when to ket you baby chicks out

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by CrazyChookLady5, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. CrazyChookLady5

    CrazyChookLady5 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 6, 2013
    Australia, NSW
    hi everyone,
    i've been looking at peoples broodies, and their chicks. while i was looking i saw chicks out wiht the rest of the flock and they were only 1/2 weeks old,
    when can you let your chicks out, i wait till they're have all their feathers, but can i let them out earlier then that??
  2. chooks4life

    chooks4life Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2013
    Depends on a few things. I see you're in Australia too, so this might be easier than trying to offer an opinion to someone in a country I am unfamiliar with. I've lived in NSW before... It gets pretty cold compared to up here!

    What's the ambient temperature there? If it's "frozen" and your birds are still in down, best to wait.

    How good and defensive, predator-aware, temperature-aware, and dominant is your mother hen? If she's the nervy or silly sort, who may keep pacing ahead even when they're begging her to wait, and not snuggle them when they're cold, or not retrieve chicks that have gotten "lost" behind an unfamiliar obstacle, best to restrict them for a while.

    How tolerant are your other birds? Some will bully a mother, some will bully chicks, some will kill chicks. Some males find a mother's clucking irresistible and will trample chicks to get to her. They will also prevent a hen from snuggling her chicks by taking flying leaps onto her back every time she tries to snuggle them.

    Personally, being in Queensland, it doesn't get too cold here, so even when the ground's frosty I let newly hatched chicks free range with the mothers among the flock. But I've taken care to cull out all birds that are abusive to mother hens, chicks, and weak or injured flockmates, as well as all males who disrespect females, so the hens and chicks are safer in my flock than they are in many people's flocks, since I've been doing this for many generations now. These traits are highly heritable in my experience. If your birds are inexperienced with chicks, best to observe them closely while they acclimatize.

    For my worst mothers, who never get a second chance, I restrain them with their chicks for a week before I let them out. Bad mothering often shows early enough to make that decision before the chicks are lost, if you know what signs to watch for. Chicks with an inadequate mother are often sharper in terms of independence since they seem to have some instincts in reserve that kick in when the mother's found wanting.

    Also, some mother hens will take a rabid dislike to any other female that presumes to rear a clutch in their territory, so separations may be necessary if you see mother hens scrapping more than once. Some hens co-mother great, but often the more savvy one gradually abandons her clutch to the other hen and sets another clutch as quick as possible. I believe there is some instinctual basis for "cuckoo" behavior in both adult and infant chickens, as a survival trait. Babies are known to adopt themselves out if their mother dies or if they just deem her unfit, and they resort to trickery to do so, lol... Off topic.

    Anyway, best wishes.

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