By now, you are ready to get those teenage chicks out of your house or garage. They are becoming increasingly messy. They probably need more space to roam around. You are ready to begin the process of moving chicks to the coop. But are the chicks ready? Here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you evict them from their brooder box and move them into the coop.
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Are your baby chicks fully feathered?
First off, your baby chicks need to be fully feathered out before moving them to the coop. This means they need to have lost all of their baby fuzz and have full-fledged chicken feathers. This usually occurs between 5 & 12 weeks of age. Some breeds take longer to feather out than others. The chicks in the picture on the left are NOT ready to make the move outdoors yet. They can be put outside for a bit during warm days as long as they are watched closely. The chick on the right is fully feathered and should be fine in the coop with no heat lamp or brooder light.
Another key consideration is the type of brooder lamp you used. The type will affect how soon your baby chicks feather out. Chicks kept under a heat lamp will take longer to feather out than chicks raised under an Eco-Glo brooder. Under a heat lamp, chicks are exposed to constant heat so they don’t feather out as quickly. Under a radiant brooder (like the Eco-Glo), the chicks will come out to eat and drink but then run back under the brooder when they are chilly. Since they are exposed to a range of temperatures, they are better able to handle the outdoor temperature fluctuations.
Secondly, it needs to be at least 55 degrees outside, day and night. If raised under a heat lamp, it should probably be closer to 60 or even 70 degrees day and night until the chickens are 8-10 weeks old and fully feathered. Our current batch of baby chicks are being raised in an unheated garage. At three weeks old, they don’t sleep under their Eco-Glo much anymore, but it is still there should we have a chilly night. In the picture above, you can see that the chick still has lots of fuzz on her head. She is not ready to be moved outdoors yet.
A secure coop
Before you even consider moving chicks to the coop, you need to have a secure shelter for them. Without a safe place to sleep, you could easily lose all your chicks to predators in one evening. If you have older chickens already in this coop, then you need to wait until the baby chicks are about the same size as the older chickens before moving them in together. Older chickens will often peck or even kill younger chicks. This is why we have two coops-one we use to “grow out” younger chicks and a permanent coop to house all the egg layers.
Once you have moved your chicks to the coop, you need to keep them locked in for about a week. This allows them time to get used to where “home” is. Once they are familiar with the coop, you can allow them into the run during the day and they should go back into the coop every night.
After a week or so, you can decide whether or not you are comfortable letting them free-range. We do not let ours “free-range” as we have too many predators. Foxes, raccoons, coyotes, and possums are regular visitors to our yard. And we see hawks almost daily. We also have the occasional stray dog that could decimate our flock quite quickly.
However, so the chickens can access fresh grass and bugs, we have a semi-secure enclosure that we move around as needed to allow the chickens room to roam. We never allow them outside in this enclosure unless someone is home. In the evening the chickens naturally go back into their coop to roost for the night.
Do you let your chickens free range? When do you typically move them to their coop?
More information on raising baby chicks
Need more info on raising chickens? Check out the following posts.
Setting up a Brooder for Baby Chicks– I even tell you how to set your brooder up using a cardboard box.
Baby Chick Care-This post gives you the information you need to successfully raise your baby chicks.
What do you really need when building a chicken coop?-This post shares the things you NEED for your coop and gives some inexpensive ways to re-purpose items you may already have around the house.