The Life Cycle of a Chicken Has 5 Major Stages
Understanding the life cycle of a chicken is important if you want to raise chickens. From fertilization to reaching maturity, chickens go through five distinct life stages.
Let’s analyze what occurs during each of these stages. It can teach you how to care for your chickens through each stage of their development.
Stages of the Life Cycle of a Chicken
A chicken goes through five distinct life stages, each of which plays an important role in the bird’s maturation and progression. Let’s take a peek into the lives of chickens as they grow into old age.
Stage 1: Fertilization Life Cycle of a Chicken
A chicken’s life cycle actually starts long before the chicken is born. At first, a rooster fertilizes a hen’s eggs. Adding a rooster to your flock is necessary if you want to hatch chicks.
While mating, roosters compete to prove to the hens that they are the most dominant male in the flock.
The hens will carefully select their mates based on a variety of factors, including physical attractiveness, leadership potential, attentiveness, and the ability to find food.
The hens will usually choose the rooster that appears to be in the best of health. Nonetheless, roosters will make to win over hens by scouting out food and bringing it back to them.
They will also initiate a courtship dance if they are interested in mating, but the hens will ignore them if they do not reciprocate the feelings.
It takes the birds only a minute or two to mate, and then they’re back to their usual routine. The fertilized eggs could then hatch into lovely chicks the next time the hen lays eggs.
Stage 2: Embryo Development of an Egg
Once a hen lays an egg, the chick enters the embryonic phase of its life cycle. After mating, hens may lay either fertile or infertile eggs. Fertilization rates are high, so most eggs will hatch into baby chicks.
If your hens aren’t interested in sitting on the eggs to help them hatch, you may want to invest in an incubator.
The embryo develops inside the egg over the course of 21 days, with new stages reaching completion at each day. Each egg and embryo may have a slightly different timetable.
An Embryo’s Daily Cycle
Day 1: The germinal disc and surrounding tissue begin to form.
Day 2: The heart begins to form, and blood begins to circulate.
Day 3: The heart begins to beat and the first blood vessels appear.
Day 4: The amniotic sac forms, and the beginnings of some limbs emerge.
Day 5: Elbows and knees become visible.
Day 6: The beak and toes of the developing chick take shape.
Day 7: The comb forms, and the beak keeps growing.
Day 8: Feathers appear and ear canals start.
Day 9: Claws start to form, and the embryo begins to resemble a chicken.
Day 10: Claws finish developing, and egg teeth develop.
Day 11: The tail feathers fully grow.
Day 12: The feet and legs continue to grow, and the feathers develop to show.
Day 13: The chicks’ bodies are covered in light feathers, and scales appear on their legs.
Day 14: The chick turns inside the egg so that their head is facing the larger end.
Day 15: The chick’s gut develops, and the egg white is consumed.
Day 16: The chick’s entire body is now covered in feathers.
Day 17: The egg white has vanished, and the chick’s head is nestled between their legs.
Day 18: The chick has filled the entire interior space of the egg, indicating that they are almost ready to hatch.
Day 19: Almost the entire yolk sac has been absorbed.
Day 20: The chick starts breaking through the egg shell from the inside. The term “pipping” describes this process.
Day 21: The chick hatches. In the majority of cases, eggs will hatch in about 18 hours.
Unlike many other births, chicks develop new organs and body parts on a daily basis. It’s incredible how much can occur in a short period of time.
Chicks may be at health if they hatch too early or too late. Don’t break the nest if the chicks are almost ready to emerge from their shell.
Stage 3: The Chick
When a chicken egg hatches, the resulting chick is the next stage of the bird’s life cycle. Baby chicks will have damp “down” feathers when they hatch from their eggs.
The time it takes for the chicks to dry off and return to their long fluffy selves is negligible.
When the chick is dry and fluffy, move them to a brooder area, which is an indoor room warmed with an infrared lamp. The chicks will stay there for about two weeks.
Bring some food and water to the chicks in the brooder. Chicks need food that is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals so that they can grow normally and quickly. All chicken breeds grow at different rates, so be sure to research the breed of your chicks.
How Fast Do Chicks Grow?
At around 5 days of age, most chicks start to grow their first true feathers, and by 12 days, their bones have matured quite a bit. Chicks should have most of their real feathers by 18 days, and they should start to resemble their breed after 30 days.
Depending on the breed, young chicks can start spending time outside as early as 8 weeks old. Chicks should remain in the brooder until all of their feathers have grown in.
Chicks of the Cornish Cross breed reach maturity in about 8 weeks, making them one of the quickest growing chicken breeds. The average weight of a healthy 8-10 pound kitten at that age is accurate.
A Rhode Island Red chicken, which matures more slowly than other chickens, will weigh only about a pound at 6 weeks of age.
Stage 4: Pullet
The term “pullet” refers to a teen chicken. Those adolescent years differ depending on the breed, but most chickens are pullets when they are 6 to 8 weeks old.
These birds are noticeably smaller than full-grown chickens, and their feathers are more unevenly distributed.
They are significantly larger than chicks, but lack the refined appearance of an adult chicken at this point, making this a rather uncomfortable stage for chickens.
Pullets are the first of most breeds to develop signs of sexual differentiation. The roosters are usually sold or used for meat, while the hens are kept for egg production.
It’s best to take your process when introducing pullets to full-grown chickens. The larger birds are more likely to harass the smaller pullets because of their size. When chickens reach puberty, they fall to start their place in the pecking order.
They may peck at each other in an attempt to establish dominance, but you shouldn’t get involved unless things get really violent or blood is drawn. Chickens will naturally establish a pecking order among themselves.
Stage 5: Adult
This is the last stage of the life cycle of a chicken. It’s usual that some hens will start laying eggs while still in the pullet stage, though the eggs they produce will be significantly smaller than the norm.
A chicken’s first egg is like a “practice round,” and the eggs will lay much larger and healthier eggs in subsequent clutches.
While there is no universally accepted definition of “when a pullet becomes a hen,” it is commonly accepted that once a pullet lays an egg, she is considered a hen.
Some chickens also consider any hen younger than a year to be a pullet. Hens, in any case, look a lot more mature than pullets do. Males develop into roosters around the same time.
The egg production of adult hens is highest when the hens are young. During the first two years of their lives, they may lay an egg every few days. In that case, they will most likely take a break whenever they shed their old feathers and grow new ones.
As chickens get older, they gradually become less consistent in their egg production. They lay anywhere from a dozen to a few hundred eggs per year, depending on their breed and general health.
It may be an indication of illness, however, if they suddenly stop laying eggs.
Chickens need to be switched to a layer feed as they mature from pullets to hens.
Layer feed is lower in protein than layer food, but it still contains plenty of healthy ingredients, including plenty of calcium. In this way, you can be sure that your chickens are laying nutritious eggs.
What is the average lifespan of a chicken?
Most chickens live between 3 and 8 years, but this varies greatly depending on the breed. The longevity of a chicken depends greatly on its diet, health, and care.
Color can fade from your chickens’ legs, beaks, and wattles as they get older. Those could be signs that your hens’ lives are coming to an end.
The Challenges of Chicken Raising
Maintaining a healthy flock of chickens is a challenge. Infections, genetics, and incubator malfunctions are the most common causes of early mortality in newly hatched chicks.
Make sure you’re only putting your birds together that are in good health and giving your eggs and chicks the best possible start in life.
As long as they don’t have anything too serious going on, the vast majority of chicks will make it. Adults are not immune to contracting diseases and infections.
The best way to avoid this is to keep their environment clean and to take them in for regular health checks.
The vast majority of today’s chickens are bred solely for the purpose of egg laying. This rapid reproduction, however, may shorten their lifespan.
So, if you want your chickens to live long, healthy lives, look for chickens that have been bred for two purposes. You’ll get the same number of eggs, but your hens should have a longer lifespan.
Summary of the Life Cycle of a Chicken
Although the life cycle of a chicken does not last as long as that of some other animals, it is still quite complex. The egg begins to develop and the chick acquires its vital organs and body parts shortly after mating between a hen and rooster.
It’s fascinating to observe a chick develop and grow, but this can’t occur if the chicken is neglected. Make in mind the needs of your chickens at each stage of their development and provide for them accordingly.
They’ll have a long life expectancy and lay plenty of nutritious eggs for you.