Transitioning chicks to the coop in winter

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by lutherpug, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thinking ahead as I've got 4 chicks hatched 11/28/16 making them 3 weeks old tomorrow.

    In the coop I currently have 3 hens-1 Dominique, 1 RIR, 1 Australorp. The RIR is very much at the top of the pecking order and can be kind of a bully. The Dominique has a a personality but isn't overtly nasty and the Australorp is really passive.

    The 4 chicks are a Lavender Orpington, an EE, a SLW (who I suspect is a rooster), and a Blue Splash Ameraucana with a pretty serious case of scissor beak.

    I'm almost certain that I'm going to attempt the "playpen method' where they'll have their own space in the coop that the hens cannot access. After a period of time, I'lll give them semi restricted access to the run during the day as well. Likely by putting a dog kennel in there with chicken wire across the top half of the door so they can have a hiding spot that the hens cannot access. A safety room, of sorts.

    I use the Premier1 heat plate for my chicks. Obviously, they'll need supplemental heat for a while so the plate will go outdoors with them. Temps here can vary a lot during winter. We will have days in the 40's and 50's, even 60's and days where the temperature struggles to get above 0. It is a wide range. Wind chills can get down to -20 or -30 a couple of times a year.

    This will be my first time adding chicks to the regular coop as well as my first time adding chicks during winter. I have several questions-

    1. At what age should I introduce them? My thought was at 6 weeks. Move them to the garage with their heat plate at 4 weeks, give them 2 weeks to adjust to the colder temps, then out to the coop.

    2. My Ameraucana with scissor beak is doing great in terms of eating and drinking but is a little picked on by the other 3 chicks and I can only imagine what my RIR will think of her. Other than having multiple feeders and obstacles to run around is there anything else I can do?

    3. How will I know when I can get rid of the heat plate? It will be a pain to move it from the coop to the run 2x a day. How will I know when they don't need it?

    4. How concerned should I be if they're doing great at 20-30 degrees but we have a cold snap forecast where the temps won't be above 0. Do I reintroduce the heat plate? What if they're no longer segregated from the adults at that point?

    Sorry for so many questions, I'm trying to plan for everything as best I can. I wouldn't worry as much if I were home every day but there are days I'm out of town for work and my husband will have to make judgement calls-we both need to be on the same page.

    Thanks, as always, for all of your help and expertise.
     
  2. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

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  3. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for your reply-

    I'm going to be out of town for a few days but starting Friday I should have quite a bit of time the following 10-12 days to start the integration process. A couple of quick follow up questions-

    In terms of play dates in the run with the adults-how do we go about that? Give them a safe area the hens cannot access and let them dictate their own pace for interaction? Start with allowing them to see each other but not have physical access? Just curious how you'd go about it.

    Regarding the scissor beak chicken, yes-we're giving her a combo of dry chick starter as well as a wet mash. She's never been separated from the other chicks-they just pick at her beak from time to time. I'm not worried about the other chicks, she seems to do just fine with them, but I do have some concerns about my RIR as she can be a bully.

    We will play the weather by ear. I know it is a terrible time to have chicks but I'm looking forward to having eggs in the springtime :)

    Thanks
     
  4. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

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    You have the right instincts about integration. You want to to a side-by-side/don't touch introduction for about a week before you open up portals from the safe pen into the rest of the run. The chicks need time to observe the adults and to get to know them individually. They will be learning the temperaments of the big chickens and will learn who they need to run from and who they don't need to worry about. By the second week, they can begin to mingle with the adults, and they'll run back into their safe pen when the going gets rough.

    This is a very safe method of integration, and no one's had any casualties as far as I know.

    As with any sort of change or introducing anything new to chickens, doing it little by little is preferable to doing things all at once. Remeber that rule and you should see things go pretty smoothly.
     
  5. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences. I'm looking forward to getting started tomorrow. I love having the chicks in the basement for a week or two when they're itty bitty but I'm ready for them to move on out [​IMG]
     
  6. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Update-

    Catching them and transferring them back and forth ended up being way too difficult so I decided to take the plunge and create a safe space for them in the coop with their heat source. It isn't ideal as it is smaller than the space they had in my basement but I'm hoping complete isolation won't be necessary for more than a week or two. So far, so good. They've been out there for a few hours. It has gotten dark and they're huddled under the heat plate but they sound content-no loud distress chirping, etc.

    Currently 37 degrees, dropping to 29 overnight then back to 50 tomorrow. They're 4 weeks old. It's hard to not be nervous and check on them every 5 minutes but I have to trust that they'll be okay...

    Here is their new setup-

    [​IMG]
     
  7. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm going to keep updating here for a bit as I assume this will help someone in the future.

    They've been outside for a little over a full day at this point. Everyone is doing great although the pen I built is way too small so I added a portable addition. Bonus is that I'll be able to use the addition in the run with minimal modifications. I'm going to let them stay in the coop for another day or two as they adjust but they'll be out in the run by this weekend.

    If I had to do it all over again I would have started them out in the coop from the beginning, even during winter. My 4 week old chicks seem completely fine in 30-40 degrees, they spend lots of time away from the heat plate at these temps. It dipped into the 20s last night and they were fine. I, on the other hand, was down there in my pajamas at 2am "just checking in" to the chagrin of all of the residents of the coop.

    In any event, I'm a little concerned about the next Arctic blast but I think as long as the heat plate is available they will be okay. I may be a little more diligent in my surveillance if temps drop to single digits or lower next week but for now everyone seems good. [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  8. azygous

    azygous True BYC Addict

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    If you raise that chick pen up on bricks, the two inch thick kind, the cage will double as a panic room. The chicks will come and go and mingle with the adults and find refuge by ducking under and back inside their safe place. Keep their food and water inside the setup.
     
  9. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Good looking 'chick safe'....nice adaptability.
    Agrees bricks under edges could work well.

    So how's it going @lutherpug ??
     
  10. lutherpug

    lutherpug Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Well.......

    They're back in the basement for now as I try to solve some problems that have come up.

    1. I'm having issues with my setup. It is pretty difficult to move my little PVC enclosure back and forth from the coop to the run along with the heat plate. It isn't a small ordeal. They still use the heat plate to warm up at least every hour with the temps being low, especially my scissor beak runt (more on her in a sec) who is much smaller than the other 3 chicks. If I have them set up in the coop with access out of their "safe room", they can easily get into the run where they have no protection and I don't know if they're smart enough to get back to safety when things get real with the hens.

    2. The only water option that I reasonably had was the cookie tin warmer thing that I'm sure you're familiar with. I have to have something heated as the water was freezing several times a day. I had all kinds of issues with the tin warmer/waterer that reliably created a huge wet mess in the coop several times a day. I tried a couple of different things to no avail. Right now this is my biggest issue, I cannot figure out a way to provide water in the limited space that they have that won't freeze.

    3. Before I brought them back in the house we were still in "see but don't touch" mode. My scissor beak Ameraucana, Dixie, is the sweetest little thing ever but she is much small than the other 3 chicks. I had her in my hand out in the run trying to mess with their food and my adult Dominique came up and pecked her little face. HARD. Dixie let out a blood curdling cry and I was certain she'd lost an eye. She was fine but it scared the hell out of me. My gut feeling is that the other 3 are far better equipped to deal with the other hens due to their size and general demeanor but I'm pretty concerned about Dixie. She's a little bit of a loner with the other chicks and seems far more interested in the company of humans. She runs to my husband and I whenever she can to immediately jump in our hands to get petted. I'd hate to see anything happen to her and I'm concerned as the hens will certainly come after her and the chicks don't seem to be her best buddies either. [​IMG]

    That said, I still want them all out of the house! Am I inviting a bunch of problems if I set them up full time in the run? I believe I have a way to realistically do that, solve the water problem, and give them more space than they'd have otherwise-either in the coop or in my basement. My most pressing concern is protection from the wind as the run is enclosed in hardware cloth....

    Who knew the weather would be the least of my concerns with winter chicks??? [​IMG]
     

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