temperature instructions--take with grain of salt?


12 Years
Apr 7, 2009
a mountain hamlet in B.C.
I'm wondering whether I'm being a horrible chick owner, or whether observation is the best guide, in regards to the "right" temperature for my 16-day-old Red Sussex cross chicks.

For the past week, I've been taking half the flock at a time out into the back yard, in a dog air carrier, for a bit of fresh air, sunshine, and a change of scene. They're starting to anticipate going out, and it's harder to convince them that it's time to go back in the regular brooder, than it is to convince them that it's time for an outing. In the yard, they'll be eating and drinking and seeing who can climb highest on the branch in the carrier, or playing follow-the-leader, etc. They'll nap singly, nestled into the sawdust, or companionably together, but not in a shivering heap! They show interest in my comings and goings, and crowd at the front to see if I've brought them anything interesting, like a caterpillar. (I assume caterpillars are harmless treats, when I can find them, as they're mostly water...kind of like a Slurpee for chicks.)

Now the thing is, the "instructions" say that at this age, the chicks should be kept at 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. My two thermometers don't agree, but they suggest it's around 55 degrees F in the shade outside, and around 60 F in the brooder itself when the heat lamp's turned off, as it usually is during the day. Yet the chicks seem happy. Which should I believe--the piece of paper, or the chicks themselves?
Well I must say I'm guilty of not following the instructions to a T.
Mine have been out and about. Fed what ever... Temp. UP and Down.
I gave 3 of mine to a friend, His are doing OK, BUT mine are a lot bigger.

They seem to play and interact better than his.

They are an animal, and although domesticated. In the wild they would be subjected to a lot of different situations.

If they seem Happy Go with it!
I'd believe the chicks. The mothers have them out running around and if they appear cold back under her wings they go. A few hours at a time won't hurt them unless it's really cold outside. Just watch their behavior as you are doing.
We go by the chicks themselves in the brooder. If they are huddled under the light they are cold if on the outer edges it's to hot.

Being outside without a heat source is a different story. If they are outside moving around it's plenty warm, plus the chicks themselves put off quite a bit of heat when they are together. It takes them awhile to get chilled. We have had hens raise chicks in much colder temps, when the chicks get cold they go back under the hen for heat.

You are doing just fine with them, you are making sure they aren't chilled and sounds like you are all enjoying the outside.

Steve in NC
Believe the chicks, not the paper. You are probably doing just fine. My hen raised chicks in the dead of winter--below zero at times. They scurried our from under her for food and water, and then went back when they got cold. Let me tell you, they feathered out faster than any other chicks I have ever raised!
They all grew up healthy and happy.
I adjust my brooder temps to how the chicks are acting and what types they are. Like you I don't follow any hard and fast rules. My last batch was some really small banties so they stayed in the 90's for a good ten days then I switched one of the two heat bulbs to a 1oo watt white light, then after another week started shutting the white light off at night and leaving them with one heat lamp. No one huddled, everyone is thriving.

They moved out to the coop at 3 wks with a heat lamp inside, but otherwise nothing to protect them when they chose to go outside. I made sure they figured out how to go back in and warm up if they needed then left them alone. Now at 4 wks they get a smaller bulb at night only. Again no huddling, just eating, drinking, playing, growing like crazy.

Thank you, everybody, for your reassurance. I remember as a kid being taken to task for going outside without a coat on, but I don't seem to be any the worse for it!
I figured it might be the same for the chicks.
I bought 16 black chicks at the local feedstore on 6-1-09. Today is 6-10-09. I'm sure they were not more than 5-6 days old, if that.

When I brought them home, I put them outside in the "brooder area" with a 250 Watt infrared heat lamp about 18-20 inches above one corner of the area. They have plenty of water and "start & grow" feed in pans thereby.

They have done fine day and night and seldom during the daytime do they go near the heatlamp. But, they huddle near the "fringe" of the light at night.

Our daytime temperatures have been up to 78 F. Nightime temps have dipped as low as 40F.

Last night, it rained for a little bit, off and on. There were puddles in my yard this morning. The chicks had a tarp over part of their area, tarp tilted to allow for "run-off".

Unfortunately, for some odd, unknown reason, the infrared heat lamp quit working sometime last night.

The chicks???????

The chicks were all "huddled together" in a dry spot this morning about 7 AM. I put out some more "start & grow" feed. They ALL started moving around, eating, drinking, and venturing out in the sunshine. Very active, tough chicks. I estimate that they are now perhaps as much as 2 weeks old.

No thermometer where they are, however, I have an outside thermometer near my front door.

These 16 chicks haven't been inside since they left the feedstore 10 days ago.

draw your own conclusions........

I'm not going to claim first-hand knowledge, but my Dad claims that probably the biggest problem with chilly chicks is that they climb all over each other and squash each other. So if you have 100 chicks, being slightly too cold is worse than if you have 3. Evidently they used to get 100 or so chicks every year and keep them in the basement. To me that sounds like a run up to "The Birds"

I know that mine haven't seemed to be fazed by and particular temperature at all :p Only once (in the week I've had them) did I find any of them sitting on any others, and the incredible speed in which she threw the other one off when she heard me speak, I think that she wanted to be there

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