Now that you’ve gotten your chicks, how long should they stay in the brooder? When will they be old enough to be introduced to the coop? It’s a good rule of thumb that chicks need to stay warm until they are fully feathered. When you look at your chicks, if you see downy feathers, there’s a good chance that they still need warmth in the brooder. You can expect your chickens to have all of their adult feathers somewhere between 5-8 weeks of age. This will vary some depending on the breed and the individual chick.
When chicks first arrive to you, the bottom of the brooder needs to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The brooder should remain this warm the first two weeks. You can then start lowering the temperature of the brooder 5 degrees each week. If the outside temperature is as warm or warmer than the suggested brooder temperature, the chicks can go outside. If you’re raising chicks in the summer then you may be able to introduce them to their coop sooner. If you’re raising chicks over the winter then you’ll probably have to provide them heat longer to get them off to a good start.
You can use a thermometer in the bottom of the brooder to monitor the temperature or you can simply observe the chicks’ behavior. Chicks are a really good indicator as to the brooder temperature. If the brooder is too hot, chicks will spread out around the perimeter trying to cool off. They may also pant, have droopy wing and heads. Hot chicks are quiet chicks also. If the brooder is too cold, the chicks will huddle together under the heat lamp trying to get warm. Cold chicks become very fussy so you will hear them more than normal. If there is a draft in your coop, chicks will often huddle together in one area that is not under the heat lamp.
If your chicks look too warm, move the heat lamp up or to one side. This will cool the brooder slightly. Moving the lamp to one side of the brooder will create a warm area and they will be able to come and go as needed. If you’re adjusting the heat lamp to create the perfect temperature then you’ll want to monitor them closely until you get it in the right spot.