Chickens are well adapted to handling cold temperatures and it’s true that most breeds of chicken are much better suited to handle cold weather conditions than they are hot weather.
This is, however, a reference to fully grown chickens that are able to regulate their own body temperature. Baby chickens without fully grown feathers and their down are much less hardy when it comes to cold weather and it’s important to know how cold of a temperature they can tolerate at this age.
Baby chickens have a very low tolerance to cold and cannot tolerate temperatures of 50 degrees (Fahrenheit) until they are at least 6 – 8 weeks old. A baby chicken at 1 week old needs a temperature of 90 degrees to be comfortable, this decreases by 5 degrees each week until the chicken is 6 – 8 weeks old and has grown feathers to withstand colder temperatures.
Many people wonder when they can move their baby chickens from a brooder to a coop/outdoors and one of the key factors influencing this is what sort of temperature a baby chicken can tolerate.
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How Cold Can Baby Chickens Tolerate
Baby chickens between 0 – 8 weeks old (depending on the breed) will not have developed feathers yet and therefore do not have the ability to regulate their body temperature.
A fully grown chicken can use its feathers to trap air close to its body in order to maintain heat which is what makes them so hardy when it comes to cold temperatures. A baby chicken, however, does not have this ability and will struggle to handle cold temperatures which can quickly lead to illness.
Depending on the chicken’s age, it can only tolerate temperatures of 50 – 75 degrees Fahrenheit for very short periods of time, and in most cases, it wouldn’t be advised to subject them to these temperatures.
Baby chickens who are with the mother hen can venture out into colder temperatures for a short period of time for food, water or just to explore their environment but will quickly return to the mother hen who can provide body heat up to 115 degrees to keep the chicks warm.
With that being said, there are ideal temperatures that you should keep your baby chickens at (whether in a brooder or even with a mother hen) in order to ensure they are comfortable.
What Is the Ideal Temperature for Baby Chickens
The ideal temperature for baby chickens will vary depending on their age and how developed their feathers are. Each breed will develop feathers at a different rate and therefore there is a common guideline that chicken keepers follow when it comes to heating a brooder or coop.
Firstly, for baby chickens that are still kept with a mother hen, the temperature can be kept at a normal 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because the baby chickens will seek warmth from underneath the mother’s feathers and this is the most natural way to keep a baby chicken warm.
** Cautious owners can still provide an additional heat source and we list the recommended temperates shortly.
With a mother hen, they can venture out into temperatures below 70 degrees and once they get cold they will simply return to their mother for warmth.
For a baby chicken in a brooder, however, home temperatures of 20 – 40 degrees are far too cold for them to cope with and additional heat needs to be provided.
The general rule to follow is that a baby chick of 1 week old needs to have access to a heat source of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This can then be reduced by 5 degrees for each week until the baby chicken has developed feathers and is ready to be subjected to colder temperatures.
While baby chickens can withstand cold temperatures for a very short period of time in order to get food or water, they need to always have a source of heat readily available until the age of 6-8 weeks old (breed dependant).
A good guideline to follow is to provide a heat source for baby chickens that keeps a temperature of 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit for newborns, you can then decrease this by 5 degrees each week until they are fully feathered and ready to join a flock.
From weeks 8+, a comfortable temperature to keep them at is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, though some breeds are able to handle temperatures of 40 – 50 degrees and still maintain heat.