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Starting late Oct. chicks in the coop???

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by OzarkEgghead, Oct 24, 2015.

  1. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    I'll be getting 15 day-old chicks on the 27th of this month (Oct). My coop doesn't have any available electric. I've racked my brain and THINK I have a workable way of running an extension cord from the GFCI receptacle at the back of my house. The extension cord that I'll be using is the 100 ft. cord that I use to run my hay elevator & is of a slightly larger gauge than the cord on my heat lamp shield. To avoid heat build-up in the cord due to the impedance of electric flowing from a larger cord into a smaller gauge cord, I'm thinking of running the extension cord into a surge protector & then plugging the heat lamp into that...the idea being that, should there be an overload issue, the surge protector will trip and, if it doesn't or the overload is significant the GFCI at the house will trip. I honestly don't forsee any problems, though, as I'm running only a 150 watt ceramic heat bulb like those used in reptile aquariums.

    Temps this coming week are to be in the low to mid-60's with nighttime lows dipping into the upper 30's. If I'm successful in having a flawless trial run with my intended heat lamp set-up, would it be safe for me to brood day-old chicks in the coop from day 1 or should I brood them indoors with the heat lamp for a few weeks until they feather out before transferring them to the coop with the heat lamp?
     
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Do you have a garage or breezeway? Closer to the house, and with electricity, would be safer for the chicks too. Mary
     
  3. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    There are two camps on this one, neither one is 100% right or wrong. First of all it would be very helpful to know where you are and what your winters are like on average.

    If you keep them in the house, they'll be growing and outgrowing whatever you put them in, unless it's huge to start with. If you plan to put them out in a few weeks, your temps outdoors will probably not be in that "balmy" 30 degree range anymore, and you're going to need to supplement some heat as they go from indoors with controlled heat to a drastic outdoor change smack dab at the end of December. So are you prepared to keep them inside until the weather starts it's upswing? That could be March or April. On the plus side, you don't have to worry about winter predators and freezing water sources, and if the power goes out as it often does in winter your chicks would still be pretty safe at ambient indoor temperatures.

    I'm in a different camp. I believe in the inborn hardiness of chicks raised as naturally as they would be under a broody hen, and they'll hatch eggs any time of the year. So I brood my chicks outdoors in the run from the start, using a heating pad and a cave. I have day olds with daytime temps in the teens and twenties out there and they thrive. They are in a pen within our run, which is covered with clear plastic like a greenhouse and as secure from predators as we could make it. Those of us who use this system have found that our chicks are stronger, feather out faster, and when they are in total control of their comfort they thrive. The downside is that in the event of a power outage you'd have to go out there and make sure they are okay and get that heating pad started up again. I had that happen with the last batch of chicks and we had extreme winds and snow blowing sideways. It was a few hours before the sound of the power coming back on woke my husband and we made a mad dash out there to get things going again. The week old chicks were fine - the cave with it's thick straw insulation had maintained enough residual heat to keep them safe. If you start them outside, they would have the chill of November to get through but have their cave to rely on, and by the end of December they'd be so feathered out it would surprise you, and most likely able to handle the cold very well.

    So the short answer to your question is......<drum roll please>......... whatever you feel comfortable doing is the best plan. Neither way is 100% the only way. @Ridgerunner combines the outdoor brooding with a heat lamp and broods chicks outside as soon as they come out of the incubator and are dry, and has done so for quite some time regardless of the weather.

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/yes-you-certainly-can-brood-chicks-outdoors
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  4. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I'm in the same camp as Blooie. But I'm not the least bit shy about promoting the best brooding system for people to use who have the welfare of their chickens as a very high priority.

    Brooding under a heat lamp of any kind is not a natural method of brooding, nor is stuffing baby chicks into a box indoors. Under those conditions, chicks have very little control over their heat needs, and practically no freedom to develop and grow naturally.

    Therefore, both Blooie and I and a fast growing number of other folks have chosen the brooding system that is, for all practical purposes, the next best thing to having a broody hen raise our chicks for us.

    In your particular situation, utilizing a heating pad instead of a heat lamp would decrease the amps going through that long extension cord, and it would be far less likely to cause the sorts of problems that are concerning you.

    Adding that peace of mind to the satisfaction you'll have seeing your chicks develop and grow in ways incomparable to being raised in the confines of an indoor brooder, makes this decision almost a no-brainer in my estimation.
     
  5. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Very good point, @azygous I hadn't even mentioned that, yet being married to an electrician I knew it because he was so much more comfortable with the pad out there on our extension cord than he was with the idea of heat lamp!
     
  6. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Nope...no garage, no breezeway, no basement. Other than having them in the actual house, the only other place is the crawlspace under the house.

    I'm in the Southcentral Missouri Ozarks. My coop is about 75 feet from my back porch, is fully enclosed, draft-free & insulated & gets full-day sun year-round. So, even though they wouldn't be in the house, they would be indoors at all times. My plan for frozen water was to have 2 waterers...one in the coop & one in the house. If the one in the coop freezes, it'll come into the house to thaw & the one in the house gets filled with warm water & placed into the hen house. I have plenty of access to sawdust, pine shavings, leaf litter & straw for deep bedding.

    As for our winters...we average only about 6-7 inches of snow the whole season. Generally, there's only a 2-week period in January when we run the risk of truly frigid weather - and even that tends to be very spotty. I looked back over the temps from last winter & a quick check looks like we had just a few nights when our temps went into the single digits. Otherwise, we usually didn't go lower than the teens and soared as high as the upper 60's & lower 70's several times throughout last winter. The AVERAGE January temps are considered to be a high of 44 & a low of 24.
     
  7. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    Frankly, I prefer to allow them to be as natural as possible as well & feel that God gives the animals that He created everything they need (read, inborn hardiness) to survive. It's MY job to make certain that whatever *I'm* doing to them or for them doesn't disrupt that & end up doing more harm than good....which is why I ask so dang many questions.

    On the flip side, I'm also very committed to not burning down my house rigging a heating system!!! I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I had 2 nasty run-ins with electric as a kid & it has left me DEATHLY afraid of anything having to do with electricity - hence the reluctance to run an extension cord & the over-the-top precautions against circuit overload. Blooie's electrician-husband's confidence in the heating pad certainly has me rethinking the heat lamp in favor of the pad. This is probably a stupid question, but did you use one specifically made for use with chicks or just run to your local Walmart & get a human heating pad? Do you place it on the coop floor & allow them to lay on top of it or mount it on a wall & allow them to cuddle next to it?
     
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Oh, my goodness, the more questions we ask the more information we have to make good decisions, so ask away!!

    The heating pad we use is the Sunbeam X-Press Heat. It's ideal because it has a button on it that allows you to bypass the "automatic off" function most pads come with now. With this one you can set it to stay on. Otherwise you'd end up turning it back on every two hours or so....not fun and not good for the chicks if you forget to check it. It will tell you right on the box if you can do this. Most heating pads we have laying around the house shut off automatically and you can't change that.

    Walmart carries it, but so far I've only found the smaller sized one, although others who use this system have found both sizes there. I use the large pad for a lot chicks, and I got mine through Amazon. I'm going to give you another link to the hows of Mama Heating Pad.
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/956958/mama-heating-pad-in-the-brooder-picture-heavy-update

    Here is a link to the heating pad the vast majority of us use.
    http://www.amazon.com/Sunbeam-2013-...kmr1&keywords=Sunbeam+x-tra+large+heating+pad

    I hope this information is helpful, and hope to see you on the Mama Heating Pad thread! The only thing we require is pictures - lots of pictures! Most of us are done with chicks this time of year so we really enjoy getting our chick-fixes through photos!
     
  9. OzarkEgghead

    OzarkEgghead Out Of The Brooder

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    I can't thank you guys enough for all of your help, the links, the encouragement....everything! As excited as I am to start keeping chickens, I'm petrified that I'm going to do something that's going to hurt them...quite by accident, of course! I'm such an animal lover that I know I'd be devastated if I lost some of them - particularly if it turned out to be due to something that I *did* out of inexperience & lack of knowledge.
     
  10. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    Oh, you are so very welcome! Just in case you are still on the fence, I have one more thing to show you. This video is of my chicks, living outside. When I first put them out we were having daytime temps in the upper 30s, lower 40s, much colder than that at night. But that heat wave didn't last long. Most of the time the chicks were out there it was more like teens and twenties, with one good blizzard and a couple of snowstorms tossed in for good measure. Every one of those chicks did just great, and they are all out in the coop now repaying me by giving me lots of eggs! I hope you do get the chance to read the article on brooding chicks outdoors. It should further calm your very understandable fears. Oh and by the way, at Walmart where they carry the big outdoor extension cords, you can also find a protector. I use it (hubby insisted) to keep the connection between the pad and the extension cord clean and dry. It's a plastic shell that you snap over the connection point.

    [​IMG]
     

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