Inside: Learn when it’s safe to move your chicks from their brooder box to the outdoor chicken coop.
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 as you transition your chicks from their brooder box and move them into the coop.
When Can You Move Chicks Outside?
You shouldn’t even consider moving chicks to the coop until they are at least 6 weeks old. Chicks raised under a brooder need the heat of a brooder to keep warm. Baby chicks under 6 weeks old don’t have enough feathers to regulate their body temperature.
Baby chicks don’t really need the space of a large chicken coop until they are older and if your coop has an attached run, they may not be able to find their way back inside at night.
But there are many other things to consider before transitioning chicks to the coop. Read on to learn the signs that your flock is ready to be moved outside.
Are Your Baby Chicks Fully Feathered?
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First, 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.
In the pictures above, the chicks 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.
What Type of Brooder Lamp Did You Use?
Another thing to consider before moving chicks outdoors 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. This is similar to what they do with a mama hen.
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 before you move chicks outdoors. If raised under a heat lamp, it should probably be closer to 60 or even 70 degrees both day and night or until the chickens are 8-10 weeks old and fully feathered.
You don’t want to take a chance of a chick getting chilled. This can lower their immune system and cause them to become sick.
We usually raise our baby chicks 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 since she doesn’t have all her feathers.
A Secure Chicken 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.
For more information on combining two flocks of chickens read How To Integrate 2 Flocks of Chickens.
Once you have moved your chicks to the coop, you need to keep them locked in the coop 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. However, it is a good idea to check for stragglers every night to be sure no one is left outside.
Should You Allow Your Chicks to Free-Range?
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 come through our yard. And dogs will sometimes kill chicks just for sport.
However, we like our chickens to be able to access fresh grass and bugs so 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. Then we lock them safely inside their coop.
Do you let your chickens free range? When do you typically move them to their coop?
More Information On Raising Baby Chicks
Want to learn more about raising backyard chicks? Get my free Chick-Raising Success Guide with 3 things you need to know to raise baby chicks (and none of the things you don’t!).
These posts also contain helpful information on setting up your brooder, caring for your chicks, and building a chicken coop.
- Setting up a Brooder for Baby Chicks – I even tell you how to set up your brooder using a cardboard box so you can save money.
- Baby Chick Care – This post gives you the information you need to care for your baby chicks once you bring them home.
- 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.
I’m a farm girl born and bred in North Carolina. I’ve been growing a vegetable garden for over 20 years (and helping my Mom grow hers even longer). I’ve been raising chickens in my bathtub and backyard for 12+ years. I believe that homegrown food can be made simple. Let’s get started.