October’s Hatch, Brooder to Coop in Phoenix, How and When

Update 2018 | I no longer use heat lamps & have switched to radiant heat. Brinsea Ecoglow

Once again, my informative article on what age chicks can leave the *brooder. A week by week guide to help you transition your October hatched chicks from inside to the outdoor chicken coop… in Phoenix.

Small Brooder with 20 2 day old chicks

It is a little different raising chicks in Arizona. October is the best time to raise chicks in Phoenix,  it’s much easier to keep chicks warm than it is trying to keep them cool.  High temps in the day are in the mid to high 80′s and nights in the high 50′s and low 60′s. My brooder area is an addition off the house without controlled temps. Therefore, 80′s outdoors means 90+ in the enclosed off the house structure. I use a red low wattage brooder lamp at night about 20 inches above brooder and only natural lighting during the day.

At 3.5 weeks I move them to the outside coop. They will be confined there with a 250 watt red brooder lamp 3-4ft above ground which is left on day and night. Half of the coop is unheated. Temps in late Oct. are usually in the 80′s and at night upper 50′s.

At 4 weeks I open the coop doors to the chicken yard offering them the choice to fly the coop so to speak. They will venture out briefly then run back to the coop. After about 4 days they brave the outside world. Brooder lamp is still left on. Every night the coop doors close and all chicks are huddled together under the lamp.  It is now the first part of November and temps. are in the mid to upper 70′s, lows around 55.

At 5-6 weeks the birds are fully feathered, heat lamp off around 10AM, and turned on around 3PM. I find this important because the brooder lamp lures them in the coop as dusk approaches – exactly where I want them to go every night… always.

At 7 weeks the temps are high in the mid 60′s and lows in the 40′s. No heat lamp. However, it is now that I introduce an LED light where I want them to sleep at night, and eventually lay their eggs. The birds go the the light, even though it provides no heat. I choose an LED source of light because the batteries last a really long time, up to a month. My nesting area requires a ladder ( I use a sturdy tree branch) and as long as there is a light up there they all adapted quite easily to the change.

At 8 weeks it is unlikely that your birds will require a heat source at night, especially if you have six or more birds. Pack the nest area with plenty of bedding (I use bermuda grass hay) to help insulate the chicks from the cold.

*A brooder is a heated container that has a temperature controlled area. It’s used to confine chicks until they are old enough to go outside.

Raising Winter Chicks in Phoenix

When Can Chicks Be Moved Outside?

It’s a good guess you have your new chicks in a box in the house or garage and are watching them quickly outgrow their safe haven of comfort and warmth.

At about 6-7 weeks old they are becoming a handful, looking a bit crowded in their quarters, and you’ve had enough of keeping up with the mess. I understand your dilemma and have good news for you. We live in Phoenix! With mild winter temperatures, even at 6-7 weeks your chicks will be fine outside with the right housing accommodations. However, first you’ll want to lower the temperature in their brooder over the next few days to get them used to cooler temperatures.

A suitable coop for 6-7 weeks old chicks is something that will protect them from wind and rain. If your coop is drafty, a large tarp will do wonders. Buy the highest grade tarp you can find, or use two.

If there’s a cold snap, say below 40 degrees, simply cover the coop with a heavy blanket. Moving blankets from Harbor Freight work great and they’re only $8. The chicks will huddle together at night and keep each other warm.

Give them lots of shavings or hay in the coop, provide low-sided brooder box filled with shavings in the corner for them to sleep in. If they don’t use it, that’s okay too.

Prepare for the Phoenix Heat Now

While watching your chicks grow in the confinements of their coop, this is a good time to think about summer’s arrival and prepare their outdoor environment. Keeping chickens in Phoenix is tough, keeping them in small confinement quite honestly… can be a death sentence.

Think I’m Kidding? I’m not, this could be your coop temperature in July.

June and July will no doubt reach 110 to 115 degrees. This means, your coop could easily exceed 120 degrees, even if it’s in the shade. It’s imperative to provide a play area where they can dig holes in the dirt to stay cool.
A play area can simply be a fenced area off the coop. Look for or create a shady spot preferably near a water source so it’s easy for you to access. This is important because there will be days when you’ll want to use a mister, or maybe flood them a spot to help them cool off.

Picked On, Pecked On Chicks. Why and What To Do?

Let’s start at the beginning with chicks in the brooder. Chicks don’t just peck each other for lack of something to do. There is an underlying problem causing them stress and/or aggravation. As any living creature, the first and foremost necessity for well being is comfort.

Providing chick starter crumbles and fresh water is a given, so we can certainly rule out hunger as the stress factor. It is my opinion there are two other very important factors to consider. Living environment and lighting, with significant emphasis on the latter. Overcrowding may or may not be the culprit in their acquired pecking behavior. However, if ample space is not provided away from a heat source, comfort is indeed compromised.

Always provide more than one feeder so weaker birds are not bullied. It only takes one drop of blood for the pecking disaster to begin, remember chickens are in fact cannibals. Also, by week 3, keep them busy with offerings of green grass, especially when you witness aggression.

 

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of the pecking problem. Lighting, lighting, lighting! A brooder lamp is necessary for warmth but it shouldn’t be a blast of blinding light. Especially if you have the chicks in a small brooder and there’s no way to escape the annoyance.

I’m not at all a fan of the clear white bulbs and switched a long time ago to RED. They provide a calming environment, and as a bonus any minor pecking that’s caused an injury is better disguised under a red lamp.

You may want to make the switch from heat lamps altogether and switch to radiant heat from a Brinsea brooder. This will solve your fluctuating temperature problem, and providing you have a good number of chicks, it will be sufficient in keeping them warm.

Note: If it’s brutal cold… you can supplement with a low wattage red heat lamp. Low wattage heat bulbs are sold for reptiles, I usually use a 50, 100, or 250 watt, depending on how cold it is.

For injuries, no matter how slight, I use a product called Blu-Kote. It has healing agents and the purple dye in the treatment hides the battle wounds. You’ll find this product at your local feed store.

I’m convinced that happy and content chickens start in the brooder. It’s easy to tell if the brooder has comfort zones. You should see some birds huddled together under the heat source, some resting alone, some scratching in the litter, and some eating. Watch your chicks, their behavior says it all!