Today was a big day for the chickens. They’re six weeks old now, so we let them out of the brooder and into the whole run area. No more 8×4 walled and roofed enclosure, now they have a 12×12 fenced area, with just the roof left over the smaller brooder so they can get out of the rain if they wish.
Before we let them into that larger area, several things had to happen. First, they needed to be big enough and have enough feathers. We have stray cats in the neighborhood, and small chicks can become prey very easily. But by 6 weeks, they’re large enough to make a cat think twice about even the smallest of them. And by that age all their feathers have come in (no more chicken fluff), so they can handle getting rained on and other normal weather conditions. They haven’t had a heat lamp in their brooder for about 4 weeks now, so they are accustomed to temperature changes; now they get to experience rain and dew as well.
There were changes that I had to make, too. Yay for farm chores! The chicken run was not safe for young chicks. It holds the brooder, some rabbits in hutches, storage bins, and various junk that has accumulated. So all that has been cleared out except the rabbit hutches on top of the brooder. Young chickens can become trapped very easily, you don’t want things like yard tools leaning anywhere. They drown easily too, so all standing water had to be removed. (Something like a duck pond would be fine, because they can flop their way out of that if they fall in. But buckets are drowning hazards.) There was a space on one side where the fencing did not reach the ground, that is now blocked off.
It was fun watching the chicks when the front of the brooder was opened. They’re accustomed to me opening it to put in food and water, but this time I opened it and put the food and water OUTSIDE! Some didn’t care, and ran over to indulge. Others were more hesitant, putting out their heads and looking around before walking carefully over to the food. There are a few I don’t think have ventured outside at all… guess they’re not hungry. No worries, they’ll get food and water inside tonight. Maybe they’ll be braver tomorrow.
The ones outside are sure enjoying it! Soaking up the sunshine…