The earliest I've put one out was when we put Sluf out last week. He went out the day after hatching. He was a lone chick so I brought both of the Bantams in to keep him company for a day. He watched them eat, drink, and use MHP, and he did whatever they did, so I knew he was probably good to go, even though the other chicks out there were a couple of weeks older. I now have 2 heating pads, the large one for outside and a smaller one I pop into a dog crate for indoors. They're not indoors that long anyway. Sweet Pea and Yokel, the first two we hatched here, were only inside 2 days.
@Ridgerunner puts them out as soon as they are dry and fluffed. Don't know if he puts them out as he takes them out after drying or waits until all are hatched, but seems to me you could just stagger it with no problems. They won't squabble in there because they're all the same age. You could PM him and ask - he's always been really good about helping people out. He uses a heat lamp but the pad would be the same I think
Thank you for this info. It's very helpful. I have an infrared/black bulb heat lamp (expected to use it for brooding before I found MHP) so I can keep the littles warm in batches if I do take them out of incubator in batches. I certainly can see that keeping them for a day or two inside would alleviate any concerns about finding any chicks that need help and making sure they are eating/drinking.
I've tried to figure out how to PM someone but can't find a HELP file on it. If anyone can point me to a how-to, that would be great.
I'm feeling ever more confident, thank you, everyone, very very much.