Don’t risk putting your baby chicks outside too soon. Doing so puts their health and safety at risk.
After several weeks with chicks inside of my garage, I began to wonder – when can chicks go outside? At first, chicks are adorable, but then they start to grow and poop more.
Need I say more?
When I went into my garage and realized all of my chicks escaped, I knew it was time to start the transition process. Chicks need to go outside at some point, but I had no idea when. Raising baby chicks is hard – there are so many unknowns.
If you have wondered when you can put chicks outside, here is what you need to know.
How Long Do Chicks Need a Heat Lamp
Baby chicks need to use a heat lamp for chicks until they’re four to six weeks old. If you’re raising baby chicks in the middle of the winter, they will need the heat lamp for longer than six weeks. It’s easier to keep chicks warm in the summer.
Once chicks are fully feathered at six weeks of age, they can comfortably handle temperatures of 60 degrees F or higher.
When you stop using your heat lamp for chicks depends on the temperature where you keep them. If you have your chicks in an unheated garage or barn, you’ll need to keep the heat lamp on until they’re fully feathered or until the temperature goes above 70 degrees F.
It’s important that they stay at the best temperature for baby chicks for proper health. Freshly hatched chicks need to stay in an environment between 95-100 degrees F. Each week, the temperature decreases by 5 degrees.
Here are the best temperatures for baby chicks.
- The first week: 95 degrees F
- The second week: 90 degrees F
- The third week: 85 degrees F
- The fourth week: 80 degrees F
- The fifth week: 75 degrees F
- The sixth week: 70 degrees F
When Can Chicks Go Outside to Play
As your chicks get older, you’ll want to bring them outside for some play time. Chicks love these little short trips; it gives them exercise and helps expose them to foraging and life outside. Watching chicks peck at the lawn and chase bugs is adorable.
It’s safe to start bringing your chicks outside for some play time when they’re around four weeks old, but make sure it’s a warm day with temperatures around 70 degrees F and sunny weather.
If it’s too chilly, rainy, or windy, it’s not a good day to let little chicks play outside. They need time to toughen up and acclimate to the weather.
If the temperature outside is right for their age range, then outside playtime is safe for chicks. Ideally, it’ll be a little warmer than that range because wind chills chicks
How to Safely Bring Chicks Outside to Play
When you bring your chicks outside, there are a few things you need to have for them to keep them safe.
- An enclosed playpen for the chicks to play. Make sure there are no big holes that they could escape out or that predators could enter.
- Keep food and water available for your chicks while they’re outside playing. Make sure you include waterers and feeders in your supplies for baby chicks.
- Put a cover over the top of the playpen space, preventing predators from grabbing them. Chicks are easy prey for hawks, eagles, cats, and other animals.
- Lay a sheet of cardboard over part of the top to give the chicks a bit of shade.
- Always supervise the chicks. If you get busy and cannot watch them, bring them inside.
When Can Chicks Go Outside Without a Heat Lamp
Chicks can go outside without a heat lamp between four and weeks old assuming that you aren’t moving them outside permanently. The temperatures need to be around 70 degrees F until they’re fully feathered.
Make sure the temperature outside is a temperature that your baby chick can handle.
Signs That Your Baby Chicks Are Cold
Keeping your chicks warm is essential; chicks die from being too cold. Know the signs that they’re too cold.
- Huddling together
- Not playing
- Puffed up feathers
When Can You Put Chicks Outside Permanently
When your baby chicks are six weeks old, they can go outside permanently depending on your current weather.
I live in Ohio, so typically, I won’t put baby chicks outside until May or June. Sometimes, they still need heat during those chilly, spring evenings.
I start by turning the heat lamp off for several days inside of my barn and let them experience life without it but still in a controlled environment. They won’t be exposed to any extreme weather, but this period helps them acclimate.
It’s a smart idea to put them in their outside playpen each day to help with the transition.
After one to two weeks, I move my baby chicks outside permanently. At this stage, they’re fully feathered and ready to embrace their true lives as outdoor chickens.
How to Move Chicks Outside
When it’s time to move chicks outside, you want to do it the right way. There are two methods you can try.
Moving Chicks Outside Gradually
The method that I use is a gradual process of moving chicks outside. It starts with the removal of the heat lamps when the chicks are full feathered. After that, if there is a colder part of your home, move your chicks there.
Start bringing your chickens outside when they’re around four weeks and do so each day until they’re ready to move outside permanently.
Watch for any signs of distress. If your chicks huddle together or act different, it’s
Moving Chicks The Fast Way
The other way to move your chicks is to put them outside without any transition period. This typically means cutting the heat lamp and then moving them outside after one to two weeks.
Watching for signs of distress during this method is increasingly important. Since your chicks haven’t had exposure to the elements, it increases their risk of becoming chilled.
When Can Chicks Join The Flock
Chicks must be raised on their own for at least six weeks before joining your flock. However, it’s best to wait until they’re closer to 12 weeks before integrating.
Chickens are territorial and far from welcoming. Introducing new chickens to a flock is a sketchy thing; they often attack or injure newcomers, so it has to be done properly.
Wait until your new chickens are around 12 weeks old so that they can hold their own more against the other members of the flock.
Making the decision about when can chicks go outside is worrisome. You don’t want your chicks to get sick – having a sick chick is a recipe for disaster. Once your chicks are fully weathered and over six weeks old, it’s time to begin the process of moving chicks outside.