The Chicken Life Cycle: 4 Stages
We all know that chickens lay eggs and eventually that egg hatches into an adorable baby chick, but what do we really know about the process? Today, we decided to dedicate a blog post all about the life cycle of chickens!
Stage 1: Development of the Egg
A hen lays an egg about every 25-27 hours, so this cycle repeats everyday! However, an egg won't be fertilized unless a rooster fertilizes the hen. If the hen isn't fertilized, you're just going to get a regular egg. A fun little fact is, if the hen doesn't like the rooster, she can actually eject the sperm from the rooster. If she likes the rooster, she can continue to lay fertilized eggs for up to three weeks. During this time, she will be broody and will sit on her eggs for 21 days, so it's best to leave her alone. On day 21 when the eggs hatch, the chicks will retain all of their nutrients from the egg for 24-72 hours.
Stage 2: Baby Chicks!
The hen will naturally tend to the chicks and take care of most of their needs, but what is your job? You'll want to give the hen a separate space, away from the flock, where she can take care of her chickens in peace. You'll also need to get some starter crumbs for the chicks to eat. Their water will need to be room temperature with electrolytes added for the first few days to ensure they get proper hydration. You will need to replace the water a few times a day so it stays clean and fresh. If the hen doesn't teach them to drink on their own, dip their beaks in the water so they know where it is. Make sure your heat lamp is at 95 degrees Fahrenheit so the chicks have the warmth they need to survive. Around week 5, the temperature should be 65-70 degrees, but by then, you should be able to turn the heat lamp off because they will be able to maintain their own body temperature. This is when you'll start to notice them developing their first adult feathers!
Stage 3: Pullet
You'll want to introduce the young chickens to the rest of the flock before they start to grow so they know their place in the pecking order, especially if you have a rooster. Adolescent hens will start to lay eggs at about 18 weeks, but they will be smaller until they are fully grown. Let the chickens get to know each other. This time is pretty simple for the most part.
Stage 4: Adults
You'll notice a few squabbles here and there, but nothing serious. They will lay a good amount of eggs for the first year or two, and they will slow down around 72 weeks. As they get older, they will lay less eggs and be less energetic, but they can live to be 3-20 years old depending on the breed! Just make sure they are well cared for and enjoy!
For more information, check out our post on egg laying and egg behavior as well as our post on how to raise backyard chickens! Check back next week for another fun, fact filled, blog post!