When Can Chicks Go Outside? Crucial Information You Need To Know

Letting your chicks go out in the backyard when they’re too young can be detrimental to their health and well-being. So, before you open the coop, here’s everything you need to know about when chicks can go outside.

Let’s begin…

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Freeing The Fluff Balls – At What Age Can Chicks Go Outside?

There are a few things to consider in order to answer this question. Let’s take a look at them below.

How Old Are Chicks When They Can Go Outside? When Can Chicks Go Outside Without A Heat Lamp?

You’ll see that whenever chicks are brought up by their mother hen, they’ll be roaming outside from day one.

Things work quite differently, however, when chicken keepers take on the role of momma bird as baby chicks won’t have their mom to give them a warm embrace whenever they feel cold!

So, when can baby chicks go outside to play? … when can my chicks go outside?

Because hens allow their offspring to spend longer periods of time outside as they grow up, we try to do something similar.

It is often suggested to start taking chicks out for short excursions around four weeks, just as long as temperatures are in line with those delineated by general temperature guidelines – take a look at the table below.

When they’re 4 weeks old, for example, chicks should be kept at a temperature of 80°F.

These brief outdoor expeditions will allow them to gradually acclimate, get some exercise, and forage for food. Refrain from doing so if your chicks seem sick or debilitated though, and consult with your vet instead.

Chicks are easy targets for predators. If you’re letting them outside for the first time, you will need to supervise them and keep your backyard or garage well-fenced.

Make sure to provide them with food and water, as well as shade and a small sheltered area.

If it becomes rainy or windy – or if the younglings don’t seem to be enjoying themselves – bring them back in.

Learn more about how to raise baby chicks by reading our comprehensive guide on What to Feed Them and How to Care for Them.

When Can Chicks Go Outside In Winter?

Normally, chicks fully feather by 6 to 8 weeks of age, though this varies depending on the breed and individual bird.

Fully feathered means that all their down or fluff has been replaced by real plumage – an important stage as down by itself is unable to retain heat.

Feathers, on the other hand, are able to fluff up and trap warm air with the help of underlying down feathers.

Therefore, you should avoid putting your baby chicks outside in winter entirely, as they will be at risk of freezing to death.

Wait until they are fully feathered instead, and when you do decide to bring them out, do it little by little instead of making a sudden switch.

Watch John Suscovich’s 4 minute video, “Do chickens need heat in the winter?” for further information on chickens in chilly temperatures!

When can chicks go outside full time in cold weather?

If you’ve gradually exposed your fully feathered younglings to cold winter temperatures without having any trouble, they are probably ready to go outside full time in cold weather, as long as they have access to a coop that is safe, clean, dry, and well-ventilated.

Note, also, that the more chicks there are in a flock, the more they can group together for warmth.

Remember to do a few rounds during their first couple of nights out to check if they’re alright! 

When Can Chicks Go Outside Full Time? And When Can Chicks Go Outside To Sleep?

The same rule applies to when letting chicks outside in winter… wait until their fluff has been replaced by robust plumage (1).

By weeks four and five, you should notice your chicks’ fluffy appearance slowly disappearing, and their fuzzy down being replaced with feathers of a mature bird.

Keep in mind that most chicks develop their wing feathers first, then their chest, followed by the rest of their bodies.

Therefore, don’t allow them out full time if their entire bodies are not yet covered with feathers.

Again, you want to make a slow transition that goes from a heated environment to an unheated but comfortable one, to finally placing them in an outdoor and sheltered location.

Go ahead and read Hobby Farms’ article on Letting Chicks Outside, which elaborates on the importance of keeping the chill off your babies… even in summer.

When Can Chicks Go Outside With Older Chickens?

It is usually best to wait for chicks to be more or less the size of your existing flock members – which will occur by about 12 weeks – to begin the introduction process.

This way, you can safely integrate them without them being overly threatened by the current pecking order of your settled flock.

Read our guide on How to Introduce New Chickens to The Flock to learn more on the subject.

Final Thoughts

As exciting as it may be to let your chickens’ babies roam and explore the outdoors, you need to make sure that the young chicks are ready for the real world.

Depending on the breed, new chicks around 4-6 weeks old can go outside from the brooder.

As a rule of thumb, know that although temperature guidelines will serve as a reference for understanding your baby chicks’ needs, their physical development and behavior will be what actually provides you with clues as to what’s right for them.

Please let us know your questions, opinions, and thoughts in the comment section below.

And don’t forget to share this article!

FAQs

Yes, 5-week old chicks can go outside from the brooder. However, this depends on the breed of the baby chick because some varieties take longer to develop feathers. Chicks need to stay warm enough while outdoors. Thin or incomplete feathering on the body or wings provides little protection against cold temperatures. So, only let the babies outside the brooder and join the flock outdoors when all their plumage is fully developed.

You can tell if a chick is fully feathered when it lost all its baby fuzz. You will also notice that the chick’s wattles and comb are bigger or more pronounced. If the chick shows incomplete plumage on the wings and chest, it is highly advisable to keep them in the brooder for a few more days (or weeks) but remove the lamp.

It will only spike up the temperature in the brooder, causing dehydration and growth stunt in baby chicks. To help and sustain their feathering development, you can place food and water inside the brooder. You will need to clean the brooder every few days to prevent diseases.

Yes, chicks can survive without a heat lamp in the brooder. However, a heat lamp may be necessary for supplemental heating, especially during cold weather conditions. If the brooder temperature is around 75-80 degrees and the babies are around four weeks old, you can stop using a secondary heat source. The brooder temperature is warm enough for the babies.

If chicks get too cold, they will huddle each other and show signs of distress. Since babies can die from the cold, folks usually monitor the coop and brooder temperature. Most of the time, an additional heat source is placed inside the chickens’ shelter to keep the young birds warm enough. To prevent dehydration, you should have a water feeder inside.

  1. 4- to 5-Week-Old Baby Chicks. Retrieved from: https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/education/detail/4-to-5-week-old-baby-chicks

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