Your chicks are no longer chicks anymore. They are eating a ton, pooping a ton, staying out past curfew, and getting themselves into riskier situations. If you have a rooster, he will be strutting his stuff soon. And your girls are getting hormonal, preparing to lay their first eggs. It’s time to for them to move out from under your wing, but to where you can still keep a careful eye on them. That’s right… they’re big chick teenagers!!
The truth is, chicken adolescence is not as scary as human adolescence (said with the disclaimer that I have not yet raised a teenage child; however, I was one once). Teen chickens are actually very easy to care for, and this stage only lasts a few months, as opposed to a few years!
Big Chick Changes
When my chicks got to around four weeks old, they suddenly doubled the amount they were eating. One small bag of feed had lasted me over two weeks up until that point, but I had to begin buying two bags each week. Every few days I was running to the store just to keep them fed! Their real feathers began growing in at this time, and they looked very shaggy and awkward for several weeks with half chick down, half real feathers. This is when they started using their dust bath, too. They somehow innately knew how to use it with their fancy new feathers.
The most noticeable differences came between weeks 5 and 7. Around week 5 Joy’s comb and wattles became a lot larger and pinker than the other girls’. They all have a different style of comb, though, and of course they’re all different breeds, which made it hard to compare… so I wasn’t too worried about her being a rooster. Then between weeks 6 and 7 the chicks all doubled in size. The transformation was incredible!
Big Chick Feathers
By 7 weeks old three of the girls had grown in their adult feathers with gorgeous patterns, but Joy was still pretty tattered looking. It took her another week to smooth out on her back, and yet another week for her head to not look half-plucked!
Big Chick Move!
Throughout this time we were working on the chicken coop as much as possible, and letting the chicks spend as much time outside as we could. They were literally cooped up inside, and had even figured out how to push the brooder lid aside to get out – so more space to run was a necessity. We began to let them free range in our backyard around 10 weeks, but only if we were outside to keep an eye on them. For the most part they still stayed inside their “urban homesteader redneck trampoline chicken tractor“, although they were spending the majority of their afternoons and evenings outdoors.
By the time they were 10.5 weeks old, the coop and run were finally done and we allowed them to move in. I was very nervous about them being out there alone the first few nights, but it was obvious that they loved it. They were much happier outside than they had been in the brooder. We even had a baby opossum visit the first night! The coop and run are both very secure with extra locks, hooks, and hardware cloth, so I knew they were safe. The temperature inside the coop was still getting down to around 40 each night, but they didn’t seem to mind at all.
Big Chick Scare
About a week after moving into the coop we had a scare however, when we couldn’t find Bijou at bedtime. After half an hour of frantic searching, and even scouring the neighborhood calling for a chicken, I finally found her… roosting under our deck! She was literally under our noses the entire time. Since that night the chickens have taken to roosting on the deck railing right outside our back door, waiting for me to put them in the coop. Yes, they could go in themselves, and occasionally they do; but for the most part I move them inside each evening. I don’t mind it. It’s a comforting nightly ritual, and I use this time to refill their water and check their food so everything is ready for the next day.
Big Chick Benefits
Overall, raising chicks has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. They are so full of life, and have brought me joy and laughter every single day. With the exception of the coop, the cost to keep them is very low – a 40 pound bag of soy-free feed lasts me about two months for only $30 from my organic co-op. They love to run around the yard looking for bugs and weeds to eat, and their companionship is fantastic. One of the best parts of my day is calling them and watching them all run towards me, their mama! I haven’t regretted having them for one single moment. If you are on the fence about getting chickens, I can’t recommend it highly enough! (If you are truly concerned that you may not enjoy keeping them, there are companies that actually rent out chickens and all their supplies by the month, so you can try them out risk-free.) I’m so glad I took the leap!