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introducing chicks to coop when it's getting cold

Robyn Morton

Joined: Jun 09, 2010
Posts: 12
Location: Indiana
Hi all!

I hope I'm not duplicating a previous discussion--I did check the past forums first, promise!

I have 8 chicks that will be 4 weeks old tomorrow (*sniff*), and I'm trying to think through the logistics of getting them out into their coop without killing them with the cold.  I know, it was probably just stupid and irresponsible for me to have gotten chicks so late in the season, but something snapped in me, and I just couldn't NOT get them, ya know?

Anyway, here are the details of my situation:

I have a fully-enclosed coop & run set on the ground.  The coop itself is raised 3 ft. off the ground, has closeable windows and two ventilation openings in the top that can be closed as well.  The coop is not insulated, nor does it currently have any heating.  I would like to avoid using heat if possible, but I'm prepared to use a heat lamp out there if necessary, especially if a transition period becomes necessary.

I have two speckled sussexes, three buff orpingtons, and three rhode island reds.  All of these breeds are rated as hardy for winter.  All of the chicks are either fully, or nearly fully, feathered now.

The chicks brooders are now down to 75*-80*F during the day; I need to get a better idea of how cool it gets at night, though. 

The room the brooders are in can easily go down in temperature--they're actually in the cold-porch on the side of our house.  It's the heat lamps that have been keeping the room sauna-like lately.  I can open windows and such to bring the room in line with outside temperatures.

I live in Indiana, zone 5b.  Forecast for my area for the upcoming week has highs in the mid-70's, and lows in the mid-40's, with a couple of days dropping down to high 30's.  The daytime temps don't phase me at all--the chicks will be totally fine with those temps.  It's the nights that worry me most.

Thank you for reading!  Anyone have any experience here?  Suggestions?  Thoughts?  Chiding for getting chicks so late in the season?  All input is appreciated (except maybe from the last point, although I'm sure I deserve it).  On the plus side, if I can pull this off, the chicks should start laying right at the beginning of spring, which would rock....

It's not waste until it's wasted.
Jami McBride

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
You didn't say if there are any other birds using the house or not, so I will assume not.  Nor did you say how big it is....  but it does sound like your coop has a bottom.

I will make the following suggestions based on what I understand of your set up -

1.  Get bales of hay and fill in that area under the coop, and maybe even stack around it on 2 or 3 sides.  Cover the bales with a tarp to help them last until your ready to compost 'em in the spring.  There's your insulation.  Close the vents and windows, except for on warm days.

2.  Now put deep litter inside, leaves would be best as they won't off gas like cedar chips, which is not good for birds.  Deep litter is nice for the birds to scratch in and keep their droppings covered and themselves entertained.

3.  Install a light close to the floor, about 10" - 12" up and in a corner.  The birds will come closer or move away to regulate their need for heat.  Put the light on a timer so it comes on when things cool off and stays on until the area warms up again the next day.  Check the light, timer and wiring often to make sure all operates safely as you intend it to.

4.  Have inside water for them that won't freeze.

Harden the chicks off a little in their current location, and then when the weather is cooperating for a couple of days move them to the coop.  They will be fine.  You may need to raise the light in a few months when they have grown.


Joined: Nov 16, 2010
Posts: 9
All 3 are very hardy birds, so that's a great start!  All I can add to the great advice Jami gave you is to watch them, you will be able to tell if they are too cold if they are all huddled up & sluggish.  I remember the first winter I put my first batch of chicks out in the coop, & going out at midnight in the snow w/ a flashlight & some treats to check on them. They would all run up & snuggle on our laps, was so hard to leave them out in the coop!
We used to cook up some "leftover stew" for our chicks, (once they were older & fully feathered,as long as they had access to plenty of grit)  consisting of exactly that, any leftover veggies & bread, & throw in a little  oatmeal,cayenne pepper,  an extra egg or 3 from our hens,etc.,  and mix it  up in a pot on the stove, so they'd go to bed w/ warm tummies. Just make sure to keep the bedding dry, the deep litter is great, but only if you are able to keep it dry.

Would LOVE to see pics, we recently  moved & no longer have poultry. I miss them so!
Wyatt Smith

Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6
This thread started 4 weeks ago.  How are the chicks?

Did the chicks survive? 
Robyn Morton

Joined: Jun 09, 2010
Posts: 12
Location: Indiana
Mangudai wrote:
This thread started 4 weeks ago.  How are the chicks?

Did the chicks survive? 

So far, so good!  All of them are doing very well.  I wasn't able to put bales under the coop, but I'm doing deep litter (which, yes, they are certainly enjoying), and I've got a heat lamp installed in the coop which is on a timer.  I don't really have room to "raise" the lamp, but I've been moving back how early the lamp kicks on progressively, and it now comes on at 11pm.  Pretty soon I hope to have it off entirely. 

I've probably been overly-paranoid about the whole thing, too.  The other morning it was 25*F outside in the morning, and even though the heat lamp was still on in the coop, the birds were all outside on the ground, just having a good ole time.  I think they're in good shape! 

Thanks to everyone for their advice, and for having this wonderful forum!
Wyatt Smith

Joined: Feb 19, 2010
Posts: 111
Location: Midwest zone 6

I would not have believed it would work if I had not seen it.

A friend of mine has 6 week old Cornish X on pasture in Illinois right now.  Temperatures this week have been as low as 5 F ( -15 C), and stayed below freezing four days in a row.  The birds are standing on the ground with only partial protection from wind.  No heat lamp.  Most of the birds have incomplete feather coverage.  Its pretty amazing they can survive. 
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