Transitioning Chickens Outdoors-Temp Question

lutherpug

Crowing
6 Years
Jan 5, 2014
602
638
252
Kansas City Area
So, this is a new one for me. I'm not new to chickens and I've never used any sort of supplemental heat and don't have any plans to do so on any sort of permanent basis. That said, we moved recently so we are in the process of building a new coop. We should be done in the next 2 weeks or so but it has gotten unseasonably cold earlier in the season than usual. Temps have been in the 20's overnight and the windchill tomorrow morning for us will likely be in the low teens.

I have 23 chickens in a very large brooder in my outbuilding. They range in age from 6-8 weeks old. No supplemental heat since anyone was 3-4 weeks old but it doesn't get super cold in my outbuilding-mostly it has been in the 50's. Therein lies the problem-

I know chickens are fine in cold weather (I brooded young chicks outdoors last winter) but I'm curious how I should transition them outdoors with a possible 30 degree drop from what they're used to. Should I hang a heat lamp in the coop for a few weeks? Does that really solve the problem as I will then be removing it when it is potentially even colder? Moving them back and forth for some sort of transitional process isn't really an option for several reasons.

Thoughts? FWIW, it is supposed to warm back up in the 40's and 50's at the end of next week....
 

alexa009

Crossing the Road
Apr 6, 2017
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As long as they have a coop to transfer body heat the problem should work out. Six weeks IMO is still young so A heat lamp would be a fine idea for a few weeks until they are fully feathered out. Please use an infrared heat lamp with a metal guard below it to prevent fire in the coop. Just what I would simply recommend.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
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I think you are fretting over nothing. Yes it will be colder, but not life threatening. Chickens can really handle a very large temperature swing. As long as they can enter a coop or some type of wind break at will, I think they will be fine.

If you go down and they are lathargic, ignoring food, huddled over and hunched... well then you do need to add move heat. But if they are out scratching, intensely interested to see if you brought a treat, they are fine.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
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Why would the coop be any colder than the building they are in now...is that building heated?

Agrees that as long as they are dry and out of the wind, they should be fine without heat.

Warning signs that @Mrs. K posted are important.
Had a few like that last winter, saved 2 lost 1.
I brought them into the slightly warmer garage for just a couple hours,
for what @BantyChooks calls a 'cold reset',
gave them Sav-A-Chick vitamins/electrolytes and made sure they were eating,
put them back in coop and they were fine.
Dehydration can be a problem even in winter.
The one I lost I brought in too late, won't do that again.
 

lutherpug

Crowing
6 Years
Jan 5, 2014
602
638
252
Kansas City Area
The building does have some supplemental heating systems although we haven't turned them on. It's just very well insulated. The previous owner had a cabinetry business out there and he worked in it all winter. According to him it rarely drops below 40. My hope is that we will get the coop finished this week and be able to move them out by next weekend when it will have warmed back up. They may have to wait an extra week or so for the run but at least they can start getting accustomed to their new home. I really didn't want to have any temporary heating so all of your responses are good news
:woot
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
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Southeast Louisiana
Not sure what your new coop will look like as far as wind protection and ventilation, hopefully both will be good. As long as both are decent I think Mrs. K is right, you are worrying too much. In a week or two when the coop is finished they will be a week or two older. They are already fully feathered out, have been for a week or two. They will be locked in the coop while you finish the run so wind chill doesn't factor in, at least to start. And by the time they can go outside in the run they will be even older and better acclimated.

I understand what you are saying about acclimation and agree with it, especially for young chicks about a month old or less. Exposure to cold is one thing that helps get them feathered out younger. Yours are past that point. By the time they are a couple of months old, which yours will be, they are as capable of handling those temperature swings as the wild birds that overwinter. I understand you can get bird kills in freak weather but you are not talking about that kind of freak weather.

My chickens hate a cold wind. As long as a cold wind is not hitting them they go outside. I suspect you've seen that. When that run is finished I'd open the pop door during the day and let those chicks decide if they want to go outside or not, whatever the weather. By that time they will know how to get out of the wind if they need to.
 

Mrs. K

Free Ranging
11 Years
Nov 12, 2009
8,895
11,144
636
western South Dakota
AArt does mention an important point, there is a strong chance of dehydration in the winter. Heated water is not a luxury available to me, so another poster on this forum, whom is very knowledgeable, suggested feeding soaked grain. Even if the grain freezes, and it does, the chickens can peck it apart and eat it.

Even very young birds, I once had a broody hatch out 4 chicks and a week later we dropped to 20 below. She raised them just fine, but it was at that time that Orchard recommended it.
 

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