The chicks were two weeks old on Labor Day. I lost two of the chicks — one shortly after arrival for an unknown reason and one last Friday when I was late closing the chicks in the brooder and it was separated from the others and froze.
While everything I have read states that chicks have to be kept at about 95 degrees for the first week, with a drop in temperature of 5 degrees for each subsequent week, until fully feathered, I have not found this to be completely accurate. Chicks, indeed, cannot regulate their body temperatures well and do require attention to environmental temperatures – up to a point.
These chicks were kept in an enclosed brooder under a heat lamp for the first week. After that initial period, during the day I removed the cardboard which blocked their access into the larger (about 4×4) section of the coop, and allowed them to leave the brooder. I also turned off the heat lamp during the day. The chicks have been fine running around their limited space without an additional heat source. I do need, however, to put them back in a sheltered place (the brooder) with a heat lamp at night still.
On occasions when I have not secured the chicks before dark, I have gone out to find the chicks outside of the brooder but in piles (usually two separate piles) with the smaller bantams in the middle of the piles, and have had to pick up each chick to place it in the brooder for the night. With that one exception, all of the chicks – full size and bantam – have been fine. I wouldn’t want to chance that the chicks would all survive the night at this point without the heat lamp but it is clear that the high temperatures the internet and books tell you are required, really aren’t. I think common sense goes a long way in raising poultry and animals in a specific environment – i.e., what I can do here in New Mexico probably won’t be as successful in Vermont and vice versa.