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An Exercise In Patience – How To Transition Chicks From Brooder To Coop

As your little chicks approach the time to graduate from a brooder to the coop, we have many people asking us about how to transition chicks from brooder to coop.

So, we’re going to outline what you need to look for to know when it’s the right time and how to move them over without causing undue stress.

how to successfully transition chicks from coop to brooder

Signs That Your Chicks Are Ready

Your chicks will begin to show signs that they are nearing the time to prepare for the “big” move. There’s no specific date or time because every breed develops differently, and every group of chicks will have its own unique needs.

Chicks, in general, will be ready to transition over to the coop when they are about 6-7 weeks old.

Remember, the transition is a process that can’t be rushed and requires quite a bit of patience and nurturing. The little chicks have been in a warm, comfortable environment under the feathers of their mother or from the warmth of the brooder lights.

Premature exposure to the “outside world will come as a shock regardless, but as loving chicken owners, we want to make that first impression of a new world a positive experience.

The last thing you want to do is move them out of the brooder before they are ready. This results in severe stress and can lead to illness, being picked on, and potentially death.

So, here are a few things to look for to know when your chicks are either nearing or are ready for the transitioning.

Chicks Will Need To Show The Following Before Moving Them

  • They should be fully feathered.
  • They will spend little to no time around the heater or in the brooder.
  • They are comfortable exploring and foraging.
  • They no longer huddle together.
  • They are nearly the same size as the flock.

Environmental Requirements Before Moving Chicks

  • Temperatures must be 65 degrees (F) or warmer.
  • They have full protection from predators.
  • Free-ranging should be postponed for the first week after the transition.
  • A separate area for the chicks within the coop should be used for the first week during the transition.

Steps To Slowly Ease The Transition

If you are a parent, you may recall your child’s first day of school. You prepared them by buying school clothes, supplies and talking a lot about what to expect. They were transitioning into a new chapter of their life.

During the first few days of school, their teacher closely monitored them to ease the process by comforting them and maintaining a protective environment. This same principle applies to our chicks.

Before moving them to the coop, there will be a few things you’ll need for the day of transition. A small separate area should be set up in the coop where your chicks can acclimate while having a barrier to protect them from getting picked on by the flock.

Also, your flock is able to adjust to the introduction of the chicks.

Just Before The Transition

  1. Construct or devise a barrier structure for the separated area in the coop.
  2. Options for a barrier within the coop:
    • Wire divider
    • The brooder itself can be used if space allows
    • Wire dog crate (large)
    • Enclosed mesh
    • children’s/pet’s playpen
  3. Add and fill a feeder and waterer designed for chickens in the separated coop area.
  4. Add a heating source.
how to transition chicks from brooder to coop

Transition: Day 1-3

This period is used to acclimate the chicks to the coop.

  1. Move your chicks and the mother hen (if you have one – not necessary) into the separate area in the coop. Show them where their food and water are.
  2. Turn the heater on. If the chicks huddle once the heater is off, they are most likely cold and may not be ready for a full transition.
  3. Each day show them where their feed and water are.

Transition: Day 4-7

This period is to introduce them to your flock and get them acclimated to being outside the separate coop area.

  1. Feed and water them before turning them out.
  2. Turn the heater off and remove it from the area. Monitor for any huddling. If this happens, you may need to place the heater back in.
  3. Release the chicks out into the run area (or out to free-range) with the flock.
  4. Closely monitor the chicks and your flock (if any pecking begins, this will most likely be the time it occurs.)
  5. If your chicks are free-ranging, follow them and monitor them the entire time. They will not have enough sense to return to the coop.
  6. Do this daily for days 4-7.

Graduation Day

If you feel confident about the chicks returning to the coop daily and there’s no major pecking going on, you can remove the barrier/separation in the coop and fully integrate them.

Things To Monitor Afterwards

  • Don’t allow integrated chicks to shelter or sleep in nesting boxes. Discourage them from doing so because it leads to nesting boxes full of droppings and, in turn, results in eggs being laid in a heavily polluted box.
  • Pullets and cockerels may need to be separated if pecking begins to occur. As the chicks mature, their attitude towards the opposite sex may change.
  • Some picking/pecking occurs as part of the literal “pecking order” that takes place. But if it becomes too aggressive, leading to one becoming bloody, remove it to heal on it’s own. If you don’t, the flock will peck at it mercilessly. A product we use is called Pick no More, which is fantastic in stopping cannibalism. We bought ours at the farm store, but it can be purchased online as well.

Once the two flocks have met and adjusted, you’re all set! For tips on setting up your coop for the whole flock, see this guide.

Feeding Requirements For Chicks During And After Transitioning

Once your chicks are moved into the coop during the transition, they can be given the same feed your flock has if you have not already changed over for the chicks. Every morning during the transition, be sure to show your chicks where the feed and water are until they acclimate.

If you are interested in making your own chicken feed, you’re not alone! Read this article to learn more about the process.

Happy Chicks, Happy Chick Parents!

Once the “nail-biting” transition is done, and behind you, you can now sit back and enjoy watching your little yardbirds grow into the majestic creatures they were meant to be.

We’d love to hear your stories of how the transition went for your chicks, so shoot us an email! Thanks for stopping by.

Happy “chickening!”

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