I know I do things a little differently than some people. After years of observing chicks raised under broody hens, I've become convinced they don't need as much coddling as humans tend to give them. Under broody hens, they spend large quantities of time outside (not under her) even when it is quite cold and with a wind chill making it colder still. I had one hen go broody in November and hatch in December 2-3 years ago. When that chick was 12 days old, I woke to find the thermometer outside reading 3 degrees. Yet when I went to chick on mom and chick, he was out from under her, running around, happy as a lark (are larks really that happy?) and didn't seem cold at all. (That chick is now my head rooster and never had a sick day in his life.)
I think it is all a matter of allowing them to acclimatize. By exposing them to different elements, it allows their body to develop the blood circulation and grow feathers faster than they would if kept at consistent temp and conditions. So, my chicks never have heat longer than two weeks. I use Eco-Glows which are similar to the Sweeter Heater and they have 3 adjustable height levels. As newly hatched, they obviously start out on the lowest level. At somewhere between a week to 10 days, I raise it to the middle level. I've never used the upper level because by the time they're big enough to need the extra height, they no longer need heat.
At two weeks, the heat gets turned off and they spend the day outside. For this batch, the first day they went outside, I waited until the thermometer outside hit 50 and out they went. That was maybe 10-11am and they were outside until about 7pm. The next day 50 arrived an hour earlier so they had an extra hour outside. From the first day they spend outside, they no longer have heat inside, even at night. That makes it easier for them to adjust between the inside and outside temperatures. Also, their brooder is in the basement which is about 10 degrees cooler than upstairs, so about 60 at night.
By the time they are three weeks old, they have typically outgrown the brooder and that's when they stop coming in, even at night. My chicks have now been outside for two nights. The first night the low was about 50 and last night it was forecast to be 38. The thermometer read 40 when I got up so I can believe it dipped to 38 overnight. I checked on the chicks first thing and they were zipping around eating their breakfast and couldn't have been happier.
Now, I will say, you can't take them from under a heat lamp and put them out if it is 38 degrees - the shock to their system will kill them. But by allowing them to gradually acclimatize, I've never had a chick die from cold. I've also never had a chick in the brooder longer than about 3 ½ weeks - and that includes my first hatch ever, that hatched Jan 29th, about 5 years ago. Grant you, that February was pretty mild. Still, by the end of February, those chicks were living full-time outside.
Danz, thanks so much for those links. I've opened them up in new tabs and will take a look at them later when I have more time to peruse them.
Trish44, so glad you solved the egg-eating problem - what a pain to have to deal with.
We just moved the sheep and goats into the chicken yard for the day. The yard is about ¼ acre and is about the only place on the property with longer grass to eat. So we figured we'd give the pasture a rest today and let them eat down the chicken yard. They are confined behind portable electric, which the adults remember from last year. However the lambs and kids are each having to figure it out for the first time and there have been quite a few yells of pain/surprise upon touching it. Fortunately, each one has turned and run away from the fence that is biting them instead of plowing through it in their panic, so it is teaching them to respect it.