You could write a book on any of these questions and every book would show a different opinion. There are so many different things that can work that the hard part is usually deciding which one to do, not which one is right or wrong.-How long do chicks eat starter food? Until it's gone? Or should I keep buying starter until a certain age?
Feeding chickens is a perfect example. I don’t know which brand of chicken feed you are using but there is probably a chart on the bag to show you at what age to use which feed. And they are all different. A general progression is to feed a high protein Starter at the beginning to help get them off to a good start and get them feathered out faster. Then change to a lower protein Grower feed since they don’t have to have that higher protein feed after they have that good start. Then eventually switch to a Layer. But some recommend a lower protein Developer between the Grower and Layer because it is a little less expensive and they really don’t have to have the extra protein in that growth period. But the extra protein won’t hurt them.
Those charts might say feed Starter for 4 weeks, some say 8 weeks. It doesn’t matter. Feed it until the bag runs out after 4 weeks, even if that is until they start to lay and you can skip all the others. Some people feed a relatively high protein feed throughout, either a Starter or Flock Raiser, both probably around 20% protein level. Some people would be horrified to think of feeding their babies a 15% developer during their late development stages when it is probably sufficient. Some never switch to Layer but instead feed another feed that does not have the high calcium levels they need for the egg shells when they are laying but instead offer ouster shell on the side. I never buy Layer but just offer oyster shells. The ones that need it eat it the others don’t eat enough to harm themselves.
But there is another side to this. All this assumes this feed is all they eat. For most of us it isn’t. A lot of our chickens forage for a lot of their food, get scratch, get kitchen wastes, get stuff from the garden, or get grass clippings. All these treats might lower their overall protein intake compared to what is in the feed. In general if you follow the charts on the feed bag for age groups and limit what else they eat to less than 10% of their overall diet you will be OK, but some chickens have better behavior if they get a higher protein feed. Usually this is the really big ones that need more for general body maintenance.
It can get really complicated if you let it. But for your basic question, feed Starter until the bag runs out, then switch if you wish.
I told you it could be a book. And I assure you many people will disagree with parts of what I just said.
-Are there any toys to keep chicks entertained - or are they too young yet?
At that age probably the best toy is something for them to perch on. They may or may not use it. I took a narrow strip of wood and screwed or nailed (Can’t remember which) that to a 2x4 block on each end to get it above the brooder floor. It usually doesn’t take long for them to start playing on it. They love to scratch but it sounds like they are doing enough of that. They really don’t need toys as much as they need room to run and play. Since they are in your bathroom, keep the toilet lid down. They can fly at a pretty young age. You don’t want them flying over there, falling in, and drowning.- I can't hang my waterter at this point. They are in our bathroom and my husband said no way am I allowed to make a hole in the ceiling haha! Is there any other way that I can keep it up so they stop kicking shavings in it? I must change the water 10 times a day! I also don't want it to knock over if I prop it up on something.
I don’t know what kind of waterer you have or how your bathroom is set up with shavings and everything. With some waterers they can and often will knock it over if you just set them up on a block, brick, or something. These photos might give you an idea of what I do. I cut a hole in plywood that a bowl will fit down in and raised it with 2x4’s. They can’t knock it over. For my brooder I set the bowl down in pretty deep and put rocks in it so they can walk on top and not drown when they try to walk in it. The one in my brooder has a larger platform they can walk on. They will still scratch bedding in it but I place it on a piece of old carpet, plywood, something like that and try to keep the shavings swept off of that to limit how much shavings they scratch in it. They will poop in this. You still need to take it out and dump it at least once a day to keep it clean enough. You probably have enough room in your bathroom to do something like this. Hopefully others will come on here and tell you how they solve this problem.- When we move them to their coop, should we keep them in the brooder for a day (or a few hours) as a transition? We will keep them inside for maybe a day, then let them in their Fort Knox of an outdoor pen (lots of predators around our house) for a week or two.
This is another one you can easily write a book on. My brooder is built into my coop. I put my chicks out there straight from the incubator even when the outside temperature is below freezing. Brooding outside can be a bit challenging because of the different highs and lows you get, but as long as you can safely keep one area warm enough in the coldest temperatures and another area cool enough in the warmest temperatures you can move them outside today. I don’t think you have older chickens out there to worry about integration. If you start to have dust, noise, or small problems in the house you might want to consider this as long as you have power out there. I use heat lamps but there are several other ways to provide the heat as long as you have electricity out there and it is ready. If you are interested maybe you can let us know and we can give more details.
When they can go out without extra heat is another complicated question. It’s going to depend a lot on where you are and what kind of temperatures you are experiencing, how well they are feathered out, what your facilities look like, and if they have been acclimated. Most chicks are fully feathered around 4 to 5 weeks and can usually go outside then in temperatures that are not severe, but we are all unique.
I don’t have any idea what your coop looks like, how big it is, or how many chicks you have. There is no need to move the brooder with them. They will adjust really quickly to the coop without it. It’s normally recommended to keep them in the coop for about a week before you let them out to the run, the thinking being that they will get used to the coop as home and return there to sleep at night. That often works but not always. You may find that even after doing that they still want to sleep in the run. If you consider your run truly predator proof, that’s fine, but most people want them sleeping in the coop section. If that’s true with you just put them in the coop after dark and lock them in there overnight. They should soon get the message. Of course there are other ways of doing this, there always are, but the main thing is be a little flexible and adjust as you see a need.