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Brooding 4 week old chicks

 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Hello Permies,

I live in S.E. Mi and Tractor Supply has older chicks (4 weeks they say) on sale for $1 each. I guess people like to buy the cute little fluffy ones. But I want to get them up to egg laying so I consider it a head start. My question is about brooding them as they are somewhat older, but not feathered out yet. I've read about the insulated boxes that some use without a heat lamp, but I'm not sure how quickly I could convert the chicks that have spent their whole life under a heat lamp. I would like to keep these chicks in an outside structure, but it is still getting down into the high 30s or low 40s at night. If I build a wind-proof structure maybe 3'x5' with a heat lamp at one end would that work? I'm thinking about 20-30 birds (ISA Browns). Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Jerry
 
Jay Green
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Yes, it would work and even for much younger birds. Here's one such outside brooder that was used in similar temps...30s-40s daytime, 20s-30s at night with high winds and wet weather.

This had a thick layer of cardboard under the bedding to keep the chicks off the wet ground and insulate from the cold. The top was topped with plywood and opened and closed according to the temps and ventilation needs.






You can slowly wean them off the heat lamp and it will encourage a quicker feathering and harden them off to the outside temps. The chicks in this brooder were taken out of the protection of the topper at 2 wks and taken completely off the heat lamp by 3 wks(in this pic), no matter the weather. But they still did like to huddle under and around their Mister Mom, broody rooster. This brooder was opened up into the larger coop at that time by removing the top and one whole side of hay bales.


 
Jerry Ward
Posts: 188
Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Are those chicks drinking from nipples?
 
Jay Green
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Yep! Didn't have to be taught how to do so...the nipples are red and if one pecks at them and gets a drop of water, the others see it and follow suit. I found it much, much harder to train an older bird to the nipples and still haven't succeeded but the chicks took to it like they were born to it.

Here's a closer look at them using it....




Here's a pic of the same big doofuses drinking from the same container later on, even though they had a big 5 gal. bucket with nipples right next door in the coop.

They grew fond of this one because it was the first one they had ever used, so they still crowded into it like big ol' babies:

 
Jerry Ward
Posts: 188
Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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These chicks currently are in 70 degree room with a heat lamp so I assume I would have to gradually convert them over to un-heated space?

I can understand having the insulated area to huddle in for warmth, but I'm struggling with the area outside of this. Does it need a heat lamp just to raise the temp some? Should the food and water be in the insulated area or just outside it? These chicks have lost their baby down but don't have a lot of their "regular" feathers yet. It looks to me like they would easily get cold, but maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about and I should just give it a try and see what happens.

As you can tell I have no experience at this so thanks for your paitence
 
Jerry Ward
Posts: 188
Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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This also looks interesting - http://www.plamondon.com/pasture_hover.html

Using aluminized bubble insulation to make an insulated area to gather for warmth.
 
Jay Green
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You don't need to raise the ambient temps in the general coop area, only provide heat in one area that is sufficient for their needs and then insulate against drafts that will steal the heat but don't seal it off so that it doesn't get good airflow. Think about broody hens, if you've ever seen one in action. Even in extremely cold weather the chicks do not huddle under her at all times...they move around, eat, drink, explore...then come back to mama to get warmed up. All that time, she is moving around also but when chicks start coming back to her she will squat and expand to cover them. At the age your chicks are, they don't huddle under mama anymore but will sleep huddled against her and each other.

Your heat lamp works much like that and you will be able to tell if you have their space warm enough by how often they venture out of the warmth of the lamp light. If they are huddled under the lamp all the time, decrease the total area to be heated or lower the lamp a little. If they are avoiding the space under the lamp, give them more space in the brooder or lift the light a little.

If feeding moist feeds, place the feed where the lamp can keep it warm but not bake the top of it. If feeding dry feeds, most will put those just outside the hot spot in the brooder. Same with the water. You don't want feed spillage or moisture in the bedding where they will be bedding down to sleep.

Your chicks may look like they don't have good insulation but you'd be surprised how hardy they are at that age, even with half their feathering grown in.
 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Therein lies the crux of my problem, I've never seen a broody hen so I'm trying to guess what I need to do to substitute for one. I'll give it a try and report my results.

Jay Green wrote:Think about broody hens, if you've ever seen one in action
 
Jay Green
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It's fun learning about animal husbandry, isn't it? I'm old at it but it never grows old to me and I never stop learning. If you stop learning, therein lies the danger and problems ensue.
 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Well this is what I build. 3 bales of straw with a board on top. I lined the inside of this area with the reflective aluminium bubble stuff. The chicks did just fine over night. The flaps are normally down.

 
Jay Green
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Very cute! I'll have to keep the bubble reflective stuff in mind for if I have to brood chicks without electricity one day and need the extra warmth. Are you thinking about using nipple waterers with your chicks? They are very cheap and easy to install in a bucket and makes this chick thing soooooo much more clean and dry.
 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Yeah I have the nipples in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket for the adult birds. I will be doing it for the chicks as well. The problem I have is that I have 3 chicks that are a few days old (my son wanted them) and the rest are a few weeks old. That makes a big height difference the two age groups.
 
John Polk
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A few days old vs. a few weeks old adds another dimension:
The younger chix will be @ the lowest possible position for the older chix who are establishing 'pecking order'.
They will either be pecked into submission - or death.

Personally, I would keep them apart.

 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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It may not have been the smartest thing I've ever done, but we standing there in Tractor Supply with my son taking an interest in livestock so.... We are watching them closely and so far the older ones are ignoring the 3 little ones.
 
Jerry Ward
Posts: 188
Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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I did a write-up on my blog last night about it, including a "Chicken Report" video that my 14 year old son did.

My 10 Acres Chicken Report
 
Tiffany Rich
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We have just gone off grid. We live in mid Michigan. We live on a small, self sustaining farm. I picked up some later chicks, day old. We of course normally brood them with a heat lamp,but not this time. A of nite they are cozy huddled to a hot brick and a half gallon jar of hot water, and covered with a light towel. So far so good. But i am interested in your water. You say miles in bottom. Wondering if you can show photos of it? Tomorrow my plan is to attempt a micro sized radient heater forfor them.weheat with wood and always have hot coals. Thinking of way to heat water to radiate the heat out. Tho the system I'm using now works, it only lasts about 6 hrs. Not bad, but may add well strive for longer.

 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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So far the radiant foil insulation has worked well for me and these chicks are outside in S.E. MI with no supplemental heat. I believe the reasons for my success (so far) are:

1. The number of chicks - 27
2. There are no drafts in the area they sleep
3. The age of the chicks - 3-4 weeks
4. The radiant foil does a very good job of reflecting the heat back

Keep in mind I now have now been brooding chicks for a grand total of 5 days, so my experience is what you would call limited. However I read a lot on the internet so I must be an expert now right
 
Tiffany Rich
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Jerry..im actally more interested in your waterer. You say you used m
Nipples,but cant see on the bucket. Could you explain what they are?
Where abouts in se michigan are you? We are up by lansing. Se abould get together and share ideas. Tho we are new to this we may not have allot to bring to the table
 
Jerry Ward
Posts: 188
Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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I also have adult birds and they are using a 5 gallon bucket with the nipples in the bottom and I have a birdbath deicer in it to keep it from freezing. This weekend I plan on putting a water nipple system for the chicks.

You can see a short video about it at YouTube

Tiffany I'm in Ypsilanti so I'm maybe an hour away from you.
 
Jay Green
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Jerry Ward wrote:Yeah I have the nipples in the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket for the adult birds. I will be doing it for the chicks as well. The problem I have is that I have 3 chicks that are a few days old (my son wanted them) and the rest are a few weeks old. That makes a big height difference the two age groups.


That's an easy one, Jerry...just provide a brick or something similar for the younger birds to hop up onto so as to access the nipple that is set high enough for the tallest chicks.

I will be using the same nipple waterer for two sets of birds soon, as I will be receiving some chicks from a breeder in the mail soon. I left the red chick nipples in the bottom but will be using a nipple out the side of the bucket for the older birds. They will all be in the same coop system but the chicks will be in an enclosure for awhile that will be sharing the same watering bucket as the older birds. The nipple I got for the older birds is this one and is pretty cheap at $1.70 per...the lever is soft and easy to trigger, while the cup holds the drink...I'm hoping this will teach my old birds a new trick:

 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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Well I've had the chicks for about 10 days and all is going well so my plan appears to be a good one, or at least good enough.
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Interesting info. We got tired of trying to keep buckets or waterers clean, so we got 3 of those nipple things from avianaquamiser. they weren't cheap, but they are effective. Our hens didn't have any trouble figuring out how to get the water.

I really like that straw and foil brooder arrangement. I used just a cardboard box in my small greenhouse last year to raise a batch of chicks (I do have electricity here so used a brooder lamp), and that worked ok. When we lived in Northern Maine 30 years ago we were off grid, so we kept the box of chicks inside by our woodstove until they got big enough to put out in the small barn we built.

When we lived in southern utah, we brooded our chicks in our cabin, and hung blankets around the brooder boxes, and used jars of hot water to keep them warm at night. When they were a little bigger, we set up a chicken tractor for day time, with hay bales to make a shelter at one end for the chicks to be in at night.

 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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At what age can I let the chicks out with the hens? Due to a strange series of events I have a mixed age flock of hens (3, 2 & 1 year olds) and at some point I want to let the new chicks out into the larger paddock that the hens are in. How should I go about doing this? Provide a "safe" hiding space the chicks can get into but the hens cannot? Introduce all the chicks at once or only a few at a time?

Thanks,
Jerry
 
John Polk
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A safe hiding place seems to work.

A couple sheets of corrugated roofing set on concrete blocks gives 'em a place to run to.

Another way is to divide the paddock with a temporary poultry wire fence. Old girls on one side, chicks on the other. After a few days, they are used to seeing each other. Remove the temp fence one night while they are sleeping. The next day, they will probably not even notice it is gone. They will go out to their usual area. As time passes, they will wander into each others areas with minimal disturbances. Eventually, it will become one happy family.

They will still need to go through the 'initiation rites' of pecking order, but it won't be as brutal as "Oh! My god, we're being invaded - kill the intruders!"



































 
Guarren cito
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Location: Zone 4A
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Jerry - what kind of bird bath heater did you buy? I'm looking at this one: http://www.amazon.com/9000-Eliminator-BirdBath-50-Watt-De-Icer/dp/B0006U2FJ8/ref=sr_1_1?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1367021898&sr=1-1&keywords=bird+bath+heater

Jay - does that waterer freeze on you at all? I live in zone 4b. I'm also looking at the nipple waterers but that one is a lot cheaper!

Has anyone else had experience with either question?

Thanks in advance!

Guarren
 
Jerry Ward
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Location: S.E. Michigan - Zone 6a
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The one I got was K&H 9000 Ice Eliminator BirdBath 50-Watt De-Icer and it has worked great.

I got a 10 pack of nipples for something like $16
Threaded Style Oasis Poultry Water Nipples, 10 Pack
 
Jay Green
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I use the same nipple style for chicks and the current chicks in the brooder are now using them well, but it took them longer to learn to use them than the CX chicks took. I can't say how much of a blessing these nipples are in regards to cleanliness of the water and keeping the brooder dry.

I'm hoping these young ones will teach my very old flock to use the nipples because the oldsters can't seem to learn to use either style I have. They just access the dog's water instead of attempting to use the bucket nipples.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Jerry Ward wrote:This also looks interesting - http://www.plamondon.com/pasture_hover.html

Using aluminized bubble insulation to make an insulated area to gather for warmth.


That looks almost exactly like what we've used for decades. Works great and is inexpensive. The hovers last for several years but eventually get too pecked and then are cheap to replace. We use a square of rebar to make the top frame. In the coldest part of winter a light put in the middle gives added heat if one is foolish enough, like I sometimes am, to brood in -25°F weather.
 
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