Are your chicks ready to leave the brooder?

These pullets are experiencing their first day out of the brooder.
These pullets are experiencing their first day out of the brooder.

Don’t they grow up fast? It seems like only yesterday you brought home those peeping, fuzzy little balls of cuteness… but you need to get ready for your birds to hit their “teenager” stage. Just like a teenager that has their learner’s permit, your birds may be sorely tempted to try out those new feathers they are working on growing by attempting to take flight. Let’s face it – you’re brooder won’t hold them forever and it’s time to form a plan around how and when to introduce them to the great outdoors! So, how do you know when your chicks are ready for the big step of moving to the coop and run?

  1. Chicks will be mostly fully feathered – At 5 to 6 weeks your fluffy chicks will start to resemble adult birds by growing out pinfeathers. These adult feathers will help them regulate their body temps better than fluffy chick down. Having a majority of their feathers is essential for birds who are headed outside.
  2. Chicks have been acclimated – Although they start off at 90 – 95 degrees in the brooder the first week of life, you need to decrease this temperature each week until the temperature inside the brooder is somewhat close to what daytime temps will be outside. For example, if your birds are in the brooder at six weeks old, your brooder temp should be around 60 – 65 degrees.  For the first few weeks (and especially if outdoor temperatures are fluctuating), you may want to bring the birds back into the brooder at night or in bad weather to make sure they don’t get too cold.
  3. Chicks have been introduced to your existing flock – nobody wants henhouse drama, and taking a few simple steps to introduce new birds to old will save a great deal of time and potential injuries from bullying and aggressiveness towards the newbies. At this point it is important to remember if you have youngsters joining your existing flock that everyone needs to be fed chick starter until the youngest bird is 16 weeks. The extra calcium in regular layer feed can harm young chicks.
  4. Chicks are ready to start on treats and grit – it’s a great idea to get your birds used to eating treats (if you plan to offer them) a few days prior to putting them outside. That way, you can use the treats in case you need to lure the birds into a secure space at night. Until they are used to thinking of the coop as “home base” they may need just a bit of encouragement. Just remember, if you start feeding treats (offer no more than 15% of the total diet) you also need to offer grit free choice to aid in digestion.

2 Replies to “Are your chicks ready to leave the brooder?”

  1. Your tutrorial can be misunderstood or misleading, one cannot integrate young chicks on grower feed into a flock of hens eating layer pellets.

    I understood what you are pointing out, but, some who are new may not. My young hens are always separated in a covered chain link dog kennel they can interact with the existing flock but, are separated by chain link and continue to eat grower till they are close to laying eggs, then, in the morning I throw corn open the kennel door allow the new hens to run around, then open the shed/coops, and hutches where some of the birds are housed and never have a problem.

    Sandi Ruscetta

    Rehoboth, Mass.

  2. Mine are now 2 months. They spend all day out in the yard with my big old gals, they get along grestbut the babies know their place As soon as night comes, the each go to their own coups. My 2 month old still have a heat lamp at night.

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