Baby Chicks arrived, my dear bride wants to know, "what next" : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

Hello, folks.

I got my forty "peeps" from Murray today. Barred Rock, 25 pullets, 10 straight run, 4 roosters, and one ??? Cute little things. My dear bride thinks so also, although she wasn't sure why we needed forty..............

Anyway, right now they are in the basement in a four foot diameter kid's swimming pool, making noise, eating chick starter, and mostly staying under the heat lamp.

We live in southwest Michigan, and my wife wants to know what we do with them once they are big enough to go outside. We will have two acres fenced in, with 3 potbellied pigs and two African Dwarf goats having free run. The shed the goats and pigs will use for winter shelter isn't really big enough for all the hay, straw, tools, AND chickens.

So, any suggestions for my Pam?

Jon Williamson

-- Jon Williamson (, September 03, 1999



My first thought was "you should have planned ahead a little better" in regards to where they are to go after they outgrow the basement swimming pool pen. And it won't be long (a matter of days) till they start to jump/fly/flutter over the top.

But the answer to your question depends on several things:

--Will they be in danger of predators (dogs, cats, owls, hawks, etc.)?

--How "full" is the shed? They will stay in it only at night (and maybe not even then if they find a place they like to roost better) and usually in the highest place they can get to.

The two questions above are relevant only if they are to be "free range" chickens. If you plan on building a coop/pen, then that's a different matter. It'll start getting too cold there in Michigan before they are old enough to have fully feathered and keep warm on their own, and even then, they'll need some protection from the winter cold.

In the interim, get some chicken wire and make as large a pen in the basement as you can. Put lots of litter down and that will give you about a month to make your permanent pen. Four foot tall wire should hold them till they are 7 or 8 weeks old, maybe even 10 weeks old.

Or do the same thing outside, maybe off one side of the existing shed. a large cardboard box (from a refrigerator, washer, dryer, etc) could be used as a temporary "house" for them. Hang a light on the inside with about a 40 or 60 watt bulb to encourage them to come in as it gets dark. Yes, they'll be too stupid to go in on their own. Cut a small "door" 8 or 10 inches square for them to go in and out of. Put the light on a timer and you won't have bother with remembering to turn it off and on. Or leave it on and maybe increase the wattage if it's too chilly.

That's about the only suggestions I can come up with right now, but hey, you knew all that anyway.


-- Gerald R. Cox (, September 03, 1999.


Forgot to mention. We once raised 25 chicks in the fireplace. We put down newpapers and when they got to be about 2 weeks old we would let them run around outside during the daytime and bring them in at night. They "trained" rather easily. It wasn't long till we would open up the fireplace screen in the morning and they would march across the floor directly to the back door, and in the evening they would congregate at the back door, peeping to be let in. They would march directly to the fireplace and jump up on a makeshift roost (a couple of logs) and settle down for the night with a little contented peeping. My bride thought it was really cute except for the accidental "dumps" they made on her carpet during their marches! We would have left them in the fireplace all day a little longer, but it was too much of a chore to change the papers twice a day to keep the odor down. They decided when it was time to stay outside; they found a roost they liked outside, but I think it was because they were forced to once when we didn't get home till well after dark and they had to find a place on their own.


-- Gerald R. Cox (, September 03, 1999.


Yes, I know that I could have planned better. We only moved out here to the country at the end of May and it has been "catch-up" ever since. [G]

Yes, we have predators. 5 cats, one German Shephard puppy (4 months old).

I hope to have them free run. I have several reference books on chickens, but I do like the advice I get here. Very much "hands on".

I will probably try to keep them in the basement for a couple of weeks.

I wasn't going to try them outside right away because of the colder nights coming on soon.

Still undecided as to a chicken coop or the shed. Such problems.....

Thanks for the quick response.

-- Jon Williamson (, September 03, 1999.

Jon and Pam,

Our baby chicks share a barn with two goats. Every time we had a thunderstorm, a chick or two was stomped to death. You might make a separate space for the chickens in the shelter outside.

-- helen (, September 03, 1999.

Don't know about your pigs but hogs will eat chickens.

-- babe (, September 03, 1999.

Jon and Pam,

Congratulations on becoming livestock owners! The fun begins. You will need to build a chicken coop and move the chicks outside pretty soon. They'll be so much bigger a week from now you won't believe it. There are so many choices of coops, you'll have to figure out what suits you best - permanent, portable, etc. Countryside Magazine (on line) has suggested coops, in fact you can find all kinds of plans on the net. The main things to remember are that you need to put down litter (such as cedar chips) and the chickens need to be within a fenced in area to keep them safe from the cats and other predators. Remember to have chicken wire or roofing material above to keep out hawks. It's horrible to raise healthy chicks only to have them decimated by a hawk that gets into the coop.

If you want to supplement their feed by free-ranging, here's a fool- proof way to do it. Move your chicks outside to the coop you have prepared when they are fully feathered and will remain warm at night (about six-eight weeks). You can have them in the coop in the day and bring them back into the basement before then, if the nights are cool. Your coop should have an attached, covered run made of chicken wire. They will forage within their safe area by day and put themselves to bed in the coop when night falls. After a couple of months of this routine, you can keep the cats & dog inside while you let them out some during the day to free range. Do NOT trust even the sweetest kitty to go against nature and leave the chickens alone. The german shepherd may not be a threat. My collie is very protective of our chickens, but our terrier would love to get to them. It depends on the breed. Anyway - back to the free-ranging idea. If you let them out a couple of hours before nightfall, and leave the door to their pen/coop open, they WILL PUT THEMSELVES TO BED when it gets dark. You go out, count heads, and shut the door. Don't let them free-range until they are nearly grown, so that they won't be picked up by hawks.

Good luck and have fun.

-- Jill D. (, September 03, 1999.


An idea I have been pondering for some time (for my own flock) was to build a portable/moveable chicken pen made from PVC pipe and chicken wire. Sort of an adaptation of a greenhouse plan I once saw. I was thinking of making it about 12-14' across, which would give it about 5-6' of headroom at the center. Length would be whatever you wanted; I intend to make it about 24-30' long. I plan to make it from 3/4" or 1" PVC pipe shaped like a quonset hut, and stretch chicken wire over it instead of plastic. OK, maybe some plastic on one end to protect them from rain. I don't intend to put anything on the floor so the chickens could dig and scratch and eat the grass. It could be made much smaller (lighter and less expensive) and moved more often. Just a thought.


-- Gerald R. Cox (, September 03, 1999.


Having moved to the country a couple of months before you, this city slicker has learned the hard way what not to do. After losing quite a few chicks and young chickens this is what I know.

1. be prepared ahead of time (you can't avoid this one now) 2. don't raise them for long inside. They grow faster than you can imagine. 3. a small protected area/brooder is essential to get them started 4. Everything is a predator: cats, rats, snakes, dogs, raccoons, skunks, opossums, hawks, owls... they are after all food 5. a well fenced yard with coop has held off everything but hawks (nothing is more beautiful and frustrating than seeing a hawk swoop down and eat your food) 6. if you are going to free range them wait till they are large enough to evade to some extent these critters and/or get a dog that specializes in guarding livestock. 7. a hands off approach is difficult as they need our care and protection to really produce well for our table and not some predator's. 8. they need shelter at night as they are one of the soundest sleepers around. you can go right in and grab any one of them at night.

Personally, I am currently in the process of changing my way of raising my chickens.

I originally wanted to free range them as well but am unable to with the amount of predators in my neck of the sticks. I settled for the traditional coop/fenced yard area and that worked. I felt they needed space so I made it as large as possible and I thought I had the best of both worlds. Except now the area has been stripped of all greenery and the bare scratched ground is prone to erosion or turning to concrete for chicken manure.

After some research, I am building a couple of modified pasture pens based on the work of J. Salatin connection/grazing/pastpoul/resource.htm. Moving the pen once a day cuts feed consumption by 30% and gives the birds a fresh salad everyday plus any yummy bugs that might come there way, no single place gets denuded, chicken fertilizer is spread out benefically. Its Holistic Management for chickens. The birds are healthy and safe, I will be healthier for that reason and my pasture improves.

By the way has anybody given any thought to what happens if commercial feed can't be obtained in the middle of winter, are you prepared to have enough feed to get them to spring and then hope they can find enough to eat. I was going to overwinter only enough to start seasonal broilers if neccesary in the spring. I suppose you can grow grain but thats hard work in my rocky soil. You can eat the birds if you have no way of feeding them but say bye-bye to eggs and a decent source of food through hard times. Any tips?

Good luck, Tom

-- Tom (, September 04, 1999.

I have stored some feed - egg pellets and grains. It is not the answer, because it takes up too much space for only a few months. If you mix your own feed, the most important item, I imagine, would be ground oyster shell for calcium. Otherwise the shells of the eggs would be soft. Let me know if you find an answer.

My immediate problem will be heat and light. My coop has no electricity and it gets below freezing here. Will need to do a battery type thing for a light bulb, but am wary of the risks of spark and flame, fumes or varmit/chicken damage. Any suggestions?

-- marsh (, September 04, 1999.

We are moving soon, and if we don't have a coop already available for our 63 chickens, will buy a large dog kennel and attach chicken wire to the top of it (have lost none to owls and hawks!)as we did the dog runs we use here. We will have to put them in a garage or shed at night. It's sort of free ranging, ha. I'm not ready to lose a lot to predators until after rollover, and I know for sure that I could easily replace them. I'm going to stock up on prepared poultry food, but we are feeding them more and more scraps and grains too. I am hoping our cold winter climate will keep that food until spring. As far as a source of light and heat, we bought inexpensive kerosene lanterns at Ace and will hang one or two in their coop. It will be ventilated but not drafty. I'll monitor it carefully during the day time to make sure there is no problem. Otherwise, just less eggs until spring I guess. Jon, I think a very big and TALL cardboard box will work better. That pool will be useless very soon. We hung our light above the box. And don't forget to gradually introduce them to a change in temperature outside! Watch out for the old pasty butt chick syndrome. I had to wash some little vents with our first batch. Corn meal added to their food is supposed to help that. Good luck!

-- Mumsie (, September 04, 1999.

Whew! Me thinks that you are making a big to do out of nothing. Get a box for the chicks and when big enuff put outside in a closed in pen. When full grown, turn them out but have a chicken house. There is nothing worse that having chicken**** all over your hay and water buckets, etc. Give them their own house. We have a small portable house on skids. Hubby hooks up the tractor and moves about twice a year. I swoop in and scoop up the manure for the garden. During the day the hens are free range and too big for a hawk. A large owl could get one, but the hens are locked up at night. Cats won't bother a full grown hen. If your dog chases/kills chickens tie a dead chicken on his neck until it falls off with rot. He won't chase another one. You don't need that many hens. We have 7 and are big egg eaters. You have to figure in the cost of your feed and ability to get it. We buy whole corn by the ton and I have a bucket of it on the porch with a Corona hand grinder. They get a mix of laying pellets and cracked corn. The biggest mess you will get into is result of having too many. !0 hens and 1 rooster will keep you in eggs and meat. Taz

-- Taz (, September 04, 1999.

Remember that fueled lanterns put out a large "hot spot" directly overhead. We had a tent fire start that way once, but fortunately awoke when the roof collapsed and dropped and pinned us under two feet of snow.

-- A. Hambley (, September 04, 1999.

A little humor (very little)

A 'new to the country' guy decided he wanted to raise chickens, so he went down to the local farmer's cooperative and bought 50 baby chicks. About two weeks later, he was back to buy 50 more. The clerk who had sold the chicks to him before commented that "that's a lot of baby chicks to raise!" The guy buying the chicks said, "Yeah. I lost most of the first 50, so I thought I'd try again." Clerk said, "That's too bad..." Guy said, "Yeah. This time though I'm going to try planting them feet first..."

(Big groan in unison....)


-- winter wondering (, September 04, 1999.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr near Monterey, California

Ha! Thanks, Jon! Even my DWGI husband laughed at the title of this thread.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), September 04, 1999.

As mentioned above, make sure to give the hens adequate calcium, and have some grit available. If they range, they will find their own grit, but the oyster shell will be needed if they are laying.

If they don't get enough calcium, not only will the shells be soft, but their bones will get weak.

Be careful feeding too much corn. they will eat all the corn first and not get a balanced diet. Not going to be a problem if they are ranging and you only feed some corn at the end of the day, but in winter they will pig out on it. We always figured that oats was cheaper and a good staple for the hens. We left the corn on the ear and made the hens work a little harder to get at it.

Actually, the ear corn can be picked up in the field after harvest. We always were able to pick up a good amount of ear corn before fall plowing, if we didn't wait too long.

If the hens are going to produce eggs through the short days of winter, you will have to provide some artificial light. I think they need 12 hours of light to produce eggs, but I'm not certain of the exact amount.

We never had trouble with out cats or dogs, but some wild predators took their toll, and I was never able to completely protect the flock. It happened at night, and I couldn't figure out what got in, or *how*. It's one of the trials of a poultryman, I guess.

No longer have chickens, but I sometimes miss the old biddies.

good luck Jon


-- gene (, September 04, 1999.

Good lord, mumsie...haven't you ever heard of Mrs. O'Leary's cow? (The one that kicked over the lantern and started the great Chicago fire.)

-- marsh (, September 05, 1999.

If I'm blessed enough to acquire a cow, I promise not to keep her in my chicken coop!

-- Mumsie (, September 05, 1999.

Well, folks, we did transfer the chicks to a box. Found an infrared bulb and a better reflector.

Out of a total of 41 chicks, we have so far lost one.

Thanks for all of the advice and tips.

-- Jon Williamson (, September 07, 1999.

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