Using a Coop as a Brooder (in Alaska)

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Arctic Feat, Nov 6, 2012.

  1. Arctic Feat

    Arctic Feat New Egg

    5
    0
    9
    Nov 6, 2012
    I live in Alaska and recently built a small coop for 3-4 hens. I don't have chickens yet and am debating if I should start with chicks or pullets. I'd like to start with chicks, but I don't have a garage so I've been assuming I would have to raise them in the house (which I'm not excited about, although the dogs would probably love it). But, then I read a thread that suggested chicks can be raised directly in their coop (or a section there of) if there is enough supplemental heat, and no drafts or dampness. I think raising them in their home from the beginning would be nice; however, I'd love to hear suggestions and opinions from "veteran" cold-climate chicken-raisers before making any decisions. My coop is 2'x6' so it's no very large.
    Here are my main questions:
    • It's likely I would have to keep the heat lamp on 24 hours a day to counteract the cold outdoor temperatures (+30 to -10). Would 24 hours of light negatively affect the chicks development?
    • The coop has two doors, so I should be able to access the chicks from the upper door to minimize the drafts/heat loss to the lower portion of the coop where they would live. Do you think that will be enough to keep their temperature steady? How many times a day do they need to be checked?
    • The coop is insulated with straw in the walls and has straw and other yard debris (leaves and grass clippings) on the floor. Will thick straw be hard for small chicks to navigate? Is there an additional medium I should add that would be better for chicks?
    • It might be hard to find birds of the same age in Alaska (without ordering through a hatchery). I've read that it's not good to mix birds of different ages and from different locations because it may raise the incidence of disease and confuse the pecking order. However, I've also read about birds being re-homed and introduced into new flocks. Any thoughts and experiences on this topic?
    I guess these are my main questions right now. I swear this isn't a shameless plug, but I wrote about my coop building experiences so if you'd like to see some detailed photos of the coop before advising me you can see them here www.arcticfeat.com. Thank you ahead of time for any insight and suggestions!
    Mo
    [​IMG]

     
  2. Scottyhorse

    Scottyhorse Chillin' With My Peeps

    223
    1
    83
    Oct 26, 2012
    Eastern Wa

    Hi! I hope my tips can help you! I'll try to answer your questions in order [​IMG]

    1. During the day, you can use a regular white light that keeps it at about 95 degrees. At night, you can use a red light to keep it at 95 degrees also. That way they can still have the heat, but not the bright light [​IMG]

    2. Personally, I try to check on them as often as you can. Just to make sure they have food, water, and are all healthy.

    3. In my brooding box, I have straw, and the day old silkie cross chicks didn't have any trouble walking on it. It is now day 4 or 5 and they are running all over! But, using paper towels or just a regular old towel is best for them because it is flat, but has lots of traction so it helps prevent Spraddle Leg. It is also easy to clean, I HATE cleaning straw. [​IMG]

    4. If I were you, I would make 20 posts on here, and then buy some chicks from a person on here. That way, they will all be the same age, healthy, and not from a hatchery. You will also be getting nice birds for the same price at the hatchery! [​IMG]

    Breeds I would suggest are: Orpingtons, Marans, Cochins, Wyandottes, Gold Stars, Ameracaunas, any chicken that is very fluffy and has a small comb. Silkies are not good for this.


    [​IMG] [​IMG] Please PM me if you need any help!!
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

    20,128
    3,326
    496
    Feb 2, 2009
    Northwest Arkansas
    I’m not a real cold weather climate person, but I feel confident answering this. I raise chicks in my 3' x 5' brooder in my coop all the time. I’m assuming your temperatures are in Fahrenheit and not Celsius.

    •It's likely I would have to keep the heat lamp on 24 hours a day to counteract the cold outdoor temperatures (+30 to -10). Would 24 hours of light negatively affect the chicks development?

    You will need to keep the heat on 24 hours a day until they feather out. Most chicks are fully feathered at 5 weeks but you need to acclimate them. What I suggest is to not worry about keeping the entire coop really warm. Treat your heat source like it is a broody hen. Give them one small area where they can go to warm up and let the rest cool off. Many people will be surprised at how much time young chicks spend in the colder parts of a brooder if given a choice.

    The light on 24 hours a day won’t hurt them but a red light is more soothing.

    You might consider a hover. I think EcoGlow makes one. This is basically an inverted box that they can get under and the heat is trapped in the box. It sounds like a great solution for your situation.

    •The coop has two doors, so I should be able to access the chicks from the upper door to minimize the drafts/heat loss to the lower portion of the coop where they would live. Do you think that will be enough to keep their temperature steady? How many times a day do they need to be checked?

    Hot air rises. If you open the top door, more warm air will escape. But you need decent ventilation up high anyway. Their poop will create ammonia. They have a delicate respiratory system. Ammonia is lighter than air. You need an opening up high for that ammonia to escape.

    •The coop is insulated with straw in the walls and has straw and other yard debris (leaves and grass clippings) on the floor. Will thick straw be hard for small chicks to navigate? Is there an additional medium I should add that would be better for chicks?

    The chicks should be fine in that. They can snuggle down and keep warm in it.

    •It might be hard to find birds of the same age in Alaska (without ordering through a hatchery). I've read that it's not good to mix birds of different ages and from different locations because it may raise the incidence of disease and confuse the pecking order. However, I've also read about birds being re-homed and introduced into new flocks. Any thoughts and experiences on this topic?

    We could write books on these questions. There is a big difference in what can happen and what actually does happen each and every time. If you mix chickens, there will be changes in the pecking order. Sometimes this is violent but often it is no big deal. It’s called pecking order because pecking is usually involved, but a peck is usually not that dangerous.

    When you mix any animals from different sources you have the chance you will bring in a disease, dogs, cows, horses, chickens, whatever. Some diseases are a lot more serious than others. People mix chickens all the time, with and without quarantine, and they are not always the same age or size. Sometimes bad things do happen. Sometimes, not always and even if it does, it’s not always serious.

    It may be difficult to find chicks or chickens where you are. I suggest you go to the Where am I? Where are you? section of this forum and look for your state thread. You might find someone close by that can help you get chickens and maybe even close enough so you can see how they are set up.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Arctic Feat

    Arctic Feat New Egg

    5
    0
    9
    Nov 6, 2012
    Thanks to the both of you for such detailed feedback! A lot of people have suggested I get chicks through users on this site, which is a great option and I'll definitely give it a shot. I'm going to have to look up spraddle leg, so thanks for the tip there. Also, I'm really intrigued by the chicken hover idea...something that has good ventilation and allows them to move around while still having a warm spot to retreat to sounds perfect.
    Again, thanks so much for sharing your insights!
     
  5. Scottyhorse

    Scottyhorse Chillin' With My Peeps

    223
    1
    83
    Oct 26, 2012
    Eastern Wa
    You're welcome!! Like I said, if you have any questions, just ask! :)
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by