When Can Chicks Go Outside?

When Can Chicks Go Outside Featured Image
Chicks can go outside after 6 weeks of age, but only for short periods of time during warmer conditions. At 10 to 12 weeks, they are physically mature enough to head outside anytime and join your existing flock. 

One of the biggest steps anyone raising chickens has to face is determining when is the right time to let chicks out of their brooder. Baby chicks are incredibly fragile and require lots of care after they hatch.

It’s safest to keep them in a safe and warm environment until they’ve reached a certain age, but eventually, all chickens need to be introduced to the outdoor elements.

In this article, we will take a look at the process of letting chicks outside for the very first time.

How Long Should Chicks Be Under A Heat Lamp?

After they hatch, young chicks need to be kept in an enclosed incubating area known as a brooder box. Since they are so little and fragile, it’s important to have a constant heat source that is on at all times to keep the chicks warm.

If you don’t have a brooder, it’s best to keep chicks in a dry and enclosed space such as a garage or barn and to make sure to buy enough heat lamps to provide the necessary amount of heat.

Typically, it’s best to start your heat lamp around 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the chicks’ first week to make sure their body temperature is high enough. Then you will gradually lower the heater’s temperature by about 5 degrees every following week.

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After the sixth week, and when the brooder temperature is around 70-75 degrees, the chicks will usually be big enough to slowly start letting outside into the yard.

While 6 weeks is usually the time to let baby chickens start exploring outside, you also want to make sure that the outdoor temperatures are safe. It’s usually best to let them out on a day where the temperature is similar to the conditions that they are used to. If it’s a nice, sunny day with temperatures of around 70 degrees, that might be the perfect opportunity to start letting chicks outside.

Safety Precautions

Once chicks have reached about 6 weeks old and the weather conditions feel right, you now need to start considering how to safely let the chicks roam outside.

2 baby chicks on dirt

There are many steps you can take to make your chicks’ first journey outside a successful one:

1. Enclosed Playpen

Having an enclosed playpen for your chicks to play in is essential to keeping them in a smaller contained area where they cannot escape from. Baby chicks are known to be escape artists, as they are still incredibly small and can wiggle through small holes in fencing.

For this reason, it’s important that your playpen is made of chicken wire that has incredibly small netting holes to ensure that the chicks have no possible way to run away.

2. Metal Roof

Another great thing to add to your playpen is a metal roof. Chicks are easy targets for predatory birds like eagles and hawks, so having a way to prevent these attacks is essential.

Rhode Island Red pullets in a play pen
A play pen with small netting and a metal roof is ideal for baby hens

A metal roof will also protect chicks from overheating in the sunlight and will provide cover if it begins to rain. Chicks should be brought back into their brooding area if the weather becomes too hazardous to their wellbeing.

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3. Easy Access to Chicken Feed and Water

When the chicks are playing outside, it’s also very important that they still have sources of water and chick starter feed available to them at all times. Being nourished as they grow acclimated to the new climate will allow them to be calmer and more comfortable with their surroundings.

4. Regular Supervision

Finally, the most important safety precaution is supervision. When you’re letting your chicks roam free, you also need to be present to watch over them and make sure that they are safe.

3 pullets outside being patted
Young children often enjoy taking on the role of chick and pullet supervisors

If let alone, chicks can easily put themselves in dangerous situations or find ways of sneaking out of their playpen, so being nearby will allow you to intervene if something happens.

Connecting Chicks With the Rest of Your Flock

Another big part of bringing your chicks outside is introducing them to the rest of your flock. It’s important to do this gradually and carefully to make sure they get along with the rest of your chickens.

Having the mother hen take the chicks around a sectioned-off part of the yard is a great way to slowly introduce the chicks to the other birds. Even starting them off in their playpen, adjacent to the rest of the flock while safely fenced off in their own area, is a good way to allow your other chickens to come up to the fencing and check out the baby chicks.

A young flock of chickens outside

Once your younger chickens have reached about 10 to 12 weeks of age, you can then start safely allowing them to mingle with the rest of the flock. You want to make sure the chicks are similar in size to the rest of the flock, and that they are fully feathered. These physical traits typically show that the chicks are mature enough to start connecting with your other chickens.

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It’s important to remember that chickens are usually fairly territorial, so chicks won’t likely receive a warm welcome right away from your other backyard chickens. It takes time and patience to slowly integrate new pullets to the rest of the flock, and they will normally start out pretty low in the pecking order.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few weeks of introducing the new chickens in short intervals to the rest of the flock before they become fully accepted.

Permanently Moving to the Henhouse

Once it seems like your new pullets are well integrated into the rest of your chickens, it is likely time for them to be permanently moved in with the flock. 10 to 12-week-old chicks have usually fully matured physically, but just make sure there aren’t any behavioral issues regarding how they interact with the rest of your flock.

Make sure that the henhouse you own is big enough to house all of the new chicks. While this seems self-explanatory, it can be easy to overlook when you’re busy raising the chicks separately in a brooder. Each hen usually needs their own nesting box, so make sure your chicken coop is the right size to allow each chicken in your flock their own little home.

Letting your precious chicks outside for the first time can feel intimidating at first. Fortunately, if you plan ahead and do it safely, the process will usually go smoothly. Raising baby chicks and integrating them with the rest of your flock is essential to the longevity of your experience as a chicken keeper.

Leland

Raised in Wisconsin, Leland has spent most of his life adjacent to the rich farmlands of the Midwest. He has visited many farms while exploring his home state, which eventually led him to work directly with farmers on a variety of projects. Between building furniture with Amish-milled wood and helping a local farmer construct a greenhouse, Leland developed a deep interest in homesteading and wants to one day have farmland of his own. Leland is able to combine his love of writing and recent passion for agriculture by writing articles focused on a variety of aspects of farming and homesteading.

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