As you are well-aware, newborn chicks need to remain inside the brooder. However, as your little fluffy babies begin to grow, you will be faced with a conundrum. Just when is it ok for you to let the chicks outside? Truthfully, the answer to this question would be: it depends.
There are quite a few different factors to take into account. Therefore, it can be tricky to provide owners with the precise time and age for when you can let your chicks out. However, there is a way for you to figure this out by yourself. To learn all you need to know about this topic, keep reading.
Why Do Chicks Need to Stay Inside for Longer?
Newly hatched chicks are ill-equipped to handle their own body temperature. This is why they need to constantly be in an environment where the temperature is controlled to suit them. To make matters worse, the cold can have a negative impact on the chicks’ overall health.
If your chicks’ temperature drops by even a single degree, this can put stress on their little bodies. Not to mention, if they get too cold both their digestive systems and immunity will be negatively impacted. So, to put it shortly, chicks need to stay warm.
Now, the easiest way to keep them at an optimal temperature is to keep them inside the brooder. This way, you will be able to eliminate the possibility of their temperature dropping, especially when they are quite young.
The Dangers of Letting Chicks Out Too Soon
It is this need for chicks to stay warm that makes it so important to keep them inside for as long as necessary. See, when chicks venture outside before they are ready, they become susceptible to becoming chilled. This can lead to illness or even death in some instances.
Nevertheless, this isn’t the only risk of letting chicks out too early. Chicks tend to have very weak immune systems when they are young. As such, they aren’t great at warding off most illnesses. Unfortunately, the great outdoors can hold quite a few bacteria and parasites including but not limited to:
- Marek’s disease
By keeping chicks inside until the right time, you increase the chance of them growing up healthy and happy.
At What Age Can Chicks Go Outside?
This is perhaps one of the trickiest questions to answer. Most people who raise chicks will tell you that your chicks can go outside when they are around 3 weeks old. This is because, at this point, they can deal with slightly lower ambient temperatures.
What is really important to monitor here, though, is when the chicks begin to start feathering. See, chicks are able to keep themselves warm by fluffing their feathers. This causes layers of air to be trapped within them and for this air to act as an insulator.
Chicks, however, tend to have fluff rather than actual feathers. This is why they can’t really warm themselves just yet. So, the chicks need to be fully feathered before they are let outside. This is also why it can be difficult to pin down the right age to let them out.
Understand, each breed will feather at a different rate. Thus, some will have sufficient plumage by the time they are around three weeks. Other breeds, meanwhile, may take a little longer. So, always observe your chicks’ fluff and feathers before letting them out.
Weather and Environment Conditions to Monitor
Considering how important it is to keep your chicks cold, it stands to reason that you should keep a close eye on the conditions outside the brooder. First of all, do not let the chicks out during the wintertime. If the temperature is low and there is snow on the ground, keep them inside.
Also, monitor the ambient temperature. It is going to be at least six weeks until your chicks can keep themselves adequately warm. Until then, you can only keep them outside if the ambient temperature is suitable for their needs.
Now, these are the ideal external conditions for chicks to go outside:
- Between 80°F and 85°F
- Humidity levels less than 80 percent
- Clear day, no rain
If it does begin to rain, you should bring your chicks inside before they have a chance to get wet. It is also a good idea to observe their behavior while they are outside. If they are huddled together rather than running around, it means that they are too cold. Therefore, they shouldn’t be let outside just yet.
Planning That First Trip Outside
Let’s imagine that your chicks are finally ready to roam free for a little while. It isn’t as simple as opening the brooder doors and letting them run around like crazy. Rather, you need to carefully plan this first trip out so that all your chicks will be happy and have a great experience.
Here is what you need to do first:
- Make sure that there are no predators (birds, cats, and dogs included) around
- Have a contained area to keep them
- Keep lots of drinking water sources around the area
- Have a place for them to retreat to if they are frightened
Other important tips to keep in mind include:
- Always keep an eye on them
- Take note of changes in weather
- Move them inside if they are uncomfortable
While there may not be a clear-cut answer to when you can let your chicks go outside, there are still quite a few resources for you to turn to. By following the above advice, as well as your own instincts, you will be able to figure out just when the right moment for your brood is.