Heating the Coop: When is a layer chick fully feathered and able to stand cold?

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by backintime, Nov 30, 2012.

  1. backintime

    backintime Songster

    Apr 7, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    I've got 10 Gold Star layer chicks in a 4' X 8' well insulated, draft-free coop in Zone 3 (northern Wisconsin). I started the chicks late in the season. They are now 9 weeks old.

    I've obviously been heating the coop up to this point. Outdoor temps have been down to 20 degrees F. at night. Most recently I've had a single red heat lamp running, with the thermometer on the floor reading about 45 degrees on the worst nights. (It's much warmer up near the roosts, but they aren't all roosting yet!)

    I'm wondering when the chicks would be sufficiently feathered out to be comfortable without supplemental heat. Any rules of thumb as to when a hen is "fully feathered?"

  2. AlienChick

    AlienChick Songster

    Apr 9, 2010
    Glasgow, KY
    Chicks are fully feathered at 6 weeks of age.
    If you've been heating them up, then you'll want to wean them off gradually since you've probably hindered them from growing nice thick down feathers to keep themselves warm. (If they're warm, they have no need to grow the extra feathers.)
    Do not use the heat during the day and keep the heat on the cooler side at night for about a week gradually making it cooler.
    Allow them to develop naturally and they'll be fine.
    You could also just withdraw the heat altogether and watch their behavior at night.
    Give them a nice thick deep bedding to snuggle in.
    Either way, they'll be fine.
    In the future do not provide heat past 6 weeks of age and begin weaning them off heat at 4.5-5 weeks old.
    Good luck!
  3. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging 9 Years

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    Yours are probably ready. I keep my 3' x 6' brooder in the coop. It has good draft protection but is well ventilated and I only heat one small area. The rest cools off as it will. They play in the colder areas and go back to the heat when they want to so they can warm up. We talk about them finding their own comfort zone but mine find their comfort zone all over that brooder.

    Last fall I stopped the heat at 5 weeks and put them out in the unheated grow-out coop. It has good draft protection but no heat of any kind and is also well-ventilated up high. The night-time lows were hitting the mid 40's Fahrenheit when I put them out. A few days later, when they were 5-1/2 weeks old, the night-time lows hit the mid 20's.

    I had 21 chicks so there were enough to keep each other warm. They had been used to cold temperatures. I think that helps them feather out. They had good draft protection and good ventilation, both of which I think are important.

    From what you have described, I think yours are ready.
  4. backintime

    backintime Songster

    Apr 7, 2008
    Northern Wisconsin
    Thank you both for the rapid and informative answers!

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