My Basque Hens were three weeks old last weekend when I made the decision to move them outside to the 4×4 coop. Usually, I wait until chicks are fully-feathered at about 5 weeks old before moving them outside. This year, a few factors played into my decision:
- It has been unseasonably warm this year! By this past week, nighttime temperatures were not falling below 50 degrees.
- I had an EcoGlow that I could move outside with them if I could run an extension cord up to the coop. The EcoGlow isn’t meant to be used in low temperatures, but at three weeks old, they did not need the full warmth it provides anyhow.
- The Basque Hens (or “EOs,” short for “Euskal Oiloak”) are so active, they really needed to room to expand! I’ll talk more about these chicks later, but their personality is also so distinct!
- I needed the room because the GNHs were hatching! I have two brooders, so I could have had them both inside, but I would rather have only one chick-dust-machine in the house at a time!
So, I cleaned the 4×4 thoroughly. It had not been used in about a month, but I had isolated a few chickens in there for various reasons at various times throughout the winter. Older birds have more resistance to disease that they have built up over time. If young chicks without that resistance are placed into an area that has been used by older birds, they can get sick. The most commonly seen illness resulting from this is coccidiosis. Most common in chicks three to five weeks old – who are just moving to areas previously occupied by adult chickens, but also sometimes in the brooder – coccid is treatable if you catch it early, but if not can be fatal.
I cleaned out all shavings, DE (diatomaceous earth), dust, and food, and then scrubbed the floor, roost, and lower walls with soapy water. I wiped it down with clean water, and then sprayed the whole interior of the coop with a mixture of about 4 parts water to 1 part Oxine. I feel comfortable using Oxine to disinfect anything chicken-related: incubators, brooders, feeders, waterers, coops…
Oxine is known to kill every bacteria, virus, and mold it has ever been tested against and is 200 times more effective than chlorine bleach. But one of the most impressive things about Oxine for me is that it does it with such relative safety (when used according to label instructions). Environmentally speaking, Oxine actually biodegrades to ordinary table salt. And it is so safe to use on livestock that it is actually approved for use in the drinking water of ‘organically grown’ animals.
– From “The Many Uses of Oxine AH” (not a sponsored site)
Then I cleaned out the run, removing any fallen shavings or other coop debris and collecting any stray feathers. I actually sprayed down the entire run with the Oxine mixture, especially any areas that were used for dust bathing. Had the coop and run been used more recently, I might have shoveled out any debris, sprayed, and put down fresh hay or leaves. I certainly would not allow any droppings to remain if there had been any.
Once everything was clean and dry, I started setting up again. I hung a feeder and waterer nice and low so that they could reach. I put ACV (apple cider vinegar) in the water to increase the pH. There are a lot of benefits to ACV in poultry water, but in this case my focus was to increase the pH to help their little bodies destroy any coccid bacteria they might encounter. I put down DE to keep everything nice and dry, a thick layer of pine shavings, and finally nestled the EcoGlow into a comfy, protected corner. We ran an outdoor extension cord up to the coop to plug it in. Now, be aware that extension cords can be dangerous. If something got wet, our EcoGlow could short out, or even worse, someone could get electrocuted. We were very careful to waterproof any place where water could get in. I am not recommending that you do this. Use an extension cord at your own risk.
Anyway, when everything was set, I moved them outside midday. I keep them locked in the coop for a day so that they would learn where home is. They had no trouble finding the food, but they needed a little guidance on the poultry nipple waterer – not much, because they were used to the hamster waterer. We gave it a few taps to draw their interest.
At this young age, I still check on them in the rain and sit up by them in the evening to make sure they are being sensible and go inside. These birds have so much energy and curiosity. I’ll write more about their fantastic little personalities later. In the meantime, it is raining, so I am going to check on the little chickens!