When Can Chickens Live Outside And Tips To Help With The Transition

If you are looking for the answer to when can chickens live outside you are likely raising young chicks and are so ready for them to be out of the house and on their own in the chicken coop right. They are likely getting large for the brooder, smelling up the house, and even getting out on occasion.

The short answer is about 8 weeks old when they are fully feathered and the outside temperatures are about 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

when can chickens live outside intro image

But there are a few other things you need to be careful of before letting your young chicken’s free range for the first time. When chickens are very young they are EXTREMELY vulnerable and need protection from almost everything.

They are really dumb when it comes to predators. Not to mention that they are still snack-size at this age and make for very easy targets.

You also need to know that it takes about a full week to ten days to train your chickens where to go at night. They don’t know that they need to go into the coop at night just because you put them in there the first night.

When we get new batches of new chicks to replace our old hens I will typically order them to ship in late march or early April and once they are fully feathered we will put them outside during the day in a mettle frame that has chicken wire on all sides.

Mettle frame to keep chicks safe living outside

Then we have to catch them all and bring them back in the sunroom and they sleep in the brooder tubs at night until they are big enough to be with the rest of the flock.

This goes on for about 4-6 weeks and it is a big chore for sure. But you let your young chickens out in the yard they have a much higher chance of being eaten. So it’s best to hang in there and wait until your new baby chickens are about half the size of your older chickens before trying to introduce them to the old flock.

Age: When to Move Chicks Outdoors

You can move chicks outside between 6 and 8 weeks of age. You want them to be fully feathered and not need a heat lamp anymore to keep the brooder temperature up. If you have a very secure place for them to live in the outdoor temps you could move them out but you also need to keep in mind the predators before moving them out. This is also the age that the chickens are able to regulate their own body temperature better.

What Your New Chickens Need To Be Able To Live Outside

Here is what you need to have prepared for your new chickens to move outside.

Young chickens preparing to move outside

Climate: Temperature and Humidity

Ideally, you want the weather to be about 75 degrees and definitely not raining. The chicks are too vulnerable at such a young age. They could get sick with that shock to the system.

If you know a bad storm is coming you would be better off bringing the young birds inside in tubs with screens over top for the time being. They don’t know enough to stay out of the weather.

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Basics of Chicken Housing

With the right chicken housing, you can provide your chickens with a safe place to stay closed up tight a night and have some free range time during the day. 

If your birds are not going to spend a ton of time in the coop. Meaning they will just be in there to sleep at night. Each chicken needs about 12 inches of roosting space, You don’t need to worry so much about floor space. They all huddle up together most often so there is no need to be too worried about having space between them. Just make sure each of your birds has the room to get up on something to sleep at night.

However, if your chickens are going to be in the coop during the day hours especially if you live in colder climates and you know there will be a season where the chickens might have to stay in the coop for several days. A basic rule of thumb is that each bird should have at least three square feet of floor space inside. This will give them plenty of room to move around and not get to tightly packed in causing some aggression or pecking.

chickens in a chicken coop run

If you already have a coop then make sure you know how many adult chickens that coop can handle and the breeds of chickens you want to have. If you like larger breeds like Buff Orpington then they will take up more space than a smaller breed like a leghorn or silkie.

If you don’t have a chicken coop yet think about the goals you have for your backyard farm and how many chickens you will plan to have. because once you have your coop set up you are stuck with it unless you want to build or buy a new one.

You’ll also want to make sure there’s ample ventilation in order to keep air circulating properly in their environment. Chicken coops can get stagnant air fast so you don’t want to be keeping them closed up forever. Chickens can handle pretty cold weather and do just fine in the snow if it’s not too deep. There is also no need to add a heat source to your coop because chickens put off a lot of body heat and adding heat lamps to a coop can be very dangerous. Make sure to read this post from fresh eggs daily about heat sources.

Protection from Predators

This is a big one. You’ve mastered raising baby chicks and everything is going fine. There is warm air outside and its a good time to start moving your chicks outside.

A lot of it depends on where you live but every backyard chicken keeper is going to have some kind of predator to protect their chickens from.

These are some of the predators you are going to have to protect your chickens from.

For the first day or so do not leave your birds outside full time without someone watching them. It takes about 2-3 days before wild predators start to notice that there are new opportunities in your backyard.

A determined raccoon can get where ever they want. So all wholes must be closed and barriers need to be heavy. Not just lightweight plastic tubs propped up against each other. If you want something that is foldable and puppy pen could work but you still need to have a heavy top on it. I would also use wire hangers to make a U shape and use them to stake the bottom of the puppy pen down so it can not be easily knocked over.

Chicken Tractor To Transition Your chicks

You can order this tractor from Walmart and it even has two sides covered so your chicken will have some shade. It’s not suitable for them to live outside in but this is great for getting them used to living outdoors.

Get it here At Walmart

Puppy Pen

This is a more affordable option but you are going to still have to find a way to put a top on it. I like this one because it has a sturdy frame and will not be as easy to knock over.

Get it here At Walmart

Here is a close-up of the heavy metal frame that my husband welded together for our chick pen when we are getting the chickens used to going outside.

Think about they layout of your yard and where you would put the temporary pen for your chicks. DO NOT put your chicks close to an area where there is a lot of brush and cover for wild animals to hide in. YOu are making it easier for them to stock your chickens and be able to come in, get their snack, and leave.

backyard showing a field with brush.

How To Train Your Chicks To Inside The Coop

Taking the time to give your young flock time to get used to being outside without being able to run where ever they please will also give your older girls time to get used to the new guests. All flocks have a pecking order and I guarantee you that even the nicest hen you have will make sure that the younger birds know that they are not the boss.

It takes several months and your new chickens to earn their spot with the existing flock.

When you think everyone is at a good stage to get along here are the steps you should take to start training your new chicks to go in the coop.

If you have a chicken run around your chicken coop and you also let your chickens run out in the rest of the yard most of the time. Now is the time to close the chicken run and keep everyone in the fenced-in area. (Like the Image below) This will help keep chicks from finding new places to roost. You need to keep everyone contained until they are well-trained and going in the coop when they should.

Chicken run attached to a chicken coop

On the first day you want them to go into the coop after all the other chickens have gone to bed take the young chickens out to the coop and place them on the roost so they will wake up in their new house. That following morning make sure you watch your older chickens to make sure they are allowing the new kids to the feed and water.

That night after they have had a whole day to pick around they are likely going to find a place on the ground to huddle together in. Pick them up and put them in the coop again and put them on the roost.

You are going to have to do this for about three days and then when it is dusk and the rest of the chickens start to go to bed watch the young chicks.

If they are thinking about going in you should start slowly herding them into the coop to help them get the idea of “this is what we do when it gets dark” If you have an open gap like we do by the coop door it will safe your sanity if you put up some old fencing like in the image below to block of the opening. This will keep the chickens focused on going in and keep you from chasing them in circles.

Fence blocking off gaps in between the chicken coop and the tree

This is going to take about a week before you start to see that most of them get the idea and a full two weeks before you can confidently know that they all went inside.

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What To Feed Your Chickens Once They Move Outside

This is going to depend on the size of your new chickens but if you have chick starter feed left then you can keep feeding them on the starter feed until it is gone. Just keep in mind that your other chickens are going to eat it as well. It’s not going to hurt them but you aren’t going to be able to keep them separate. The only reason you might need to be careful of what you are feeding your young chicks is if you feed older hens layer pellets and the new chickens are still small your new backyard chickens could have a hard time swallowing the pellets. But most chickens are fine with the transition.

You can also mix layer pellets and scratch grains in with the starter feed so the young chickens start getting used to the idea of eating a different feed.

Personally, I like pellets better because there is much less feed waste. If some feed falls to the groups the birds can see it better and are more likely to eat it instead of stopping it into the ground.

If you are increasing the number of chickens you have by quite a lot make sure to check on the water sources often to make sure your birds have enough clean water for the amount you have now.

Now that you know what your chickens need to be able to live outside you are all set to start making plans. Check your local weather for the next week and make sure your chickens are fully feathered. Always make sure that they have some kind of shelter so they can get out of the rain if a rainstorm shows up out of nowhere. That is bound to happen in the early spring.

Happy moving your indoor chicks outside. I am sure you are ready for it.

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