It can be challenging to tell the exact age of a chicken just by looking at them. If you added some new chickens to your flock, but you don’t know how old they are, there are some signs and tricks on how to determine the age of a chicken approximately. Let’s see what they are.
When getting new chickens, always ask about their age. If you want to check the information, you should look at their feathers, wattles, combs, legs, vent, and behavior.
When we hear ‘baby chicken’, we usually imagine a cute, little, fuzzy chick with soft, yellow feathers. However, the reality is a little bit different. It is very easy to determine the age of a chicken who is still a baby. Chickens who have just hatched are featherless, wet, and not yet cute at all.
They weigh very little – only around 1.5 oz. They stay under the hen for a few hours, and during that period, they dry out. When they are dried, they start to look more like the fuzzy, little chickens we all love.
After around a week, chickens start to grow feathers. The process of growing feathers lasts for up to six weeks. In male chickens, feathers are pointy and longer. Female chickens grow rounder feathers. You can probably see their combs and wattles, but they are not yet big.
6 – 12 Weeks Old
At around six weeks old, when they have fully grown their feathers, you will start to see differences in the sex of chickens. Visually, male chickens will have bigger and redder combs. Their feathers will be longer and pointy.
Additionally, you will see the difference in the behavior as well. Roosters-to-be will behave more dominantly and assertively, while female chickens will take a more submissive position.
Male chickens will start crowing by the time they are 12 weeks old, and female chickens will be quieter. They will all also grow a lot – until week 12, their weight can surpass two pounds. Their legs will become sturdier, so they will have a better balance.
12 – 20 Weeks Old
During this time, your birds are growing up quickly. Their plumage will fully form, and their combs and wattles will get brighter. Roosters continue to show dominant behavior. Hens-to-be will continue to show submissive behavior, and they will soon be ready to mate.
They are also preparing to lay eggs. If the vent of your female chicken is moist and pink, that means that she is prepared to lay eggs. This usually happens at around the 20th week of their lives. They can start looking for nesting places.
When they lay their first few eggs, they may look confused and nervous. This is normal because it is their first time to do that, and it can also hurt. You can see some bleeding spots, but they are not a cause for concern.
20 Weeks – 1-Year-Old
During this time, your chickens are becoming fully grown adults. The hens are most likely to lay an egg per day, and the roosters will chase the hens. In the process of chasing, some hens can get injured, so be aware of any scars.
If that starts happening, it’s a good time to separate them. Your chickens usually reach their total weight by the time they turn 1-year-old. Their combs and wattles will be red and bright.
1 – 3-Years-Old
Somewhere after they turn 1-year-old, your chickens will experience their first molt. Their feathers will fall off, and a new plumage will form. It will help them stay warm, and the brand new, shiny feathers make them more attractive to roosters.
During this time, roosters’ spurs will grow. The legs of the chickens thicken; they get rougher and paler. Their behavior is also much more stable. They are used to being adults and doing all of the things adult chickens do!
3 – 5-Years-Old
Although they are not considered old at the age of 3, hens usually stop laying eggs after around 4-5 years. You will notice that their vent is getting pale and dry. First, the production of the eggs will start decreasing until they stop producing them completely.
Their beak, wattles, and legs will fade in color. Roosters will gradually stop showing enthusiasm about mating, and their sperm will stop being potent. He will be able to mate for some time, but he will not be able to fertilize more than three or four chickens. Roosters’ legs, wattles, and beaks will fade in color as well, and that is a clear sign that they are not in prime years anymore.
5-Years-Old And Older
Chickens older than five years are not mating anymore and not laying eggs anymore. It is difficult to tell their exact age, but their behavior is much calmer and lethargic.
They will gradually stop moving as much, and their feathers will become messy. Their mood changes too – they can look stressed and tired. Their eyes drop a bit too. If properly cared for, the lifespan of a chicken is between eight and ten years.
How To Take Care Of Chickens Depending On Their Age
If you are just starting and getting chickens for the first time, you may feel overwhelmed about taking care of them properly. However, there is no need to think like that! Chickens are easy to maintain even when they are babies. Follow the next advice and learn how to take care of chickens according to their age.
If you brought baby chickens to your household and you are not sure how to take care of them, don’t worry, it’s not complicated. If your chickens are up to six weeks old, they are fragile and weak, so they need someone to take care of them regularly until they get on their feet.
You can choose to have them in your house if you want to check up on them more often, or you can put them in a barn. Either way, you will need a brooder box. You can buy one or make it yourself. The chickens should be comfortable in there, so make sure it isn’t too small.
The next thing you should provide them with is suitable bedding, like hay or wood shavings. It will keep them cozy and warm. Speaking of warmth, they are still so small that they cannot regulate body temperatures themselves.
Since they don’t have mama hen to do that, you will need to put a heat lamp instead. To regulate the temperature correctly, use a thermometer. The temperature should be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When the first week passes, reduce the temperature by 5 degrees.
The same goes for each week after that. Pay attention to how they behave – if they are too hot, they should be able to get out of the brooder box. If they are too cold, they will try to get close together. Adjust the temperature according to that.
Last but not the least, they need to have access to fresh food and water at all times. They should stay in their brooder box until they grow all of their feathers – until they are four to six weeks old.
Until They Are Five-Years-Old
When your chickens’ feathers grow out, and they start laying eggs, no special care is needed. They don’t need a heat lamp anymore, and they are all grown up, so they mostly take care of themselves.
You should make sure that they have a clean coop and fresh water and food. Change their bedding at least once monthly and spend some time with them daily. If you observe them regularly, it will be easy to notice if something goes wrong or if they get sick.
When your chickens get to around five years of age, they will stop producing eggs, and it will be noticeable in their appearance that they are getting older. Although they don’t produce eggs, they can still be a valuable asset to your backyard. They like eating bugs and snails, and their manure is an excellent fertilizer for the soil.
They are also such lovely pets! Caring for them is not difficult. Apart from providing them with fresh food and water, cleaning their coop regularly, and changing their bedding, there are a few additional things that older chickens need.
They are prone to arthritis at this age, so it can get tricky for them to move around easily. If your barn has stairs, you should make them a ramp. Make sure to clip their nails if they get too long since they cannot do that anymore. Consult with the vet regularly and be aware of any changes in case they get sick.
It is usually not possible to tell the exact age of a chicken. However, you can easily see what period of life they are going through based on their appearance and behavior. If you plan to get chickens and raise them, it’s best to get baby chickens or pullets. Taking proper care of them based on their age is the key to their happy and long life.