Goat Care and Maintenance of Healthy Goats

Goat Care and Maintenance of Healthy Goats

Goats have to be one of the most entertaining farm animal to own. Knowing how to perform the required goat care is the most important first step to take, as you begin keeping goats.  All breeds of goats need some sort of hoof care, proper nutrition, treatment for preventing worms, and more.  Read on, for more information on goat care and maintaining a healthy herd.

Proper Goat Care When Raising Goats for Fiber

Two popular breeds in the fiber arena are Angora and Pygora goats.  Both are registered breeds with beautiful, soft fiber,  Their needs differ in some areas from other goat breeds such as the Pygmy and the Nigerian Dwarf, or Nubian, but all require certain regular health and wellness care.  The Angoras and Pygoras, though, require a shearing of their fiber once or twice a year. 

goat care baily pre shearing

We bred Pygora goats for a few years, but decided to cut back on the size of our herd so that we could maintain them all in good health. Now, we own ten Pygoras and they yield quite enough soft beautiful fiber for our needs. Pygora fiber is soft and fine and we use it to blend into our sheep wool.

Goat Care Fiber goat Pygora goat

The Pygora goat breed, that we raise, is a cross between the Pygmy goat and the Angora. This results in a breed that has fiber but a smaller size. The fiber on fiber goats, needs to be harvested at least once a year, but we prefer to do the shearing twice a year.  We found that not shearing in the fall leads to more matted fiber on the animal in the spring.  Pygora fiber is very fine and lends softness and sheen to a yarn, when blended with other fleece.

goat care DSC_0666

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Should you hire a professional shearer?

We spent many weekends each year shearing. We did get better at it but I would never say I reached a professional speed or quality. This is time consuming and hard on your back. Please keep this in mind before purchasing fiber goat breeds. The alternative is to hire a professional shearer to do the job. We went this route a year ago, and it has freed up so much time in our spring and fall schedules. Our sheep and goat shearer can do all of our animals (14) in one afternoon!

After shearing, sometimes, you can see lice living on the skin.  We treat for lice twice a year after each shearing by using Pyrethrin powder rubbed into the back area, along the top line. Another product that kills lice on the skin is Ivermectin Pour-On for cattle.

Hoof Trimming is Essential Goat Care

Hoof trimming needs to be tended to every other month. Starting early in a goats life, will help make this less traumatic but don’t be surprised if they still resist. The back feet, especially, seem to be an issue for our goats. Even the older goats do not like having me lift up and hold their back foot for a trimming. I think it is because they can’t see me back there and it probably is a fight or flight response. It helps to have another person stand by their head and distract them with a treat while you trim the back feet.

Goat Care goat care hoof trimming DSC_5521TCF
In this picture you can see the overgrowth of the hoof

goat care well shaped hoof DSC_5535TCF
A trimmed hoof should return the hoof to a smoother natural wedged sha

Using a Stanchion or Milking Stand for Hoof Trimming

Putting the goat on a stand helps by making it easier on the person trimming.  

goat care goat on milking stand for shearing

I have done a number of hoof trimmings by having someone else hold the animal still, while I trim the hooves. This requires a lot more bending and reaching but can certainly get the job accomplished. I look at the stand as a great tool to have but we went many years without owning one, too. Gather all of your tools and some treats before you get started.

goat snacks and treats to use when shearing and trimming
Some yummy treats for hoof trimming time on our farm, include honey nut cheerios type cereal, whole peanuts and apple and oat horse treats

goat care using cornstarch to stop minor bleeding

Some of the items I recommend having close by are, extra breakaway chain collars, the hoof clippers, yummy treats, an old rag to wipe mud off the hooves and a sturdy lead rope. Have a plastic container of corn starch ready, If you accidentally trim too close and cause a mild bleeding, applying corn starch will stop the blood flow. Then I apply a dab of antibiotic ointment and it takes care of the mishap. I have never had a serious problem occur after a slight nick of the hoof.

Using hoof clippers makes the job easier because they are shaped to trim hooves. I wear sturdy gloves when doing the hoof trim because the clippers are extremely sharp and animals make sudden moves! I also have used Fisker’s Garden clippers but the shape of the blade makes the job a bit more tricky.
For goat hoof trims I recommend this type of clipper

Maintain a Goat Care Hoof Trim Schedule

Keeping up with the hoof trimming makes the job so much easier. It is possible to bring a neglected goat back to some measure of good hoof health, but it takes time and dedication. I have missed a trimming and the amount of over growth is pretty amazing.  Plan to trim hooves at the minimum,  every other month.  

goat care and maintenance

Health Maintenance in Goat Care

Keeping goats requires that their health needs are tended to on a regular basis. In addition to making sure that you are feeding a quality goat chow to supplement any grazing, and providing fresh water each day, there are vaccinations to be updated and occasional de-worming medication that needs to be administered. The vaccinations given and the worming schedule is something that every goat owner should read up on and make their own decision about.

If Goats Leave the Farm….

If you are going to take your goats to shows, county fairs and other events, your decision may be different than mine on these matters. I do not want to sway you one way or another on these issues by telling you our schedule. One site that I do recommend you check out is FiasCo Farm’s website. Clicking on the link will take you to their options of schedules for vaccinations and worming. If you are interested in using herbal natural supplements, we are now using these from Biteme Goat Treats.

On our farm, we have what is called a closed herd. We have not been regularly adding to the goat population, and our goats do not leave the farm unless they need an unexpected trip to the vet’s clinic. Because of this, we do not have a quarantine pen.

goat care  sheared pygora goat

If you do plan to bring home new goats regularly, a quarantine or holding stall, would be a good thing to have. Waiting at least 30 days before allowing direct contact with your herd will give you time to see any signs of possible illness. When the new goats first arrive, worm them and include a treatment for cocci. Knowing what parasites and worms are common in goats in your area is important. Ask your veterinarian what parasite treatments they recommend.  Not treating parasite infestations can lead to anemia and death in the goat herd. 

Proper Feeding in Goat Care 

Goats should not have full access to feed concentrates.  Goats are very efficient browsers and can readily make use of many plants and growth on your property even if you don’t have grass pasture.  They will stand on their hind legs to reach the branches and leaves they want and have a high tolerance to plants that other species find toxic.  People often utilize a goat  herd to clear poison ivy as it seems to be a favorite food of goats, with no complications. Goats can clear up your pastures in no time.

Should You Add Grain?

If you keep your goats in a barn or a dry lot with hay feeding, you might want to supplement with a small amount of properly balanced grain.  The amount will vary depending on the size of your goat, but around a half a cup to a cup of grain per animal once a day is a good starting point.  Goats can colic easily from over eating concentrate feeds.  

Keep the feed in a metal trash can with a tight fitting lid somewhere that the goats do not have access to.  Voracious eaters, as most goats tend to be, will eat without stopping, so make sure you secure the feed.  Feeding hay should keep them happy and provide nutrition and roughage.  Fresh drinking water should always be available.

Feeding Fiber Goats- Special Copper Issue

The last thing I want to mention concerns feeding fiber goat breeds. If you should choose to raise a fiber breed of goat, their nutritional needs are more in line with sheep. For proper goat care remember that copper is toxic to sheep and fiber producing goats. When purchasing a commercial food, make sure you read the label carefully. The best choice is to feed Sheep and Lamb concentrate or a feed specifically formulated for sheep and goats in a mixed herd situation. This will eliminate the copper toxicity issue. Supplement your fiber animals minerals using the same care. You can read more about copper toxicity in sheep and goats here.

Keeping goats will certainly keep you on your toes. In return, your goats will reward you with endless amusement, goat cuddles, and possibly cute baby goats!

For information on dairy goats,and lots more goat info, please visit Better Hens and Gardens and Feather and Scale Farm

Look for my books that cover goat care, Keeping Sheep and Other Fiber Animals, and 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats. Both books are available here, in our shop and on Amazon.

New!  I am now using this product.  (not an affiliate link, I just like to share the good stuff with you!)

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How to Fix a Muddy Chicken Run

muddy chicken run

Rainy seasons are necessary but what do we do with the resulting muddy chicken run? Are you tired of muddy eggs, messy coop floors and slippery chicken run?

I’m not going to sugar coat it. If you have an extremely muddy chicken run, it will take some labor to return the run to a better state. You will have to correct the grading and the drainage. The good news is, once you do it correctly, it’s much easier to avoid a muddy chicken run.

muddy chicken run
the flock spends more time inside the coop if there is rain and mud. You will have to clean up more often if they stay inside.

What causes the Mud

When rain sits on top of dirt. And then more rain. It’s been raining a lot lately. Add in chicken manure, coop bedding and spilled feed and you have a disgusting muddy chicken run mess.

Drainage issues– When the ground in the chicken area builds up with bedding, dirt, spilled feed, straw, etc.  It should be regraded and returned to a somewhat gentle slope towards the downward side of the yard.  Natural drainage should be worked with when ever possible. Some folks use a tiller to stir up the dirt and make it drain better.  If they start making a whole lot of racket with that thing I can guarantee we won’t produce any eggs that day!

Run off – directing the run off away from other pens, and areas where it can cause more damage is important.

Grading Problems

Often grading issues are to blame for muddy coops.  In our coop, the yard has a lot of built up bedding both from mulch and straw and from the coop itself being cleaned out.  The flock loves to sift though the leftover bedding but if it’s left on the ground for long, it builds up.  Re-grading is a big job but after a few years of the coop staying in one spot, it may need to be done to avoid a muddy chicken run.

Possible Fixes for a Muddy Chicken Run

Trenches to divert the water

Stone for filtering

Regrade the area

Fill material – adding well draining material to low areas to keep water from accumulating will help  avoid standing water issues. Well draining material can include wood chips, or small pebbles or stones. If you use stone or pebbles the area can be covered with wood chips for a softer ground and a well draining area.

Interim Fixes 

Straw

Adding a layer of clean straw to the chicken run, cleans off the chicken’s feet before they walk back into the coop.  Adding a nice nest of soft straw to the laying boxes will also help keep the eggs cleaner.

Add a Board Walk or Porch

We have used pallets with the boards close together, and also wide plank boards as a platform for the chickens to walk on before entering the coop. 

Call a Tree Service

Occasionally we find a tree service that has some fresh pine tree grindings.  I love his. The ground up trees smell great, and the chickens get a snack too. Pine needles are a healthy treat that helps with respiratory tract health.

Wood Chips

Not the fine sawdust.  The squarish chunks of wood sometimes used on playgrounds. Continue reading for more about why wood chips are a great choice for chicken runs

Bales of Pine Needles

We recently found a local supply for bales of pine needles.  These are more common in certain parts of the country than others.  This is a great cover for muddy chicken runs.  

muddy chicken run

What Not to Use in a Muddy Chicken Run

I have seen pine shavings and sawdust used on top of the run but this rarely works out well.  The shavings just don’t stick around and the problem is often worse after these things are added to a muddy chicken run.

rocks and wood chips help with drainage in the chicken run

Why I Recommend Wood Chips for a Muddy Chicken Run

Honestly, I don’t just recommend using wood chips for a muddy chicken run. I recommend using wood chips all year long. Wood chips are much better for chickens kept in a run, and not just because they help with drainage.

Wood chips break down slowly over time. The chickens will sift through the wood fiber, finding insects that are helping break down the organic wood material. The wood chips contain quite an ecosystem and the chickens can naturally fit into the plan.

muddy chicken run

And more benefits…

In addition to providing a healthier ground cover than plain dirt, the wood chips provide exercise as the chickens scratch. Keeping them occupied helps control any pecking order issues too.

And finally, the wood chips help clean the chickens feet, so they track in less mud and chicken poop when they enter the coop. This helps keep odor to a minimum and keep the eggs cleaner in the nest.

After the Rains End

When we had a particularly bad year of rain and the run was awash in mud, we pushed the mud off to the sides of the run. The chickens had made a trench along the fence while digging for insects. The mud was sent back into the trenches. It was a tough job and not one I wanted to repeat. So we made plans to improve the run and bring in better draining ground material. The muddy chicken run had to go.

How to fix a muddy chicken run and keep it from occurring again.

Cover Part of the Run and Add a Roost

Adding outdoor roost bars gives the chickens somewhere to perch when the mud is a problem. If possible attach a tarp over the perch so that the area can be used during rainy times, and stay drier.

using wood chips to control mud in the chicken run

Leaving the mud to accumulate makes everyone cranky.  The flies seem to enjoy the mud a lot which is kind of annoying because chickens don’t like them very much.   It really is best for everyone if the mud is either controlled or taken care of somehow.  

muddy chicken run

Dear Diary

This post was originally written from a chicken’s point of view. Hope you enjoy the following excerpt from the chicken diary.

Our dear Mother Nature has it a little messed up this year.   The saying goes, “April showers bring May Flowers”.  This year she has sent us May showers.  It is actually more than showers and I am tired of my beautiful black and white feathers getting wet.  

We try to explain…

The humans are quite perturbed.  I almost feel sorry for them.  Usually, I don’t because we are here doing all the work. Laying eggs, digging up bugs and worms, and various other gardening chores and all they do is stop by to watch us work.  We toil and they take the eggs and run.  But that’s not the point.

 They are trying to give us a dry chicken run around our coop but the rains just keep falling.  Rain on top of dirt makes mud, eventually.  Add in a little chicken poo that isn’t cleaned up and wham, you have some potent mud.  Some of us don’t mind the mud. Other’s run through it quickly to get out for free range time and then run back into the coop full speed.  And yet we still track in big globs of mud on our feet.  

Continued…

Let me write down some suggestions in hope that the humans will see this notebook while snooping, I mean cleaning the coop. The ideas in this article does help the ground we walk on stay in better condition. When they bring in more straw or pine needles for the walking area. Of course we have to scratch them out of the way.  But they try.  It’s all we can ask I guess.  

It helps to not add the soft shavings from inside the coop into the chicken run.  Also, we are glad to have some outside roost bars that we can perch on under a tarp so we don’t have to stand around in the mud. 

muddy chicken run




Three Things Chickens Don’t Need For Winter (and three that they do!)

things chickens don't need

When raising chickens naturally, there are three things chickens don’t need for winter. I know it’s hard to believe that chickens can and do make it through the winter months, even in very cold climates, without our interfering. How can a chicken possibly survive the cold and reach the warmer spring months healthy and happy? Because this happens over and over. Chickens all over the world weather the winter without these three things chickens don’t need for winter. 

What are these three things chickens don’t need for winter?  Heated coops, extra light in the coop, and warm winter clothing. Ok the third item is a bit of a joke. However, based on the popularity of several meme’s floating around social media, you would think that chickens are being mistreated if they aren’t wearing the latest sweater vest. More on that later.

things chickens don't need for winter

What are the Things Chickens Don’t Need for Winter

Heat in the coop is a particularly touchy subject with some chicken keepers. When you live in an area that commonly experiences below zero, sometimes well below zero, temperatures for months at a time, you second guess your chicken’s ability to stay warm. And you might add a heat lamp or other heating device to the coop, because it makes you feel better. I can’t judge you on this. There have been a few times that I have also left a light on to add some heat, because I just felt better doing so.

If you absolutely must add a heat lamp to the coop, make a safer choice. This lamp from Premiere is rated safer and more heavy duty for barn use. I knew the truth was, that they would be fine. But, we somehow occasionally fall into the trap of thinking chickens are like humans, or the family dog. Please be aware of the dangers of adding a hot light bulb to a coop full of birds, straw, and shavings. 

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Truth is, chickens are very well equipped to keep themselves warm. The downy under feathers fluff, trapping warm air against the body.  The outer feathers keep the cold air from penetrating. If the chickens are on a perch, they will cover their feet with the belly feathers. What about the comb and wattles? Won’t they be exposed and possibly have frostbite? Not if the coop is well built, has ventilation at the top and is draft free. The coop should not be air tight. In fact that would definitely lead to frost bite. The coop needs ventilation to carry the warm moist air up and out of the coop. Otherwise the moist air will lie on the surface of the combs, leading to frost bite.  Frost bite looks like black blemishes on the chicken’s comb.

But it gets dark so early!

Adding lights to the coop should be done only for your convenience. If you need to visit the coop after dark to tend to upkeep, check on the flock, or any number of chicken care duties, a light makes the task so much easier.  If you are leaving a light on because you want to simulate longer daylight hours and hopefully get more eggs, that is taking away the natural break a chicken needs in the winter. Will it harm the chicken? Not directly. Will you receive more eggs than the person who does not add light to the coop? Yes.  Is it worth it? That question will have to be answered by you.  Here’s my thinking and I am not offering judgement here. This is a management style topic. If you choose to leave a light on in the coop for higher egg production, go for it.

things chickens don't need

What Do Artificial Lights Do to the Chickens?

I like to live as closely to the natural rhythms as possible. Chickens lay less in the fall and winter for a reason. First, starting in late summer, as the days begin to shorten, your chickens lose feathers in the annual molt. The chicken yard looks like a pillow fight occurred and the chickens look like plucked accident victims.  As the days grow short, if the chickens have eaten enough bugs or other protein source, the feathers will be almost fully regrown. These new feathers are ready to keep them warm during the cold weather, approaching.  Adding artificial light holds the chickens back from getting a natural break. 

things chickens don't need

 

There’s More Happening than Meets the Eye

Inside your chicken, other things are still going on. Your hens are recovering from rebuilding the feathers. Even though they may look smooth and glossy on the outside, the annual molt can take a toll on the inside. This is why egg production is still off.  Left to their own time table, and with good nutrition, your hens will gradually regain the protein and calcium reserves that they need to produce eggs. Unless they are ill, egg production will naturally pick up again. You will notice this soon after the Winter solstice. The amount of daylight is a determining factor, don’t misunderstand. I prefer to let the natural light shine through the Plexiglas covered windows in the coop. The hens will notice the gradual increase in daylight. And egg production will increase again.  

Clothing for Chickens?

Clothing for chickens is not to be confused with the fabric hen saddles used to protect the hens backs from a large rough rooster. It’s funny to see photos of chickens wearing the latest knitwear fashion, but in real life, wearing a sweater does more harm than good, when keeping a chicken warm. What actually happens is that the sweater will prevent the feathers from fluffing. The fluffing keeps the chicken warm by trapping the body heat near the body.  I know people mean well but don’t put clothing on your chicken to keep them warm. 

chickens in sweaters

What are the Things Chickens Do Need for Winter?

While there are three things chickens don’t need for winter, we should remember the essentials that they do need.

Shelter, nutritious food, and fresh water are the keys to chickens thriving during the winter months. Spend some time cleaning  the coop.  Give the chickens a good thick layer of pine shavings and straw. You can line the nests with clean straw too. Clean out the cobwebs. Check the air flow. Is the ventilation carrying the air up to the roof vents? Tend to the structure, mending holes, cracks and other weak areas of the coop. 

Check out this fun video!

Water is a necessary nutrient all year long. Making sure that your flock has a source of fresh water through out the day is hard when temperatures drop well below freezing.  There are a number of products designed to keep the water above freezing. Submersible water heaters, heated bases for metal waterers and electric heated bowls will all be helpful if you have electric power in the coop. In our coops without power, we pile dirt and straw up around the water bowl sides to insulate the bowl or water tub. The water will still freeze over night but it does take longer to freeze. 

How to Fix a Muddy Chicken Run

Nutrition is very important during times that your flock cannot forage for greens and insects. Feed a quality layer ration to make sure that the hens are getting the nutrients they need to sustain egg development. Supplement with healthy food from the kitchen or leftovers. And don’t forget a healthy dose of meal worms or grubs to add some protein. 

things chickens don't need

Have you decided to use any of the things chickens don’t need for winter? 

 

things chickens don't need




Keep Your Chicken Coop Smelling Fresh

Keep Your chicken coop smelling freshHere are five quick tips to help you keep your chicken coop smelling fresh.  If your coop makes you hold your breath when you go in to collect eggs, think about how the chickens feel!  It’s not too hard to keep the coop clean and fresh, if you do a little bit of cleaning every few days.  I am listing a few important basics for you.

Keep Your Chicken Coop Smelling Fresh with These 5 Tips

1.  Water and moisture are not your friend.  If you slop or spill water when filling the water founts or bowls, the moisture will mix with the droppings and create a bad ammonia  odor.  The best way to keep this from piling up is to clean up any spills as they happen. We had to switch to a fount style waterer instead of a bowl  because we had one duck in with the chickens and she thought we were giving her a small swimming pool each evening.  Mrs. Duck could still get enough water to dip her bill in with the water fount.  And there was less mess to cleanup in the morning. Now that the ducks are housed separately, we have returned to using the flexible rubber feed pans for the water bowl in the chicken coop.

Keep the Air Circulating

2.  Install a box fan to keep air circulating.  Stagnant air smells bad and the flies will accumulate more in a stuffy airless building.  Running a fan, even on low speed, will keep the flies, and the odor to a minimum.  Not to mention that it keeps the coop from becoming too hot, also.  We hang an inexpensive box unit over the coop doorway.  You can read more about that here, in my heat stress post. Installing a fan is one of the easiest ways to keep your chicken coop smelling fresh.

3.  Use fresh herbs and rose petals if you have them, in the nesting boxes and in the sleeping areas.  Not only will the herbs and petals smell great, the hens will appreciate the yummy treat. Mint is another great addition and it will help repel pests too.  Check out more about using herbs in your nesting boxes.  Another good source for chicken information is The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook, by Amy Fewell.

4.  Every few days or once a week, clean out any bedding  that is soiled or damp.  We use hay or straw  in the nesting boxes.  Straw is preferred because it is low in moisture, which is optimal for keeping odor at a minimum.  Occasionally we have to use hay because we are out of straw.  I try to use the driest hay bale I can find that is not dusty or moldy.  The chickens will track in some wet mud, or occasionally an egg breaks, in the nests.  The bedding is thrown out in the chicken yard for them to peck through before it is added to the compost pile.  Sprinkle some Diatomaceous Earth powder or First Saturday Lime product, under the fresh hay or straw to absorb moisture and odors.

Why You Should Use Lime in the Coop

Last year I started using an agricultural product, First Saturday Lime. I am not an affiliate with the company, but I am a happy customer. I believe in sharing my thoughts on good products when I find something worthwhile. First Saturday Lime is basically lime, but the formula is 100 % non toxic, non caustic and safe for pets and children, along with livestock and poultry. As with any dust type product, care should be taken when applying the product to avoid inhaling the dust.  I make sure the fan in the coop and barn is off and that it’s not a windy day. Once it is applied, the product does not seem to blow around at all.

You can read more about the product on their website. After a year of using the product, I can honestly say that it does a better job of preventing odors, controlling insects and providing an additional calcium source than any previous product used here. We still offer oyster shell, or crushed egg shells but it’s good to know that the FSL provides an additional source of calcium for our layer hens.

keep chicken coop smelling fresh

In addition, we use it in the sheep and goat barn, rabbit house, and the litter pans for our house rabbits get a liberal dose of FSL at each cleaning. If you raise house rabbits, you know odor can be a problem. Since starting to use First Saturday Lime in the rabbit litter, I clean the boxes less frequently.

Time For a Major Cleanup

5.  Several times a year, completely clean out the bedding on the coop floor.  Sometimes we use the deep litter method of coop bedding. This means that we continue to add fresh bedding or shavings as needed to the coop and only remove the damp/wet or soiled bedding on the floor as needed.  In the winter this adds to the warmth of the coop by keeping the decomposing litter and feces in the building.  Decomposing matter creates heat.  We keep less litter and shavings in the coop during the hot months of summer to keep it cooler. The frequency of cleaning out the coop will depend on the weather, humidity, how much time the chickens are kept in the coop, among other factors. 

Keeping chickens happy and smelling good is not a full time job and doesn’t need to be.  Maintain a dry environment and you will be able to keep your chicken coop smelling fresh. 

 

keep your chicken coop smelling fresh

**Updated 4/28/2017 from the original post written 6/25/2013

Updated 5/20/2019 


Keep Your coop smelling fresh

 




When Can Chicks Go Outside?

when can chicks go outsideOne of the top questions I am asked is when can chicks go outside. The need for warmth is key to a growing chick. The growing period is important and making adjustments at the right time is crucial to their future health and well being. The answer really depends on providing warmth, safety, food and water, where ever you house the brooder.

The first weeks of life you are dealing with rather fragile beings. They require a very warm environment. Even if you have a shed, garage or coop with electric, the heat source will be needed 24/7.  As the chicks grow, you will see them venture away from the heat source more and more. The chick’s downy covering will give way to new feathers. You can start to reduce the heat level gradually. Starting with the brooder near 100 degrees F, gradually reduce the heat by 5 degrees each week.

As the chicks grow, it is ok to take them outside for a short time, for a play time. I recommend keeping it to 15 minutes or less, and provide a secure enclosure so you don’t lose a wandering, brave chick! 

when can chicks go outside

If the chicks are mostly feathered and the weather is warm enough at night, you can gradually begin to wean them from the heat. This won’t happen for the first few weeks of life, however. Chilling is one of the leading causes of chick death. Once a chick gets chilled, it is hard to bring them back. The first few days are critical in giving your new chicks the best start. 

when can chicks go outside

When Can Chicks Go Outside?

As the chicks begin to grow, the mess becomes messier. You may begin to wonder if they will do just as well, outside of the brooder,and in the coop.Let me encourage you to wait as long as possible before doing this. Not only can the chicks become chilled and suffer illness from being moved too early, but you set them up to become ill from bacteria and parasites.

Chicks are growing rapidly and need free access to food and water. Moving them to a coop situation where they will come in contact with staphylococcus , e-coli, coccidia, and Mareks disease is risky. Chicks need good nutrition, and time to build a strong immune system before being moved outside.

when can chicks go outside

I hedge a little on my answer, because each breed feathers out at a slightly different rate. And each area of the world has different weather patterns.  Sometime between 4 and 6 weeks of age, depending on the weather, the chicks may be able to begin living in the coop. There is nothing to be gained by rushing the chicks from the brooder environment into the coop. 

Some people are successful with leaving the chicks in the coop and run during the warmer daytime, and bringing them into the garage or home at night. The answer to when can chicks go outside is a variable situation!

This does not mean that the chicks are ready to be integrated with the big chickens. You will want to take that slow and easy, when they are a little bigger.  

when can chicks go outside

When Can Chicks Join the Flock

If you watch a mother hen take care of her babies you will see that she protects them from other flock members. It takes a bold chicken to mess with a mama hen. In the case of chicks raised by humans, we have removed this protective barrier. We must use safe practices to integrate the new young pullets to the flock. Gradual and slow are the terms to keep in mind. 

My usual time line for introducing the new chicks to the flock is around 10 weeks. The chicks must be fully feathered, and on their way to similar size of the chickens they are joining. Adding small bantams to large breed, more aggressive hens is not always going to end well. A sharp hard peck on the head can damage a tiny bantam pullet. In addition, a full size rooster trying to mate with a small bantam pullet can damage or hurt the little one. I have had some bad outcomes from integrating small breeds into large breeds so I don’t recommend it. On the other hand if they are raised together, I  have had no such issues.

when can chicks go outside

When chicks are losing the baby appearance, feather growth has come in, get some sort of enclosure to put them in as they begin to experience the big kids area. I do not recommend just tossing the chicks into the big chicken’s area. Let them both get used to each other through a fence, dog crate, or some other wire enclosure. The chicks will still have their own food and water so they are sure to get plenty to eat and drink. You may need to keep the food and water in the middle of the pen so the big chickens can’t reach in for a snack. 

when can chicks go outside

when can chicks go outside

Fully Integrated Flock

Once the chicks don’t seem to be getting much attention from the flock, through the fence, you can try some short intervals of letting them out.  I try to keep an eye on this and I do rescue anyone who seems to be picked on. Placing some hiding spots around the run.  One year four of our pullets liked to hide out behind the coop door. I have also leaned a piece of plywood against the fence for a lean-to. A fallen tree limb with leaves can provide cover, too.

when can chicks go outside

Is There a Right Answer?

When can chicks go outside and when can chicks join the flock are important points to consider when raising chickens. I think that the answer depends on a lot of factors. Weather, coop set up, and breeds of chickens, are some of the variables involved. What tips would you add about when can chicks go outside? How did you introduce your chicks to your flock? I’d love to keep the discussion going in the comments.