With the weather getting warmer in much of the country and your chicks growing quickly, its tempting to wonder if you can put them outside on a warm day.
In general, baby chicks live inside for their first four to six weeks. They should be kept in a covered brooder—they will attempt to fly—with a heater that is gradually reduced in intensity over the course of their chick-hood. If you live in a warm climate, where the temperatures reach the 60s or 70s during the day, your chicks will probably be ready to move outside fulltime when they are four or five weeks old. Look for their cues, however: if your chicks are looking strong, feisty, and spending less time under the heating lamp, they’re probably ready for the transition to the outdoors.
Once your chicks are two or three weeks old, however, you can give them some “outside time” if the temperatures are in the 70s or warmer. Not surprisingly, your chicks will love being outside digging in the dirt and pecking at the grass. If you find yourself with a warm day and some eager chicks, just follow these four steps to keep them safe.
- Isolation. If you have fully grown chickens or other pets, keep your chicks separate from larger animals by constructing a small pen for them to play in. A large dog crate works well, but you can also set up some chicken wire. Just be sure to make a cover for their playpen, as chicks will attempt to fly.
- Attention. If you take your chicks outside, it’s very important to watch them closely at all times. Chicks are very curious, and they will love digging in the dirt and pecking at the grass. Make sure that they cannot get out of their pen: having your chicks run off would not only be disastrous but also potentially devastating. Chicks are also very attractive to predators, so make sure that the coast is clear before you bring your chicks into the outside world.
- Shade and water. Especially if it’s a hot day, make sure that your chicks have access to adequate shade and water within their pen. Remember, they’ve never been outside before, so their bodies will need to adjust to more direct sunlight and wind.
- Listen to your chicks. Take cues from your chicks to determine how long they should stay outside. If they seem happy, then stay outside with them and enjoy watching them explore. If temperatures start dropping or the wind begins to blow, however, they’ll probably start chirping loudly, telling you they’re ready to move indoors.
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