Chicken Questions : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

We are taking delivery of a dozen chicks in two days, on this Friday. We built a chicken coop and set up the brooder in it, but because of the wide variation in temperature over a 24 hour period here in Iowa, we are having a hard time keeping the temperature adjusted. So we have decided to start them out in the house. My questions are:

1. How old do they need to be before we put them in the coop?

2. What temperature should we try to maintain in the coop when we do move them in? We will probably have the same problem with fluctuating temperatures. Have we just not insulated enough?

3. We built the coop out of new wood and old barn wood. A friend recommended that we treat the walls with new, clean motor oil to kill anything that might be hanging out in the wood. Is it necessary to treat the wood? With motor oil? How long should it air out before the chickens are housed in it?

Thank you for any advice you can give. I know it's late in the year to start chicks, couldn't be helped. I've been reading lots of books but the thing about using motor oil wasn't mentioned or the problem we are having with the coop heating up in the day and getting colder at night. We are afraid that we will mess up if we have to keep adjusting the brooder temperature throughout the day and night.

-- DianeR (, November 03, 1999


We have kept chicks in the house until they had real feathers, and then moved them to the chicken coop. However, we've always done it in the spring or early summer when it's warmer. As far as temperature in the coop, I would make sure that they had a draft-free area, nmaybe partition off a corner with big cardboard boxes or something to keep them out of drafts. Temperature? Probably try to keep it in the 50's when they are small. If they are new chicks now, they won't be very large when the real cold weather sets in. Our chickens (about 25 of them) are all adults now- the youngest are 4 hens from this spring's hatching. The coop is somewhat insulated- had 3 inches of fiberglass in the walls 15 years ago, some of which has been damaged by mice and other occassional critters. If you want to disinfect the boards used in the coop, I think that a solution of bleach would be much better. Just mob it all down, rinse, and let it dry until the worst of the odor is gone. Motor oil might smother some insects, but that is all it would do- it might help preserve the wood, I guess, but there are other ways to do that that work better.


-- Jim (, November 03, 1999.

Since you are only getting a dozen - why not keep them in the house until they are fully feathered out? They won't take up much room and you won't have to worry about them getting too cold. I suggest you fix a large box with hardware cloth (wire) at the bottom - or some arrangement so that you can put newspaper under their box, but not so they stand on it directly. You will need to change papers twice per day probably. They have to stay dry and warm. The hardware cloth/wire has holes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch square; so their "poop" is mashed through the wire and falls onto the paper when they walk around. You can't keep them clean and dry enough if they just are directly on paper. Use a light bulb and you will soon(immediately) be able to tell their contented peeps from a distress peep. I've never heard about the oil suggestion. Since you are in Iowa, I'd definately keep them in the house or garage until fully feathered. They may need some type of supplemental heat in the coop after that...not much insulating fat on them until they get their full don't want to risk frozen combs or feet.

-- jeanne (, November 03, 1999.


Great advice already given for sure. I don't know if I would use motor oil in the coop. Chickens peck at everything, including the walls. Lice or mites is the only reason I can think that one would need to? Usually the only reason I have seen to use motor oil was as a preservative for the wood.

Jeane and I have different opinions on using newspaper. :-) I would stick with newspaper and solid floor in the box, at least as very young chicks. I am just thinking the wire might be a bit hard on new chicks legs or make a draft? But then that is probably how they raise them commercially isn't it?

We kept our current bunch of chicks in the house short of a week. Perhaps what we did then will help, or give some ideas. However, our motive wasn't so much heat, as to keep the chicks from cats! Twelve chicks could be accomadated, space wise in the house for several weeks in a box; if you can take the dust and smell.

When we moved them to our coop, which is way to airy, we built a large box out of scrap plywood, partially covered and partially covered with hardware cloth. We used a 250 watt white infared (-5 spelling) over the open part. We hung the lamp from a 2x2 nailed into the roof. The lamp fixture had a clamp to hold onto the 2x2, and we secured this with duct tape. (since once, the lamp bulb fell into the wood part, and was about to ignite!).

We raised and lowered the lamp as needed. The box was built low, 2 ft high, 4x8 ft size. It kept them snug. If you don't have the wood scrap, one or two refridgerator boxes might serve well.

Constant watching is hard. If you put them out at, say three or four weeks, keep a good warm spot under the lamp for them, adjust it down for the nights or cold snaps and up for the days. When they are feathered out, you won't need to watch them as closely.

Be sure they are able to get away from the heat to another part of the box. After they are feathered, overheating in a closed area might be as much a problem as chilled.

It was scary to take them out of the box, allowing them the run of the whole coop, but they where feathered and did fine. We just lowered the lamp and gave them a very warm spot. Granted, we where dealing with warmer weather.

For a solution to our "airy" coop this winter, we will line the interior with roofing felt to block the drafts, at least at floor level. We did this on another coop at one time, and they eventually tore it up, but, hopefully a more permanent coop can be built later.

Good luck to you Diane!

-- Lilly (, November 03, 1999.

Hi, Lilly. We keep meeting on the chicken threads!

I hope you don't mind, Diane, but I have a related (?) question:

What is the best bedding/litter outside in the coop area. We are not able to have them totally free-range. Weather is not really an issue, but they will have a fenced-in area and small coop for wind/rain shelter.

Considering Y2K and product availability, it seems unwise to count on products which have to be ordered, such as wood shavings, etc.

What's the wisdom on this one, anyone?

-- Sara Nealy (, November 03, 1999.

I don't mind at all Sarah, I need an answer to that one also. My husband wants to use straw both inside and outside the coop after they are big enough and can venture outside. I have a problem with the straw because my 12 year old daughter is allergic to the dust from straw, so she gets out of the coop/poop detail. But with her allergies she probably ought to stay away from the whole chick thing too. I've heard that one can use old leaves on the ground in the outside run??? I wonder about that though, seems that they could get pretty mucky in wet weather.

Thank you Jim, Jeanne and Lilly. Taking from all of you I get that we should raise them in the house until they feather out and then make sure that the coop is draft free and kept at least 50 degrees with whatever it takeslight bulb or heat lamp. Should be a trick with our Iowa winters. I know others manage to keep chickens here so I hope we figure it out right. Since we are only getting a dozen, 11 hens and 1 rooster we really don't want to lose any if we can help it.

Thanks again. I love advice!

-- DianeR (, November 03, 1999.

Sara, so how are those chicks and coffee trees doing? :-)

Diane, can't have the children left out of the chicken detail, no opportunity to be lazy occasionally! Now our chickens where always free range, so I never put anything down but the occasional saw dust or straw in damp weather (roof leaked in two places). Some of the roosters took to roosting in trees, and I just let them...less for me to clean up in the coop.

Some put boards under the roosts, then clean the boards periodically, but again I have never done much beyond the occasional "mucking out" when making compost.

I have a chicken problem myself now, maybe someone will recognize. We just lost our second bird, last one lost was over a week ago, neither showed any signs of distress. Now another hen this evening (they are about 9-10 wks old), is looking poor. Son says she feels chilly,(not good) and you can spot her out of the crowd as being "stiller" than the others, she didn't eat nor drink at feeding time. No respitory symtoms, nor diahrea apparent in the flock. She is just not "perky"? Will worm again in the morning and see what happens.

As we continue to learn on the job...

-- Lilly (, November 03, 1999.

A couple of additional points to consider.

For litter, I would recommend ground corn cobs. Find a farmer who cribs his corn, he will know someone who shells corn and has access to quantities of corn cobs. You can grind them in a mulcher or a feed grinder. If they are in pieces about 1/2" long that will be fine.

Make roosts out of wood for your chickens. Do not use pipe, as they will freeze their feet if it gets cold in the coop. You will need some nests for them to lay eggs in, if they are layers.

You can get a product called "six" roost paint. It is an insecticide for parasites that you squirt on the roost, and it kills the lice, etc. when the chicken roosts at night. I have never heard of using motor oil on the building. I think one of the poultry disinfectants would be better.

You won't have to put heat in the house when the hens are fully feathered, but when it got bitterly cold, I always had pity on the old biddies and put a propane heater out there. Those were expensive eggs, let me tell you.

If you have a heat lamp over part of the chicks' box, and they have room to get out of the direct heat, they will probably settle in where they are comfortable.



-- gene (, November 03, 1999.


Try putting some Tetracycline soluable powder in the water. You can get it at the farm store. Be sure to change the water completely every day for the course of treatment.

With poultry, the low value of the birds makes calling the vet economically unfeasible, so usually owners of small flocks just try a broad spectrum antibiotic first. We used the tetracycline several times with good results when we had chickens. It will treat several common illnesses in livestock.

Let us know how your chickens are doing.


-- gene (, November 03, 1999.

We have sweet potatoes and taro, but, alas, not much corn for use in the litter bed, gene.

I will ask the local farmers what they use.

-- Sara Nealy (, November 03, 1999.

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