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When to get chicks? (Michigan)

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Darguth, Jan 20, 2015.

  1. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 13, 2014
    Hi everyone!

    I'm new, so if this is the wrong forum, please bear with me :)

    Anyway, my wife and I just bought our first home. It's located on just under 4 acres of (mostly) cleared land. Our plan is to turn it into a proper homestead and--unsurprisingly--chickens are one of the first projects we want to tackle.

    Our long-term plan is to have 1 full acre of combined pasture and garden land, subdivided into 8 plots. We'll then try to get a crop rotation going, rotating each year. The chickens (and eventually dairy goats, but that's a project for another year) will range over 1/2 acre of pastured plots, rotating them on a periodic basis so that they don't over-graze/forage the plots before moving on. We're city kids so this is all new to us, so we plan to start small, learn, and grow as we can.

    Anyway, because of this I'm hoping to build a mobile chicken tractor (like this one) over the winter in our garage so that it will be ready to go in the spring (and be one less thing to do, come spring!)

    Long story short (too late?) my question is when should I plan on ordering chicks from a hatchery or from a local farmer (still not sure where we're going to get them yet) so that they are of the proper size and age to venture forth as early as possible? We live in mid-Michigan so our winters can be rather cold and sometimes unpredictable. I don't want to keep the pullets in the house longer than necessary, but I also want to give them the best chance to thrive.

    Basically I want to move backwards:
    1.) When is the earliest I could safely move them outside?
    2.) How long do I need to raise them indoors before then?
    3.) How long in advance do I need to order chicks before they'd arrive?

    Thanks everyone!
     
  2. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Do you have any outbuildings or garage with power? If you do, I'd be looking at getting some sooner than later IF you can source them locally. Most hatcheries are running full blast in another month while some already have chicks in process. Some hatcheries are already sold out of some breeds in the more popular time slots (Easter) so order now if you want May or June chicks. If you buy now, they will be fine in a brooder until the beginning of April. You won't see eggs before July but you will reap the benefit of bug patrol all spring before that. Getting in front of the bugs makes for a more enjoyable summer and bountiful garden.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  3. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 13, 2014
    We have a 2-car attached garage with power, but it is unheated. We have 3 small outbuildings, a small shed and two chicken coops (not mobile) from a prior owner. The old coops are in relatively poor repair though and I wouldn't use them for chicks. Also, the shed is full of...well...stuff that you put in sheds :)

    My plan was to keep them in one our unused bedrooms while in the brooder. That way they can be heated and if things get a little dirty or messy it's not the end of the world because the room is currently unused (for future kiddos). We can also keep the door closed to keep out our dogs, who are bound to be curious, when unsupervised :)

    How late into April should they stay in the brooder?
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    As Percheron said, if you have an outbuilding with power, they never need to be inside. My brooder is in the coop. As soon as they come out of the incubator they go in the brooder, even if the outside temperature is below freezing. What chicks need is food, water, protection from predators, protection from the environment, and a warm place to go to so they can warm up if they need to. In warmer weather they may need a cooler place to go to so they can get away from the heat. The brooder also needs to be dry.

    Once they feather out chicks can handle some really cold temperatures. I’ve had 5-week-olds go through nights in the mid 40’s. I’ve had some 5-1/2week olds go through nights in the mid 20’s. I don’t know how cold they could have gone through.

    When do chicks feather out? Good question and like most questions with chickens, it varies. If you feed them a high protein diet, like Chick Starter, they will feather out faster than chicks fed Grower from hatch. If you give them a lot of low-protein treats, you can slow them feathering out some. Most chicks are fully feathered at 4 to 5 weeks, but there can be some exceptions.

    I think it really helps to acclimate the chicks to colder temperatures. Like most animals their coats ore going to adjust to the climate. If they are exposed to cooler temperatures they will feather out faster than if they are raised in tropical temperatures exclusively. The way my brooder is set up, I heat one end and keep it plenty warm. The food and water goes close to that end. The far end will cool off a lot. On some mornings I see frost on that end. The chicks don’t venture far on those mornings but later in the day they might venture down there. The key is that they have an area that is warm enough to go to if they need to. That means wrapping it so the heat is trapped down there, yet they have a cooler area to go to if they need to cool off.

    I don’t worry about keeping the entire brooder a perfect temperature. There is no such thing as a perfect temperature anyway. Just like different people, different chicks are comfortable at different temperatures. By keeping one end warm and the far end cool, they can each find their own comfort zone. What normally happens is that they play all over the brooder anyway.

    Part of it too is that they need to stay out of a direct breeze. Your brooder or coop needs to give them an area where they can get out of a breeze. Make sure the wind does not whistle through on a windy day, at least on their level. Higher up is not as important as long as one end keeps the heat in.

    I don’t keep them in tropical conditions so I can’t give you any advice from experience for that. I’d be a bit cautious in taking them from the tropics to the arctic until they are a bit older.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The garage would be perfect. It does not need to be heated. The heat lamp will provide all the supplemental heat they need. You can test this out. Get your brooder box (old stock tank, shipping crate even a cardboard box) place your heat source about 15 inches from the ground (if it's a light), Throw a thermometer underneath the light. Check the temp. It needs to be in the 90-95* range to start. Adjust the lamp up or down to get the correct temp. You can throw a piece of wood over the top (leave a gap for fresh air) if you are having trouble maintaining the temp. You need some type of cover to keep them from flying out and the dog/cat getting to them. If it's an extra large brooder, restrict how much they have access to in the beginning and enlarge it as they grow.

    By April 1, they would be 8-10 weeks old and should be able to withstand normal nighttime temps out in the coop without supplemental heat. I give my chicks an enclosed insulated wooden box inside the coop (about 2x3) that is deeply bedded (they will sleep on the ground in a puppy pile). They will generate all the heat they need. Keep in mind that 10 chicks in this setup will be warmer and happier than 4.
     
  6. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    X2 - doing a test run is a great way to identify and fix any kinks in your plan before your peepers are there.
     
  7. hutchchicks

    hutchchicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Dec 7, 2014
    Michigan
    I will be bringing home my first flick at the end of March. I was planning on keeping them in a brooder that I am making out of a dog kennel. I am too nervous with these severe temps to keep them in the garage. Plus I like a clean car no snow;)
     
  8. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 13, 2014
    Just as an update, our 12 baby chicks arrived on Tuesday. They're setup in a large plastic tub that's being used as their brooder in an unused bedroom so far and seem perfectly content. I'm thinking I'll likely have to separate them into a 2nd tub after maybe the 3rd or 4th week as they get bigger, but we'll see.

    We ordered 3 each of Plymouth Barred Rocks, Isa Browns, Buff Orpingtons, and Golden Laced Wyandottes to have a nice mixed flock. The hatchery made a mistake int he order and only sent two Wyandottes, so we got a Light Brahma as a replacement.

    We have 1 case of crook neck (a Barred Rock), but she's still eating and drinking on her own and seems relatively active (not as active as the others, she sleeps a lot but she's not completely lethargic) so we're kind of hoping it will work itself out.

    The coop is almost done, definitely will have it completed before they're old enough to go out in it. Now the question is will the ground by thawed in time for us to put in fencing for them when they move into the coop? If not, they might have to stay in the coop in the garage until we can.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  9. hutchchicks

    hutchchicks Out Of The Brooder

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    Funny I am in the same boat. My coop is almost completed in my pole barn and man I hope the ground thaws in time. Got to love michigan weather!
     
  10. Darguth

    Darguth Out Of The Brooder

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    On top of it all, we also have 8 fruit trees ordered that will need to be put in the ground. And a 1/8th acre garden to start.

    It's going to be a very busy spring indeed.
     

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