We are continuing our series on Raising Backyard Chickens. Urban chicken raising is easier than you think! You can raise backyard chickens for eggs in a rural yard, suburb and even the city! Not to mention, it is a fun project for the whole family and a very rewarding one when you can enjoyfarm fresh eggs – as fresh as possible! This is part of a series that will walk you through Raising Backyard Chickens step-by-step. This is step #3 – What you need to know to transition your chicks from the brooder to the outdoor coop…so that you can run a successful backyard chicken farm from the beginning!
How to Transition Your Chicks from Brooder to Outdoor Coop
When to do it: Chicks can begin going outdoors in the day, in a secure pen, as early as 3 weeks old. By the time they are 6 to 8 weeks old they should be out overnight.
3 Weeks Old: As long is the weather is nice(at least 70 degrees), bring the chicks outdoors in a secure pen, still heated by a heat lamp. It should be similar to a brooder but open enough to start getting them used to the idea of being outside. The first time you do this only leave them outside for a few minutes, then gradually increase the time spent outside in the pen. Remember, by this time the temp in their brooder should be around 80 degrees.
4 Weeks Old: By this time, they can be spending a few hours in their outdoor pen every day, as long as the weather stays nice. The temperature in the brooder should be around 75 degrees.
5 Weeks Old: Time to start weaning them off the heat lamp! This is the week we go down to 70 degrees. Keep in mind that you can slow this process as much as you need to, always turn the heat back up if the chicks seem cold. This week, start preparing them to spend the night in their secure pen(with heating). If you’re not comfortable leaving your heat source unattended at night, you should probably wait to let the chicks be out by themselves until they are 8 or so weeks old.
6 Weeks Old: If you are comfortable leaving the heat lamp on outdoors overnight, now is the time to do so, as long as the weather is nice. I know this is a scary step, but watch the chicks. How cool can it be before they are uncomfortable? Pack in plenty of bedding to be sure the chicks can huddle if they get chilly in the night, and check your forecast to be sure it will stay warm. If everything checks out, you should be just fine!
7 Weeks Old: Assuming the weather holds, you can spend this week getting your chicks ready to spend the night without heating at night, assuming they have most of their feathers in at this point. This week, start introducing them to their coop and getting them used to the larger space. The coop needs to be secure, with no holes large enough for predators to get in or chicks to get out. Start allowing them to spend time in the coop, but be sure to take them out if they huddle or seem frightened at all. Some people recommend a more sudden transition. Granted, this method is faster than mine, and probably in most cases does no permanent damage, I think this way is much friendlier to the chicks, and allows them to have a completely comfortable transition to their new life.
8 Weeks Old: Your chicks have been spending more and more time in the coop over the past week, now they are ready to spend their first night outdoors, without a heat lamp. They should be okay, I know it’s another scary step! Make sure to close them up securely in their coop at night and only allow them out in their run in the day, as chicks have trouble finding a suitably warm spot at that age. Also, don’t allow them out if it’s going to get too cool at night. I would say anywhere over 50 degrees should be fine as long as you have more than two chicks and your coop is draft proof. (But draft proofing is a must for young chickens anyway.) If the weather is going to get colder than that, it can’t hurt to put them back in their brooder until they are just a little older. Just watch your chicks and adjust accordingly from this point on.
And you’re done! Congratulations on transitioning your chicks! I know my method takes a little longer than some others, but it’s a good way to make sure you don’t lose any chicks.
This article was written by Erin, a pro at raising her own chickens and eggs in her family’s backyard! She’s just a teen, but loves animals of all kinds and wants to be a veterinarian and is studying to do so. In addition to raising chickens, she raises ducks, geese and bunnies in her family’s urban backyard!
Be sure to check out the entire Egg Page with lots of tips on eggs (including raising the chickens for your own!)