Backyard Poultry

4- to 5-Week-Old Baby Chicks

Starting a Flock : Chick Nutrition

Starting a Flock : Caring for Chicks

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Baby chicks grow quickly and reach the beginning of adolescence around weeks 4 and 5. At this time, you can begin telling the chicken’s gender, adult feathers begin growing in and the chicken pecking order begins to form. Continue feeding the same Purina® complete starter-grower feed you started your chicks on.

Your baby chicks are growing up – and growing Flock Strong®. You started them strong in week 1 and kept the growing going in weeks 2 and 3. Now it’s time for adolescence!

By weeks four and five, you should notice your chicks’ fluffy appearance slowly disappearing, and their fuzzy down being replaced with feathers of a mature bird. Your chicks are now in the ‘tween’ stage! In chicken years, birds are at the beginning of the teenage stage around 4- to 5-weeks-old.

Soon you will notice several changes that include new primary feathers and a developing pecking order. Soon, your birds will also be referred to differently. Pullet is the term for a teenage female while a young male chicken is called a cockerel.

Here is a checklist for keeping 4-week-old chicks and 5-week-old chicks strong and healthy:

Raising baby chicks, weeks 4 and 5

Watch each chick mature into a pullet and cockerel:

Your chicks’ fluff should slowly disappear as mature feathers grow. Chickens will usually be fully feathered by 5- to 6-weeks of age. Their wattles and combs should also start growing larger and becoming a deeper red.

How to tell if a chick is male or female:

At 5 to 7 weeks, you will be able to distinguish males from females. As compared to pullets, the combs and wattles of males often develop earlier and are usually larger. Females are typically smaller in size than males. If you are still uncertain of gender, you’ll be sure who the males are when you hear them attempting to crow. Click here for our detailed guide on sexing chicks.

Keep chicks in the brooder until week 6:

Chicks are still growing during weeks 4 and 5 and aren’t quite ready to go outside yet, until they are fully feathered. Prevent crowding by ensuring 1–2 square feet per bird. The temperature should now be between 70–75°F to help the chicks get ready to move outside. Your chicks require less heat because they are now larger and can better regulate their body temperature. Prepare the chicken coop, so it’s ready for the birds to move into it around week 6.

Adjust chick feeders and waterers:

Additional chick feeders and waterers may be needed so all chicks can eat and drink at the same time. When evaluating feeders also look at space. Older birds are taller than they were as chicks, so their feeders should be as well. Place a container under the bottom of the feeder to raise the feeders to the height of the bird’s back while standing. This will help keep litter and curious birds out of the feed and water.

Continue feeding a complete Purina® starter-grower feed:

Some chicken raisers ask us how long to feed chick starter or when to switch chicks to a grower feed. With the Purina® Flock Strong® Feeding Program, keep chicks on the same feed from day 1 to week 18. Our starter-grower feeds are formulated to provide the essential nutrients chicks need from day 1 to week 18.

Continue to offer the same complete starter-grower feed you’ve been feeding since day 1. If you started chicks on a medicated feed, it’s important to continue feeding that same medicated feed until birds reach maturity.

These starter-grower feeds are formulated to provide the unique nutrients your baby chicks need to start strong and stay strong – no need to supplement with any supplements, including grit. Wait until week 18 to introduce any treats to the diet.

Chicken grit, not needed:

If you are feeding your birds a commercially-prepared complete feed (like the feeds listed above), grit is not needed since the ingredients in a complete feed are already ground into small enough pieces that a digestive aid is not necessary. 

Keep an eye on the chicken pecking order:

As chicks mature, they naturally establish a chicken pecking order. This determines each chick’s social position in the flock. The chicken pecking order will decide who eats and drinks first and ultimately who “rules the roost.” Although chicken pecking order establishment is normal, be watchful for excessive pecking in chicks as it may indicate a more serious problem.

Maintain good sanitation practices:

Bigger chicks make bigger messes, so you will need to be more diligent about keeping the brooder clean. Keep a close eye on your chicks for signs of possible health issues. Chicks that are sick may appear lethargic or their feathers will be fluffed out from their body, have diarrhea or be unwilling to eat. Healthy chicks will eat and drink often and actively play as a group.

Your birds should be ready to move to the chicken coop around week 6.

Have questions? Visit our Chick Resource Center for everything you need to start chicks strong.