Chicken Life Cycle

Chickens are all over the world, they live on every continent except Antarctica. Some people estimate there are over 25 billion chickens in the world, meaning there are more chickens than any kind of bird. This also means there are way more chickens on earth than humans. There are only 7 billion humans on this planet, baby chickens are called chicks. They are born from eggs and take 21 days to hatch, hens or female chickens will sit on their eggs to keep them warm enough for the chicks to come out healthy. Hens will always talk to their chicks while they are still in the eggs. Each chicken sound has a specific meaning, like their own language. 


A chicken has more bones in its neck than the giraffe. Chickens were domesticated around 8000 years ago. Now you can find chickens on farms and as pets all over the world. It is important to know that chickens have a great memory, they can remember over 100 different people's animal faces. Chickens can be all kinds of colors and sizes. A male chicken is called a rooster, whereas the female chickens are called hens. They are often more colorful than the female chickens. Almost all chicken has small heads compared to their bodies, with scaly legs and sharp claws. 


Chicken has a full-color vision and dreams a lot as humans do. You may have seen a chicken peck at its food before, it is silly looking. Chickens eat worms, insects, seeds, grains, fruits, veggies, and all kinds of other foods. Here the chickens are the closest living relatives that you will see that belong to the T-Rex. When we start to think about farm animals, chickens are the first animals that come to mind. We use chickens as a type of poultry animals, which means they are usually being typically raised for their meat and eggs. Considering both the males as well as the female chickens are known for some of the special physical characteristics. All of them seem to have sharp beaks, and with the help of their thin yellow legs have feet that help them scratch around for food. 


Looking at their physical characteristics, chickens are well known for their combs and wattles. If we take a closer look at their combs they are not like the kind you use for your hair, but these tend to be red pointy pieces of skin-like material that are seen on their heads. The wattles are usually made of the same kind of material that we see hanging under their beaks, by their necks. We can see that there is a variety of different breeds of chicken which are of different sizes and colors. When we see a group of chickens, the term used to refer to this is called a flock. The rooster is usually the larger among them and they are more brightly colored than the hen, it even has a larger comb. We see the roosters making a very loud crowing sound and it is quite aggressive. They seem to have a very well-developed gizzard which is a part of the stomach that contains tiny stones that assist in grinding up their food. It is like many other birds that we see, chickens are social animals and tend to thrive in communities of multiple or the company of hens. If you see a chicken getting sick or having an injury, they need medical attention just like they do for any other pet which you might have. It is always advised best to take them to a veterinarian specializing in avian medicine. 


Roosters usually make a very loud crowing sound which is usually seen early in the morning but they can crow at any time of the day. The eggs laid by the hens are of wide range in color from white to pale brown and other pale colors depending on the breed. The domestic chickens are typically given a feed which is a commercially prepared feed that includes a protein source as well as grains. We often see the chickens scratch at the soil that they could get at adult insects and larva or seed. 


The chickens are said to be flightless birds, they don't tend to attempt for flight. Chickens tend to do this by running and flapping their wings. As they are not capable of staying in the air for a longer time. Chickens tend to fly sometimes for a very short distance such as over fences. The chickens will sometimes attempt flight. This is simply done to explore their surroundings, however, they will tend to fly to attempt to flee when they are in a perceived danger or being pursued by some kind of predator. 


Chickens are the most gregarious birds and usually tend to live together as a flock. Chickens usually have a communal approach towards the incubation of the eggs and even raising their young. The individual chicken in a flock will always dominate the others, this is done to establish a ‘pecking order’, with dominant individuals will be having priority for the access to food and nesting locations. If we remove the hens or roosters from a flock this will lead to a temporary disruption to this social order until there is a new pecking order that is well established. 


At the time when the rooster finds food, he will be calling the other chickens to eat it first. He usually does this by clicking in very high pitch at the same time picking up and dropping the food. This is said to be part of the chicken courting ritual. When a hen makes itself familiar coming to his ‘call’ at that time the rooster will mate with the hen and thereby fertilize her egg. There will come a time when a hen will stop to lay eggs to concentrate on the incubation of her eggs. This is a state which is commonly known as ‘going broody’. Once the eggs are laid a broody hen will sit fast on her nest and will protest if disturbed or removed, you will rarely see her leave the nest to eat, drink, or even to dust-bathe. 


You can see most of the time she is sitting in the nest she will regularly be turning the eggs to keep them at a constant temperature and humidity. If we observe the end of the incubation period, which takes an average of 21 days, the eggs if fertilized will hatch and the broody hen will take good care of her young.  As the individual eggs do not all hatch at the same time, as the chicken can lay only one egg every 25 hours, later the hen will usually stay on the nest for 2 days after the first egg hatches. At this point, the newly-hatched chicks will live off the egg yolk that they have to absorb just before hatching. When the hen hears the chicks peeping from inside the eggs, and it will gently cluck to encourage them to break out of their shells. In case if the eggs are not fertilized and they end up not getting hatched, at this point the hen will eventually grow tired of being broody and leave the nest.


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Life Cycle

Coming to the lifespan of a chicken it varies between 5 – 7 years however there have been cases where the chickens have lived for 20 years or so. The chicken’s life cycle is been divided into many different stages, they are as follows


Stage 1: Egg Development and Hatching

Generally, the hen will be laying an egg every 25-27 hours or so, this cycle goes on for every day. An egg will tend to remain unfertilized unless the hen has been fertilized by a rooster. It is observed that a hen can keep the rooster’s sperm viable in tiny pouches in her vagina for 3 weeks. In a case where if she doesn’t like the rooster she can eject his sperm, a neat little trick. If the hen likes the rooster and she now will lay a fertile egg. The hen will continue to lay fertile eggs, thereby gathering them in her nest until she feels that she has enough eggs.


Once the eggs are laid she becomes a broody, during this period you don’t want to mess with the hen. She will be sitting down on those eggs for 21 days. At this period she will keep the eggs warm, turn them regularly and expel any eggs that are not in the progressive stage. On the arrival of the 21 days, there will be a lot of noise coming from under a hen. When the eggs are initially hatched the once are wet, but they tend to dry off soon and turn into those cute little fuzz balls that we can’t resist. 


In a short time before hatching, the chick will be absorbing all the essential nutrients from the egg into its body to support itself. The nutrients which are present in the egg’s contents will sustain a chick for 24-72 hours. Although we may not be able to see what will be going on inside that egg, it is certain milestones that are very important and interesting to know about.


Stage 2: Chick

The hen will attend to their needs and care. The chicks will spend the first days of their life under mama’s wings this helps to keep them warm and safe. It is your choice to provide her with separate quarters from the flock where she can raise her brood in enough peace and with much more safety. We will be required to provide starter crumbs for the chicks. The water given should not be cold or hot but of room temperature, it is best to give some electrolytes for the first couple of days which will ensure the health of chicks and hen. In case if you are planning to incubate them, you will need to make sure to provide suitable warmth, food, water, and safety for them. 

You need to have a chick starter feed which is high protein content to ensure healthy development. They will also need a clean which is freshwater, as the chicks tend to be messy you will likely find yourself changing the water several times during a day. In this condition where the chicks don’t have their mama to lead them, it becomes your responsibility to dip their beaks in the water and food dishes to let them know where they are. Taping on to the food bowl with your finger, imitating mama’s beak. It is important to know that warmth is also essential for them to thrive. In the first few weeks, they are in the brooder the temperature of your heat lamp should be maintained at optimal 95F at chick level. Once we observe the chicks get bigger we can see they will start to sprout their first real feathers, this ideally happens during the second week. 


During weeks 3 and 4 see them acquiring even more feathers and growing rapidly. By week 5 this time you will also see them start to acquire their first ‘adult’ feathers. At this time they will also see them sorting out their pecking order. It is best to spend some time outside in a suitable pen to protect them from predators.


Stage 3: Pullet (Adolescent)

At this stage, the chickens are not the prettiest. They are very skinny, all of their legs look somewhat out of proportion to you compared to your adult chickens, they look much like their ancient relatives the dinosaurs. As we know the pecking order will be brutal, so at this stage you will see extreme bullying among them. Usually, the youngsters learn quickly to get out of the way, but there will be times when an adult bird will decide to be an absolute demon to the new arrivals and will be doing everything possible to be obnoxious. It is best to leave the juveniles to mingle with the adults so they only have to endure the pecking order once. It is ideal for the cockerels to be introduced to the flock before they will start to crow, this is especially important if they already have a rooster. 

The boys will be made to learn their place in the flock otherwise there will be persistent fighting between the old and new. The cockerels will be engaged in their crowing every opportunity they will get once they are well settled in their place in the hierarchy. The adolescent hens will begin to lay eggs around the 18 weeks, but this will vary a lot between different types of breeds. Once a female will have laid her first egg, she is called an adult, although some folks call those first eggs ‘pullet eggs’ because they are very smaller than eggs of the hen.


Stage 4: Hen (Adult)

If you observe there will still be a few minor squabbles here and there, the new and older hens should get settled into a routine. Some of your older hens will even take the role of teaching for the newcomers. The boys usually become tiresome once the hormones start to kick in. They will be challenging the head rooster at every opportunity they will get. It is important to know, hens molt every year to replace their old and worn-out feathers. 

The new hens will not be molting until the following year, so they should keep laying throughout the winter. Coming to the spring, some of your ‘chicks’ may become broody themselves and give a new generation of adorable chicks. The chickens lay well for the first year or two, but they start to slow their production around the 72 week mark. Many will still lay but output, when compared, will be noticeably less. As the chickens tend to age, like most of the other creatures they will start to show signs of ‘old age’. They will become less energetic and move very slowly, their legs and feet tend to become thicker and possibly arthritic. The facial features take on an ‘aged’ or ‘tired’ like appearance. Egg production will get affected altogether as they will lay the occasional ‘yearly’ egg. Most of the older females are done with laying now. They are usually seen spending most of their days lying in the sun or dust bathing sedately thereby enjoying their retirement phase.


FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Whom are the chickens closely related to?

The chickens are said to the close relatives of the T-rex.

2. Why is the egg said to be nutritious?

The egg contains a mere 75 calories but it will give you 7g protein, 1.5g of saturated fat. and 5g fat. Along with this, it gives us vitamins A, D, B12, phosphorus, choline, carotenoids, riboflavin, cholesterol, and pantothenic acid.