You Don't Know what You Don't Know

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by ruth, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. ruth

    ruth Life is a Journey

    Jul 8, 2007
    Woodville, MS
    As a new chicken mama, I'm amazed at the posts I'm reading about how long everyone seems to be keeping baby chicks in brooders, especially now that it's 1000 degrees outside and then locked up like Fort Knox for the rest of their lives - and how nervous people are and how protective they are because they love their chicks so much. Guess it's good I didn't know what I didn't know. I'd read numeous books on chickens (before I found this site) and most said they could be moved outside as soon as it was warm and I figured in the "ole days" when real mama hens laid and hatched their eggs, they had their babies out running around the farm the next day - in some areas it was still "winter time". So, I put my week old baby chicks out in a pen on back deck during day and brought them in at night because it was April and temps still dropped to very cold. By two weeks, I was leaving them out all night but covering the pen and putting lamp in with them. It was hysterical to watch them all night long chase the bugs and moths that got in pen drawn toward light. The baby chicks were only 2 weeks old and had their own game of chase and catch going on all night. Of course, next day they would sleep a lot - spread out in the sun - since they had been up all night. By 4 weeks they were free ranging and only placed in a larger pen at night because I had gotten another batch of three-day old chicks. They started staying outside from day one since it was now May and warm every day - they too had a light on the cool nights and played the same catch games. My point is: I guess if they are supposed to be in a brooder for 8 weeks (1) either I got really lucky or (2) it's not necessary. Guess what I didn't know didn't hurt me or them. They feathered really fast and grew quickly. Today they are still free-ranging and loving every minute of it. You can see them on my chicken page - there's pics of them outside at 2 weeks old and they lived to tell the tale. I'm not saying anyone else is doing anything wrong, so please don't slam me - there's been enough of that going on in recent posts. I'm just saying that I think about the way it is done in nature and try to raise my chicks as close to that as possible. Hope to be encouraging to those who are posting and asking "when can they go outside" - answer "right now" - their mama hen, if they had been left with her, would have them out the day they were born. I truly believe it is healthier for them than being cooped up in a heated box all day walking around on their own droppings.

    I know, I know, let the slam dunk begin.
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    I agree! Mine were in a brooder, but I moved them to the coop at two weeks old with the last batch. After watching my broody hen take her three day old chicks outside in 60 degree weather and they were just fine, I thought about that very thing. Of course, they could scream if they got cold and mama would let them get underneath her. If a mere human is controlling their temps, they are at the mercy of the heatlamp and how their human mom is operating it. So, that would be why little chicks could go outside at a much younger age with their moms, if you get what I'm saying.
  3. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    I find most chicken raising rules as just guides. Shoot, never used a 250W heat lamp and I've shut the heat off on birds two weeks old when it was 75 deg. What does the rules say? 90 deg at that time! I just watch how they act and play it by ear. I kick them out early and let my 3 week old silkies with no mom free range with my older flock and they are fine! When I graduate my pullets to the hen camp, I just pick a night and toss them in to figure it out in the morning. Takes a few weeks but they end up just fine. Yet, you do have to play it by ear on how they are doing and if they aren't happy, put them back. I don't think anyone really follows the rules. What works works and that's great!

    I even have my 8.5 lb roo out there free ranging with my hand raised silkie babies that are only like 4-6 ounces! Maybe I'm lucky too but they are fine!
  4. Chickenlover88

    Chickenlover88 Songster

    May 10, 2007
    Dallas, Georgia
    Mine usually go outside permanently at the age of 2-3 weeks. It is very hot here and they do fine.
  5. ruth

    ruth Life is a Journey

    Jul 8, 2007
    Woodville, MS
    Hi Silkie - yeah, I never used a 250 watt bulb either - knew I would have baked chicken by morning if I did. I watched my baby chicks at all times. I nearly baked them to death just by putting their cardboard box out on the deck in a nice shady/sunny spot. Well the clouds shifted and the sun came out and when I check on them again about 10 minutes later they were nearly baked alive - just from the sunshine. Laying on bottom of box - looking really bad. That box had heated up like you wouldn't believe. I quickly put them in the shade, sprinkled cold water on them and began fanning them. That's how I knew it was time for them to go in their pen - it had much better ventilation. Never had a problem after that but the whole week I had them in big cardboard box they were either huddled up (too cold) or panting (too hot) - guess that's why a brooder is so great if you can regulate the temp but yeah, the books said 95 degrees and I thought what about those born and raised by their mothers. Sure a mama hen can huddle her newly born/hatched chicks under her wings but you don't usually see one putting her flock of 8 week old ones there.

    I'm just trying to encourage people to lighten up a little and relax - enjoy those chicks and let them be chicks. Mine probably got big so fast because they ate all the live bugs they could catch each night. Really was funny. I put the pen next to our window seat on deck and would just sit and watch the games from inside the house - they would go on ALL night long and I mean ALL night. They aren't as fragile as you might think. I've seen them (for hours) chasing bugs and slamming into walls and each other in the process and never miss a blink. You could just tell they were having the time of their lives - they still do - out freeranging - still playing the same chase and catch games.
  6. Poison Ivy

    Poison Ivy Songster

    May 2, 2007
    Naples, Florida
    I have several outdoor cages that I move mine into. It varies sometimes but most go outside around 2 weeks. I'm thinking of moving my newest one outside this weekend. It's about 9 days old now.
  7. CoyoteMagic

    CoyoteMagic RIP ?-2014

    Mine were in a box in my extra bedroom. No light, no heat other than what was in the house and the 8 of them. They were there from the time they were 1 week old until 4 weeks old then they went outside when it was still getting down to the mid 40's at night. Their coop is a plastic doghouse that had pine shavings in it.

    You've seen my recent posts of my girls. They came thru it ok.
  8. LuckysMom

    LuckysMom Songster

    Jun 14, 2007
    South Carolina
    Are the chicks outside free-ranging by themselves? Or do you have an older rooster and hens with them? I do keep mine locked up like Fort Knox because they are too little to protect themselves from dogs and such. I only let them out when I am right there with them. If it was an established flock with one or more roosters protecting it, maybe I would let them free-range. But I'll probably never let mine free-range unattended again. Not after a dog killed three of my four chicks in my yard while I was right inside the house.
  9. ruth

    ruth Life is a Journey

    Jul 8, 2007
    Woodville, MS
    I'm glad to see all the posts - so far so good. Hoping that some of the newbies who seem scared to death to do "anything wrong" and are seeking guidance will find that they can relax a little. Those chicks don't have to be inside in a brooder box till they lay eggs.

    Really thought I would get slammed on that and told I didn't love my chicks enough - cuz, hey - I let them free-range too and we have every predator know to man in our woods but I truly see how happy it makes them. If I don't open the gate to their run they stand on the other side and stare out as if to say "open, open, open". And when it's opened, man they run, fly, flap, fly, run to their favorite trees, bushes, patch of woods, etc. No fighting or hen pecking while free-ranging.

    And, filed under "you don't know what you don't know" -they aren't as "dumb" as some people would lead you to believe. I never see my chicks anywhere near the open football field in our backyard yelling "here hawky, hawky - try and get me".
  10. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD

    Quote:Really I play my birds by ear on when they go out and it has a great bearing on season. Since they are chicks in the middle of summer I let them all go out with roos and hens and all. Really, you shouldn't do it because the 3 week olders could have been pecked to death, eaten by a ferral cat, killed by a stray dog, taken away by air... but I took the risk and they are still alive.

    They free range with all the older birds... but by no means do the older birds protect them at all. They peck on them till they learn to stay out of the way.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: