first baby chicks


6 Years
Dec 20, 2015
I've got 6 baby chicks...all are BCM's. Incubated from 3 dozen eggs. The eggs and incubator were "gifted" to me (not asked for, btw, however I have wanted chickens but not til we move to the country. We currently live in suburbia, where 4 hens are allowed)
So the chicks are currently in a very large tote (about 24" x 48"), sitting on a table in my kitchen with a red heat lamp on them. They seem happy. I was also "gifted" with a bag of medicated chick food, a waterer and a feeder, so they are situated well....for now.

My questions revolve around the NEXT STAGE. DH is anxious to know my game plan and time line. We are currently finishing up building a chicken coop/tractor in our garage.
I realize that Dec/Jan is not the ideal time to have hatchlings but that is what I've been dealt.

How long do they have to be indoors? (our nights are currently getting into the 20's) Southern Ohio. I have read that I need to lower the temp 5 deg per week, so could I move them to garage after about 3 weeks? And then how long til outside in the coop? keeping in mind it will be the middle of the winter.....
I have insulated the coop with that silver wrapped bubble wrap stuff.

How would I keep the water from freezing over night? or maybe I don't have to......just fresh water every morning?

Do I need to come up with supplemental heating for the coop til spring?

Will it be obvious who are roosters before they start crowing (and bringing the zoning inspectors
And I imagine our coop is not big enough for 6 chickens (the coop is 3 x 3 ft). I was planning on 4 hens. But I don't want to sell, or give away,any chickens before knowing which are the roosters.
any advice is appreciated.

Happy New Year!!

the first pic is of the first 2 who hatched Christmas eve......they are so cute!



Jan 1, 2016
Great questions! We are picking up our first ever chicks tonight. They are five days old. Also starting with four.


Sep 25, 2015
They shouldn't be outside till at least 3 and a half months,by then it should be spring,and warming up.By about 4 or 3 months you can start dealing out cockerals from pullets,but some may begin crowing at 3 days old sometimes.Most generally,if one of your baby chicks is a rooster it'll have a comb at around 3 weeks,and it'll be red.The older the get the bigger it grows.Also,by 3 months old,a few saddle feathers (those beautiful shiny rooster feathers)begin growing by the tail.Also,their tail is usually developing into a curl when their tail is first starting to grow.

They have heated water bowls for chickens,and the water still stays cool.You can put them in the garage at about 4 weeks,they should have feathers by then,just not fully covered (they still should have a heat lamp).Don't worry if they begin running up and bumping each others chests,it's them figuring the "Pecking Order".


Hatchi Wan Kenobi
Project Manager
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Mar 27, 2012
My Coop
My Coop
Congrats on your chicks! To answer the questions that I can, yes, you could move them to the garage as long as you can keep an area warm enough for them that they can go to when they need to warm up. At 3 weeks old, that would be 80 degrees under the heat lamp. To move them to the coop without a heat lamp, you'd need to lower the temp 5 degrees each week until you reach the ambient temperature they will be living in. For example if that was 30 degrees, that would take 13 weeks to lower the temp 5 degrees each week to reach that.

To keep the water in the coop from freezing at night, there are various heated water buckets you can buy, heated dog bowls, and heated bases to put under the plastic gallon waterers you can buy at a feed store. I have a top opening five gallon waterer and I use an aquarium heater in that.

I wouldn't heat the coop at all, personally. Heat lamps in coops are huge fire hazards and more than a few people have had their entire coops go up in flames because of them.

As for telling the gender, roosters will grow in their combs and wattles faster and they will turn red much more quickly than pullets, and that would be your first clue. As they get older you can also look for other things like male hackle and saddle feathers.

at 3x3, your coop (and I think you mean just the part that the chickens sleep in with your measurements so that's what I'm talking about) is really big enough for only three hens, not four. You'll need a run that's at least 30 square feet for three hens unless you also plan to free range.

Hope this helps!

Folly's place

11 Years
Sep 13, 2011
southern Michigan
Welcome! Your cute fluffy babies will grow REALLY FAST, and will outgrow that tote soon. Your coop is very small, and they will peck and eat the insulation unless you cover it with wood paneling of some sort. The heat lamp should be on one end of the brooder, so the babies can move from warm to cooler at will. Have the food and water at the cooler side, and watch their behavior. Too warm, and they will be far from the lamp; too cold, and they will huddle under it. I would move them to the garage as soon as possible, with the heat lamp, and rethink that cute little coop. Mary


Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
10 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
Forget the 5 degree a week.

Here's my notes on chick heat, hope something in there might help:
They need to be pretty warm(~85-90F on the brooder floor right under the lamp and 10-20 degrees cooler at the other end of brooder) for the first day or two, especially if they have been shipped, until they get to eating, drinking and moving around well. But after that it's best to keep them as cool as possible for optimal feather growth and quicker acclimation to outside temps. A lot of chick illnesses are attributed to too warm of a brooder. I do think it's a good idea to use a thermometer on the floor of the brooder to check the temps, especially when new at brooding, later I still use it but more out of curiosity than need.

The best indicator of heat levels is to watch their behavior:
If they are huddled/piled up right under the lamp and cheeping very loudly, they are too cold.
If they are spread out on the absolute edges of the brooder as far from the lamp as possible, panting and/or cheeping very loudly, they are too hot.
If they sleep around the edge of the lamp calmly just next to each other and spend time running all around the brooder they are juuuust right!

The lamp is best at one end of the brooder with food/water at the other cooler end of the brooder, so they can get away from the heat or be under it as needed. Wattage of 'heat' bulb depends on size of brooder and ambient temperature of room brooder is in. Regular incandescent bulbs can be used, you might not need a 'heat bulb'. You can get red colored incandescent bulbs at a reptile supply source. A dimmer extension cord is an excellent way to adjust the output of the bulb to change the heat without changing the height of the lamp.

Or you could go with a heat plate, commercially made or DIY:

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