Baby chicks are very vulnerable especially to harsh weather. These fluffy little balls cannot control their body temperature at hatching and will require supplemental heat until they are fully feathered. So, when can chicks go outside?
Most poultry farmers have said that their baby chicks chilled and died when they went outside. This is mostly common especially during winter when temperatures are very low.
Chicks need extra care and will need to be kept in the right conditions if they have to survive. They are delicate, but raising them can be fun.
In this article, I am going to tell you the right time to take your chicks outside. This will help you to raise a successful flock of chicken for a profit.
When can chicks go outside?
The right time to take chicks outside is when they are 6-8 weeks of old. At this age, these baby chickens are fully feathered and can regulate their body temperatures.
Remember, at hatching, chicks are covered in a fluffy down that is very loose and cannot insulate well. This is why they are raised in a chicken brooder with supplemental heat until most of the juvenile feathers have developed properly.
If they are allowed to go outside when not well feathered, they are likely going to catch cold and chill to death.
However, your black chicks can be moved outside under certain conditions like:
With a mother hen
In most cases, free range hens are allowed to take care of their own chicks. When this is the case, those baby chicks can go outside.
The mother hen will provide warmth by letting her young ones get under her body feathers when she squats.
However, there is a limitation when using this method. If she is one of the small hen breeds, she may not cover the chick’s well especially if they are many or big.
In addition to that, the chicks are prone to predators like chicken hawks and possums. Additionally, they can easily contact diseases from wild birds and other farm animals when free ranging on the backyard with the mother.
In a playpen
A playpen is often used by many as a temporary shelter for chicks outside. It allows the young birds to explore the outside in a safe and secure place.
However, chicks will only be taken outside in a playpen when the outside temperature is the same as that of the brooder. This is mostly done during the day when there is plenty of sunshine. If the sun is too hot, place the play pen under a shade to prevent them from baking.
Do not let your 3 weeks old chicks outside when it is raining. Use playpens if you want to clean the brooder, or change the bedding and then bring them back.
When taking chicks back inside, carry them one by one using your hands. This will allow them to trust you and learn to be handled.
On a sunny day
When the sun is out and there are no cold winds blowing, you can take the baby chicks out. This will help them sun bask and synthesize vitamin D.
These curious critters will also have an opportunity to explore outside. They will eat insects, grubs and grass encouraging a natural feeding behavior. In addition to that, it will help supplement their diet with extra nutrients.
However, only take these little birds out in a playpen if they are not fully feathered. Avoid placing them out when the sun is very hot.
Very high temperatures will bake them to death. In addition to that, when it is too hot for chicks, their bodies will suffer from dehydration and they will drink a lot.
Moving your blue chicks out will help them break boredom. They will learn how to look for aerial chicken predators and this will prepare them for the dangers that await them out.
Can baby chicks live outside with a heat lamp?
This will be one of the worst mistakes you can ever make. A heat lamp will only be good for the chicks inside a chicken brooder.
If the baby chicks are big enough and fully feathered, they can be moved out. This means they are able to regulate their body temperature and no longer need a heat lamp.
Heat lamps and sweeter heaters are only ideal to heat a small area. When placed outside, they cannot manage to heat an entire compound where the chicks are roaming.
What temperature can chicks go outside?
This will depend with the age of your chicks. Young chicks from the egg incubator will need 95 degrees F. After 3 weeks, this temperature will need to be lowered 5 degrees each week.
Reducing the brooder temperature will make the chicks acclimate to the outside temperature. If your chicks are not fully feathered, only let them go out if the temperature is the same as that of the chick brooder.
When can chicks go in the coop?
Baby chicks will move to the coop when they are 6-8 weeks old. At this age, they are fully feathered and can regulate their body temperature.
However, care should be taken when integrating them with other chicken breeds. This is because they are likely going to be bullied by assertive hens who dominate the pecking order.
It will be good if you move them out of the brooder when they start to jump over the brooder wall. This means they are big enough and want to live in a bigger space where they can explore the new world.
Take them to the main chicken coop in the evening. Place them on the roost bars and let dawn find them together with other big chickens.
When morning comes, other birds will find the new comers and think they have been living together. However, have isolation pens just in case they will be welcomed with hostility.
Can baby chicks sleep outside?
It is very wrong for baby chicks to sleep outside. There are numerous threats like dogs, possums and other chicken predators that will hunt and kill them for dinner.
In addition to that, they are likely going to chill from the biting cold of the nights or face fierce storms which can easily kill them.
Before you latch your chicken coop door, first take a look and do a head count to confirm whether all the birds come home to roost.
Small chicken breeds like Lakenvelder and Hamburg chickens will fly easily and roost on tree branches. If the hens of these breeds are used to raise chicks, they can pass this notorious behavior to their young.
In case you notice any flying behaviour in your young birds, clip their wing feathers. This will prevent them from jumping over fences and roosting on trees.
Factors to consider before letting chicks go outside
1 They will need water
Chicks will need clean drinking water outside. They will wonder and roam collecting a host of seeds, weeds and other dry foods.
Make sure your waterer for chicks is full of fresh water. It will keep them well hydrated and help cool them down on a hot summer day.
During the cold winter months, every drop will turn into ice and this will leave your birds at a risk of dehydration. Have several heated waterers to prevent your chicken water from freezing.
2 Provide food
Imagine what will happen to chicks placed outside in a playpen without food. They will definitely starve! Ensure their feeders have enough chick starter feeds for them throughout the day.
Because of the new environment, they are likely going to contract coccidiosis. However, medicated feeds will help deal with this health issue.
Do not let rats, mice and wild birds get free meals by eating from their feeding troughs. Cover the top to keep them off because they may spread diseases and parasites. Additionally, they will make the cost of feeding your chicks to to high which can make chicken keeping a loss making venture.
3 Check the weather
Not every weather will be favorable for your Buff Brahma chicks. Do not take them outside when it is raining, if the sun is too hot and when cold winds are blowing fast.
These critters are still not used to harsh elements and can die because they are easily spooked by sudden changes.
4 There are predators for chicks out there
Chicken predators are always on the look out for free meals especially in most wood populate areas. In most cases, chicken hawks and other birds of prey are the most common types of threat to baby chicks.
You will have to herd your flock especially when free ranging in the woods. Have guardian dogs or mix your chicks with geese to keep them safe.
When can chicks go outside final thoughts
It is recommended that chicks go outside when they are 6-8 weeks old and fully feathered. At hatching, these little critters are not able to control their body temperatures.
Check the weather and consider the age of your chicks first before moving them out. They are very sensitive to cold weather and can easily chill to death.
During winter, do not let the mother hen take her chicks out. Instead, confine her with the baby birds in a heated coop until the cold season is over.
When do your chicks go outside? Talk to us.