not too terribly far from the house. Does it meet code? most likely not. But, it allows me to keep a heated dog bowl for winter water, provide light so they will lay through the winter in our gloomy miserable cold winters, provide a bit of heat when my girls are hypothermic. (and yes, that has happened on both of the previous 2 winters) And, it allows me to brood chicks outside with a heating pad. It should take 5 - 6 weeks for your chicks to become fully feathered and able to withstand the cold weather IF they are hardened off. And what better way to harden them off than to brood them out in the coop where they will be living???

    With you being out of work, can you afford the increased feed demands of 15 birds?

    What are your average high/low day time temps in December/January? Will you be able to take them out to the coop for "hardening off" a couple of hours at a time during the warm part of the day? Do you have a shed, basement, or garage where you can brood the chicks? IMO, an ambient 70* temp is too warm to be brooding chicks who will be moving out into a winter coop. Perhaps you could start them in the utility room, then move them to a cooler location. On the plus, having 15 chicks to brood will be a benefit b/c they can snuggle and generate more body heat. You would also have a ready market for chicks that are at POL as spring arrives. That may recover your feed costs (no guarantees there, of course!) I absolutely love a mixed flock. Wouldn't have it any other way!
     
  6. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    If they are hatchery birds, then temperament is going to be hit or miss anyways. They are concerned with breeding productive birds, not about breeding nice birds. Lots of people love their hatchery sourced RIRs. Go ahead and get a few of each. If you don't like them, you can always sell them later on. It's not very difficult to find a new home for pullets/hens.
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    My experience with RIR is that they can be aggressive. Never met a RIR roo that wasn't nasty. My RIR hen was aggressive as well. Any option to add any other breeds? EE?
     
  8. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Great questions, Lazy Gardener! My coop is 12 feet wide by 10 feet deep. I don't currently have a run & probably won't be able to get one constructed until Spring. Once constructed, it will be 14 feet wide by 20 feet deep. Although, I'm still toying with letting them free-range during the day & cooping them at night to keep the coyotes from getting them.

    Typically, we get no more than 6-7" of snow here for the entire Winter season. I've looked & looked at the extension cord idea but I haven't yet come up with a way to do it. I currently light the shed with a 1000 lumen solar lantern but, as far as I know, there aren't any solar heat lamps. That said, I'll research that later today. If I can find one...problem solved.

    Thankfully, the costs of running my farm while I'm off work aren't an issue & taking the chicks to the shed/coop for a few hours each day shouldn't be a problem. I can also do a "step-down" method by moving them from the utility room to an unused room at the back of the house where I can progressively close off the heat to that room so that they get used to cooler & cooler conditions.

    Our *average* January temps are 44 & 22....but that's not to say that our daily highs don't occasionally go above that or the nightly lows don't occasionally dip below that. By February, March & April, the averages are 50/26, 59/32 & 69/42.

    I won't say never because that's an awfully long time, but I would be very surprised with myself if I ever decide to keep a rooster. Not only are they rather noisy but I had constant run ins with a tom my Dad decided would be "fun" for us kids to raise. Oh, he thought that tom was a blast.....because he wasn't the one taking care of it & getting the poop flogged out of them twice a day -- I was! My Dad frequently said that "there's always something to do on the farm"....but I eventually drew the line at that turkey & he ended up headed to auction the first time Dad tried to care for him & he beat up on him, too!

    At this point, the breeds that I listed are the only breeds available. Seeing that your experience regarding the aggressiveness of the RIR's runs exactly as I've heard, I think I'm going to split my order between the Australorps & the ISA's. Lord knows, I don't need a repeat of that stinkin' turkey!!
     
  9. Kraken Farmer

    Kraken Farmer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I, too, planned on starting out with 6 chickens 2 years ago.... Now I have 58. Good luck!

    Chicken Math:
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  10. MadamPoofyBrow

    MadamPoofyBrow Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have three rir that I got from my best friend when th city made her get rid of them. They are NASTY! Very mean.
     

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