When Can Chicks Go Outside?

when can chicks go outsideOne of the top questions I am asked is when can chicks go outside. The need for warmth is key to a growing chick. The growing period is important and making adjustments at the right time is crucial to their future health and well being. The answer really depends on you providing the need for warmth, safety, food and water, where ever you house the brooder.

The first weeks of life you are dealing with rather fragile beings. They require a very warm environment. Even if you have a shed, garage or coop with electric, the heat source will be needed 24/7.  As the chicks grow, you will see them venture away from the heat source more and more. The chick’s downy covering will give way to new feathers. You can start to reduce the heat level gradually. Starting with the brooder near 100 degrees F, gradually reduce the heat by 5 degrees each week.

when can chicks go outside

If the chicks are mostly feathered and the weather is warm enough at night, you can gradually begin to wean them from the heat. This won’t happen for the first few weeks of life, however. Chilling is one of the leading causes of chick death. Once a chick gets chilled, it is hard to bring them back. The first few days are critical in giving your new chicks the best start. 

when can chicks go outside

 

When Can Chicks Go Outside?

As the chicks begin to grow, the mess becomes messier. You may begin to wonder if they will do just as well, outside of the brooder, in the coop. I want to encourage you to wait as long as possible before doing this. Not only can the chicks become chilled and suffer illness from being moved too early, but you set them up to become ill from bacteria and parasites.

Chicks are growing rapidly and need free access to food and water. Moving them to a coop situation where they will come in contact with staph, e-coli, coccidia, and Mareks disease is risky. Chicks need good nutrition, and time to build a strong immune system before being moved outside.

when can chicks go outside

I hedge a little on my answer, because each breed feathers out at a slightly different rate. And each area of the world has different weather patterns.  Sometime between 6 and 10 weeks of age, depending on the weather, the chicks may be able to begin living in the coop. 

Some people are successful with leaving the chicks in the coop and run during the warmer daytime, and bringing them into the garage or home at night. The answer to when can chicks go outside is a variable situation!

This does not mean that the chicks are ready to be integrated with the big chickens. You will want to take that slow and easy, when they are a little bigger.  

when can chicks go outside

When Can Chicks Join the Flock

If you watch a mother hen take care of her babies you will see that she protects them from other flock members. It takes a bold chicken to mess with a mama hen. In the case of chicks raised by humans, we have removed this protective barrier. We must use safe practices to integrate the new young pullets to the flock. Gradual and slow are the terms to keep in mind. 

My usual time line for introducing the new chicks to the flock is around 10 weeks. The chicks must be fully feathered, and on their way to similar size of the chickens they are joining. Adding small bantams to large breed, more aggressive hens is not always going to end well. A sharp hard peck on the head can damage a tiny bantam pullet. In addition, a full size rooster trying to mate with a small bantam pullet can damage or hurt the little one. I have had some bad outcomes from integrating small breeds into large breeds so I don’t recommend it. On the other hand if they are raised together, I  have had no such issues.

when can chicks go outside

When chicks are losing the baby appearance, feather growth has come in, get some sort of enclosure to put them in as they begin to experience the big kids area. I do not recommend just tossing the chicks into the big chicken’s area. Let them both get used to each other through a fence, dog crate, or some other wire enclosure. The chicks will still have their own food and water so they are sure to get plenty to eat and drink. You may need to keep the food and water in the middle of the pen so they big chickens can’t reach in for a snack. 

when can chicks go outside

Fully Integrated Flock

Once the chicks don’t seem to be getting much attention through the fence, from the flock, you can try some short intervals of letting them out.  I try to keep an eye on this and I do rescue anyone who seems to be picked on. Placing some hiding spots around the run.  One year four of our pullets liked to hide out behind the coop door. I have also leaned a piece of plywood against the fence for a lean-to. A fallen tree limb with leaves can provide cover, too.

when can chicks go outside

Is There a Right Answer?

When can chicks go outside and when can chicks join the flock are important points to consider when raising chickens. I think that the answer depends on a lot of factors. Weather, coop set up, and breeds of chickens, are some of the variables involved. What tips would you add about when can chicks go outside? How did you introduce your chicks to your flock? I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments.




Common Kitchen Products for the Barn and Coop

kitchen products for the barnUsing common kitchen products for the barn yard residents can not only save you money, it can also work better than the retail product you paid a lot more to obtain. Let’s face it, we can spend a lot of money on retail products aimed at barnyard animal care. Some of these are dollars well spent. There are also many common kitchen products for the barn and coop that can do the job well. And many times using kitchen products for the barn is a more natural and healing path than the retail product.

 

Olive oil  

Olive oil is a kitchen staple. Most of us are using it in some way or another for cooking. I also keep a bottle in my feed shed for first aid. 

Chickens can benefit from it if they have an impacted crop. Using a small syringe, carefully open the chicken’s beak, or if you are lucky, she will open it for you. Slowly push the syringe so the oil drips into the mouth. Don’t squirt forcefully because you could force some into her lungs by accident.  Massage the crop after the hen swallows the oil. This will help break up the clump so the crop can pass the material through to the gizzard.  

Another use for olive oil happens at the other end of the chicken. Occasionally a hen will strain to pass an egg. It might be an extra large egg or she could be older and not as elastic as she once was. Coating the vent with a thin smear of olive oil can assist her in passing the egg.

kitchen products for the barn

Olive oil is a good way to add calories in an animal that has been undernourished. Do not over do this! Fats should still be the smaller nutritional component of the diet.  We used to add a tablespoon to the older pony’s food to help with their coat. 

For the livestock guardian dog, adding olive oil to the food will aid digestion, add antioxidants, improve taste, and add energy.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is a good source of magnesium.  Soaking in a bath of warm epsom salt and water, relaxes muscles in an egg bound hen.  It is also good for soaking bruised legs or hooves in livestock, horses and pets.  Chickens with bumblefoot abscesses can have a soak in epsom salt and water too. 

Bleeding can be Stopped with Kitchen Products for the Barn

Blood Stop Products

Not many events are quite as scary as blood rushing from an animal’s wound. First you have an injured animal that may not want to be caught for treatment. Then you have the whole, possibly life threatening, blood loss to deal with. All the while trying to hold a towel or bandages on the wound, trying to not get bit or kicked.  Be prepared for this. Animals hurt themselves, each other, and sometimes they hurt you. It’s a part of barn life that shouldn’t happen often, but when it does, you will want to be prepared. Keeping some or all of the following products in a air tight bin in the barn storage room might save a life one day. All of these can act as a blood stopping treatment. Once the blood flow is staunched, you can treat and bandage the wound. 

Corn starch

Vinegar- it works but it might sting a little

Turmeric

Tea bags – moistened 

Sugar

Yarrow herb crushed or chopped fine and placed on the wound will stop blood flow.

kitchen products for the barn

Kitchen Products for the Barn Use in Bloating and more

All ruminants are capable of bloating. Horses and dogs can suffer from bloat too. It’s a painful condition, sometimes caused by intestinal twisting but often caused by food intake, changes in diet, heat, or stress.

Mix baking soda with water. Add a table spoon of vegetable oil. Syringe into the mouth. 

Ann from A Farmgirl in the Making has a recipe for making electrolyte solution from baking soda and molasses

Infections /Wounds/ Internal Parasites

Oregano and other herbs offer natural pest repelling and natural antibiotic action. Many have shown some natural worm inhibitor properties. Herbs can be fed fresh, or dried. Add to food, sprinkle on the ground, in nest boxes, or mix into homemade treats.

Garlic adds many health benefits to your livestock and poultry. Garlic aids the gut in staying healthy and repelling parasites. Use it fresh, or dried in small quantities throughout the year.

Honey is an amazing healing ointment all by itself. The antibacterial action adds to it’s benefits.

Salt water paste- salt and water mixed to a paste

Coconut oil is one of the best treatments for skin irritations. Coconut oil has healing properties and coats and protects abrasions.

Teri Page from Homestead Honey website says “ I keep coconut oil in the barn to rub on chapped tears and udders. If I suspect pre-mastitis, I’ll add essential oils.”

Weakness, Energy Boost, Postpartum Supplement

Molasses adds calories and some nutrition to a weakened animal. It’s also what we use to treat the momas on the farm, after birthing. We put a few big glugs into the bucket with some warm water. They drink it right away Molasses is a good source of iron, and the sweetness provides energy for recovery.

Devon Young , from Nitty Gritty Life – “I always keep blackstrap molasses on hand during lambing season to give mamas and babies a boost if needed and also to entice a lamb to suckle a bottle nipple in event of bummer lamb…”

kitchen products for the barn

Apple Cider Vinegar

Added to the drinking water, apple cider vinegar with the “mother” or culture, provides a healthy dose of probiotics goodness. ACV keeps the pH of water at a healthy level that discourages bacteria growth. Adding ACV at a rate of one tablespoon per gallon of water, will keep the chicken’s digestive tract healthier and help the immune system. It is also good for humans!  Have you tried to make your own apple cider vinegar?

Don’t add vinegar to metal watering containers as it will contribute to increase rusting.

White vinegar is also helpful around the barn. It is a cheap cleaning substance. Fill a spray bottle and add some herbs for a pleasant, non-toxic cleaner. I also use it to clean the water tubs  and cut through that nasty scum that forms.

kitchen products for the barn

Other Items to Keep in the Barn Storage Room

rubber gloves

baby wipes

Duct tape

cable ties

Kris from Attainable Sustainable website has a list of items she keeps on hand in the chicken area. Not all are food or kitchen products, but they are all must have items. 

Angi Schneider, from Schneiderpeeps, had this to add. We’re harvesting honey right now and we’ve decided that chopsticks, mason jars and duct tape are the all purpose tools that we need for any project…..haha!”

And now it’s your turn. What would you add to the list. Do you have kitchen products for the barn that you wouldn’t be without and I left off of my list? Add it in the comments to keep the conversation going.

 

.kitchen products for the barn




How to Clean Chicken Water Tubs

clean chicken water tubsClean chicken water tubs must be a priority as the heat rises. As the heat of summer continues, nothing is as important to our chickens and livestock as clean drinking water. I mention chickens, but this task is extremely important for all animals. Think about your own thirst. You go to take a drink but your glass of water was left in the sun since yesterday. You take a swig. Ewww! That isn’t what I expected at all. So I only drink a small amount and put the glass down. This is what your animals do when the water is less palatable. They drink, but not nearly enough to combat the dehydration from the summer temperatures. With a small amount of time, you can keep clean chicken water tubs, and livestock water buckets filled with fresh water for your animals.

clean chicken water tubs

What Chicken and Livestock Water Containers Do We Use?

Due to the high level of iron in our well water, I have found that the black rubber feed tubs are the best for our farm for both feed and water. Larger livestock have black rubber feed bowls in the appropriate size and rubber buckets for water. The durability of this product seems to surpass other plastics and metal style water founts we have used before. Plus they come in multiple sizes from one gallon to many gallons. Our chicks are currently using one as a dust bath in the brooder coop. 

As you will see in the video portion of this post, the plastic founts turned an orange color from the iron in our water. This is a stain and makes the water container appear gross and dirty. It’s very hard to clean it and I prefer not to use these after the chicks get old enough to use a tub  of water. 

The galvanized metal founts are nice. They keep the water clean, and keep light from helping algae grow in the container. But iron water and metal don’t do well together. The iron and mineral content in our water causes these water founts to fall apart usually in the first year of use.  The galvanized waterers cost a good bit of money and I hate to see them tossed away so quickly. 

The flexible rubber feed bowls last for years on our farm. This is what works for us with our conditions. Whichever watering system works for you is fine, as long as it can be refreshed regularly, and cleaned easily. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs Weekly

At least once a week, I give the water containers, buckets, bowls, founts, a good scrub.  It doesn’t take long and helps maintain a healthy environment. Gathering the supplies takes only seconds. White vinegar, water, and a scrub brush are all I use. You can use Apple Cider Vinegar if you prefer the smell but since it’s being rinsed out anyway, I just use white vinegar. If you are concerned about additional germs from illness or for any reason, you can do a final rinse using this essential oil based poultry cleaner.

The apple cider vinegar shown is not raw apple cider vinegar that is recommended for adding live probiotic culture to your animal’s water. This is the cheaper version which can still clean equally as well as the distilled white. It’s a preference on which one to use.  

clean chicken water tubs

Dump out any remaining drinking water, Add vinegar to the bowl. I let it sit a few minutes.  Scrub with a brush to loosen all the gunk, algae and rust sediment. Rinse well. The bowl or water container should look and smell much better, cleaner and ready for a refill.

clean chicken water tubs

In between scrubbing, make sure you refill with clean water every day. The algae and rust form a film, called a biofilm, in the water which affects the taste.  Not many of us would choose to drink a big glass of stale smelly water and our chickens and livestock agree. They may drink some, but not enough to combat the potential dehydration. If you see that the water containers you use have not been depleted much during the day, chances are the water is foul. Dump it out, clean the container and refill. Hopefully that will make a big difference in the amount of water your animals consume. 

Water is The Most Important Nutrient

Water is essential to life. When caring for our livestock and poultry, water is the top priority. Hens won’t lay as well, cows and dairy goats won’t produce milk, and dehydration leads to many other problems. 

Gail Damerow wrote an interesting article for Countryside Magazine on the biofilm that forms from rust and algae. Algae, being a plant, isn’t necessarily bad. The bad part comes when the water becomes stale and the pH of the water is affected. This can lead to an environment that promotes bacterial growth leading to illness. Read the article to learn much more about the science behind the growth of biofilms from both algae and rust. 

Clean Chicken Water Tubs and Livestock Buckets Frequently 

Keep all poultry and livestock water fresh

Discard any water containers that have a bad odor after cleaning.

Place the clean chicken water tubs and livestock buckets in the shade to slow algae growth.

Dump outside water containers over night and allow them to air dry. Refill in the morning. 

clean chicken water tubs

Watch this video where I demonstrate how I clean chicken water tubs.

 




How to Revive a Weak Chick and Keep it Healthy

revive a weak chickTwo days into a recent hatch and I had to revive a weak chick and then another! The hatch was sporadic. We had eight broody hens. There was no schedule to the hatch. The eggs were started sporadically and I was out of town. While I was away, new eggs were gathered! It was a bit out of control. One hen out of the eight allowed me to move her to the nursery. The other broody hens had a fit about being moved and so I put them back in the coop where they continued to brood. I continued to try to monitor and save any chicks that hatched, before they were harmed by other flock members. Who said it was easier letting a hen hatch out eggs?

Disclaimer

Before I go any further in my methods of how to revive a weak chick, keep in mind that I am sharing what worked for me. I am not advocating or giving any guarantee that my methods will save your chick’s life. Also, I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box, and using what is available at that moment. My methods might be a little controversial to some who prefer to follow strict guidelines. 

What do Chicks Need After Hatching

If you have a broody hen, she will take care of all the chick’s needs. Broody hens can take care of quite a large brood. Tucked under her wings, the chicks are snug, warm and dry. She encourages them to eat and drink throughout the day, while looking out for their safety. Pasty butt is rare in broody raised chicks because the hen knows what to tell the chicks to eat. 

Chicks raised in a brooder have a bit of a harder road. No matter how closely we observe for problems, issues can arise. Pasty butt, chilled chicks, spilled water, and aggressive chicks can wreak havoc. Most of the time things go well, but there are times we need to intervene. Chicks need warmth, dry bedding, and food and water they can easily access. Chicks that are stressed by the environment cannot thrive.

My recently hatched chicks were a few days behind the other three. The broody hen wanted no part of adopting the last hatchlings. So into the brooder they went. I use the warming table style heaters. All the chicks had access to water and food, with clean bedding. But  the last two chicks that hatched, weren’t strong. They stopped eating and drinking within 24 hours of hatching. I needed to try something or they would die.

revive a weak chick

First step 

Always make sure the chick is warm before trying to give food or water. I held the chick in my one hand while completing chores with the other.  Next, I tried some Nutra-drench product for poultry because I had it available in the barn.  I mixed it in a bit of water and used a syringe to let drops fall on the tip of the beak. The chick was interested and started to open it’s beak for the water. If you do this, also make sure the chick isn’t getting wet from the drips. 

As I was feeding the barn cats I had an idea. By now the chick was looking really weak despite the water. The bits of canned cat food looked like something I could try to feed the chick. At first the chick wouldn’t open it’s beak for the food. Then it took a bite. And another! Then it took a big bite. I gave it a few minutes to settle. I continued to give bits of wet cat food and after a few minutes more, the chick was struggling to use it’s legs again. It was reviving!  The eyes reopened and it chirped. How about that!  

revive a weak chick

Other Options to Use When You Revive a Weak Chick

Now, as I said in the disclaimer, this is a last ditch effort. I don’t think chicks should routinely be fed cat food products. Cat food is high in protein, and the canned food is high in water. Both of these were good for the chick short term. If I hadn’t acted quickly, I am not sure that this chick would have lasted while I prepared something else or If I had driven to a store. A good reason to have some ideas on hand, in the barn or feed shed. 

More Ideas to Revive a Weak Chick

Warmed plain yogurt

Scrambled egg

Hard boiled egg chopped tiny

Molasses water – Molasses also contains other nutrients 

Make a mash or tea of fresh herbs that contain Vitamin E such as Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme

Sugar water *use very short term. Too much sugar can lead to pasty butt

Nutra-drench product

Poly-visol infant vitamin drops without iron –*This also helps with wry neck which is a result of Vitamin E deficiency. You can read more on Wry Neck syndrome here.

The important thing is to get some nutrition into them and get them over the hard part. After 24 to 48 hours your chicks should be back on chick feed and able to cope well. You may need to assess when to return them to the brooder with the other chicks. 

What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

The best case scenario is a small number of chicks, transferred to a waiting brooder. They stay warm and within a short time, find food and water. The weaker ones learn from the bolder stronger chicks and all do quite well. But sometimes, chicks need some TLC to get past the initial days. They may have become chilled at some point and become too weak to get to the food. They may be not as strong and easily trampled by the other chicks. Once they are knocked down, it may be too much to struggle back up on their feet. 

If possible, raise the weak chick with another non-aggressive chick for company. Chicks all do better with at least one friend in the brooder. 

revive a weak chick

Of course, we all want a good outcome and it is often a matter of timing. Do what you can to observe the chicks and help with some TLC if you see a weak chick. When you revive a weak chick, it is a rewarding feeling. I hope these ideas will help you if you have a need to revive a weak chick. Please leave your own remedies and ideas in the comments.

revive a weak chick

 

 

 




How to Make a Hen Saddle or Apron

hen saddleWhy is your hen wearing a dress? This is a question I hear if I put the hen saddle on a chicken. The hen saddle protects the chickens back and feathers from the treading of a rooster. I have also heard these called hen aprons.  If you don’t keep a rooster, you may not ever need the protection of a hen saddle. Making the hen saddle is an easy DIY project. First lets look at why the hen saddle might be necessary.

Observing chickens mating can be disturbing if you haven’t seen it before. Roosters are not gentle when they mate. The hen submits by crouching down. The rooster jumps on her back and treads his feet into her feathers to gain his balance. The actual mating is quick and both hen and rooster shake their feathers, walking off to continue foraging. The rooster may go from one hen to the next in quick succession. And if you have more than one rooster, the boys may have their own idea of which hen belongs to each of them. Roosters must have a different idea of what courtship should look like! 

How Does Feather Damage Happen?

Rooster feet are large and the talons are sharp. In addition, the spur may be quite long. All of these structures are digging into the back of the hen while the rooster is mating. Feathers are meant to protect and fluff. They can not always withstand repeated abrasions. The mating behavior can cause the hen to loose her back feathers. After the feathers fall out, the hen is still a willing victim in the mating game. Now however, the skin on her back will take the wear and tear. Some hens seam to  have a lighter feathering and lose their feathers quickly. Some manage to keep a downy covering.

hen saddle

In addition, sunlight will burn the tender skin on the hen. This can’t be healthy!  

Use a Hen Saddle to Stop the Feather Loss Before it Happens

The first sign of feather loss starts near the tail of the hen. Look near  the tail feathers for a downy look instead of feathers. If it’s not molting season, you probably are seeing feather loss from mating. Molting usually starts in late summer and is over by the time cold weather hits. Nature intended it this way. The new feathers and downy undercoat are ready to insulate the chicken through the colder weather. Read more about molt here. 

hen saddle

Rooster caused feather loss is usually seen in the spring. Mating season begins as the days lengthen. Look for feather loss at this time and think about using a saddle to protect the hen.

Using a hen saddle will protect the feathers before they fall out.  If you don’t want to sew a hen saddle, there are many options for buying them. If you can sew a simple pattern together, you may enjoy stitching up a few to protect your hens. 

The hen doesn’t seem to notice she is wearing a saddle once it is on her. Depending on the temperament of the hen, she may object to being caught and held while you dress her. After the saddle is on correctly, the wings fold over most of it and they rarely seem to bother with it. 

Occasionally the saddle will roll up the hen’s back. Flip it back down and when she adjusts her wings it will cover it up again.

hen saddle

When to Use the Hen Saddle

The hen saddle does a great job at protecting the hen’s tender skin during mating season. As late summer approaches, the roosters should be less active, and the molting process will begin.  At some point during the molt, new feather growth will begin. At this point, remove the hen saddle so it does not interfere or abrade the new feathers. If there is still an over zealous rooster, that must stay with the flock, you may need to play around with the timing of taking the saddle off. In some cases, putting the hen saddle on during the day and removing it at night, might be the answer. 

Save for later!

hen saddle

 

How to Make a Hen Saddle

Using the pattern provided, or make your own, cut two from cotton fabric.

 Cut a piece of elastic 12 inches long. 

(I used two contrasting “fat quarters” which can be purchased where ever quilting supplies are found. Two fat quarters will make 4 hen saddles. Of course, you can use an leftover cotton fabric you have on hand,too.)

Place the two pieces of the hen saddle, right sides together.  

Stitch the two layers together, leaving the opening shown, unsewn for turning. Use a quarter inch seam allowance and clip the curves to make turning easier.

Turn the hen saddle to the right side by pulling the saddle through the opening. Smooth and press the saddle.

Turn the opening raw edges to the inside. Press. Fold over the top for the elastic casing. Sew to the body portion at the top, making a casing for the elastic band.

Insert the elastic band through the casing.  Attach to each side of the hen saddle, stitch in place. If you are having trouble threading the elastic, attach a safety pin to one end to push through the casing.

hen saddle

Show your creation to your hens! I am sure they will all want to wear the latest fashion statement!

hen saddle

Hen Saddle in Action

Are you wondering how in the world you will get your new hen saddle onto the chicken? Watch this video as I apply the hen saddle made in this post, to one of our buff Orpington hens. It seems my buff Orpingtons are especially prone to feather damage from the roosters. Maybe because they are a docile breed and don’t run away from him as quickly!  


 

Print the Pattern and Instructions

Print here

2017_05_13_14_41_43 hen saddle