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Lauren Ware

Moving Baby Chicks Outdoors.

By March 12, 2009

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A poster asked, "Hi Lauren. We just ordered our chicks, Buff Orpingtons, and was wondering how long they need to be kept inside. We're in New Hampshire and the coop will not be ready for several weeks. Will they need time to acclimate to outdoor conditions? At what age will a rooster start to crow?" -- Mike

Great questions, Mike. Baby chicks need the temperature under the brooder lamp to be around 95 degrees F for the first week of their lives. Each week, you'll lower the temperature by 5 degrees (so for week 2, lower it to 90 degrees), and so on, until you've reached outside temperatures. That's when they're fine to put outside without a heat lamp. Now, it is chilly in NH for quite a while, so another rule of thumb is when they are fully feathered out and have lost all their "baby" down, which happens at around six weeks of age. You can also hang the heat lamp in the main coop for the first few weeks that you move them out there so they have some extra warmth for the transition.

Baby chicks are a little like garden starts in that they do need to be "hardened off" before moving to harsh outdoor conditions! Lowering the temperature by 5 degrees a week is what helps with this.

It varies a bit from breed to breed and rooster to rooster, but in general, roosters start to crow at around 3-4 months of age. Some might take till 6 months old to start!

Best of luck with your chicks, Mike! Don't forget to check out my article on raising chicks, which should help you with other questions - but please ask away here or on the Small Farm Forums if you still have questions.

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