Chicken Lifecycle

Birth – 6 weeks = Chick

6 weeks – 18-20 weeks = Pullet

18-20 weeks – Death = Layer

A chicken will begin laying at around 20 weeks.  It takes 24-26 hours to produce an egg.

By 30 weeks of age egg production will begin to taper off.  Also production will drop to around 30% in winter so your average chicken will produce around 230 eggs a year.

Nesting Material
  • Hay – can get mould/fungus.  can harbour mites.  Is a pain to clean out
  • Straw – can harbour mites, pain to clean out
  • Sawdust – will stick to wet eggs but can be rubbed off
  • Shredded paper – sticks to eggs, can leave ink stains
  • Pine needles
  • Artificial grass – can be removed and washed
  • Specialist poultry mats
Other Problems

Egg Eating

Feather Eating



Chicken combs

Size and shape indication of genetic makeup.

There are nine official comb shapes:  buttercup, cushion, pea, rose, single, strawberry, Silkie, V and walnut.

Chickens can’t sweat!  Comb is and important part of the cooling system.

Chickens originating from hotter regions tend to have larger combs

Roosters comb used to attract the ladies.  Along with the wattle the comb indicates good health, social status, fighting abilities.

As an indicator for laying a pale pink or shrivelled comb will indicate a chicken is off the lay, is too old, or moulting.

Mature and ready the comb will be at it’s biggest and brightest.  Colour and size can be a clue to age. Comb will be full sized when a pullet is at the point of laying 18-30 weeks depending on the breed.

Males develop combs a lot faster than females.

A high single comb is more of a risk to frostbite in cold areas.  Putting petroleum jelly on the comb will avoid this.  Frostbite – points of the comb turn black and shrivel up

If comb turns purple this is due to a lack of oxygenated blood (unless it is naturally part of the breed such as silkies) this can be an indicator of heart disease, respiratory distress or suffocation.  None of these bode well.

If the comb is normally upright but flops over this could be poor circulation, dehydration or an injury



Chickens and humans have approximately 60% genes in common.

Chickens see better than humand in daylight.  THey are tetra-chromatic and can not only see red, green, blue (like us tri-chromatic humans) but also ultraviolet.

But cannot see at night.

Chickens are bifocal – Long sight right way up but close up is sideways – hense the chicken will tilt its head to adjust its vision.

Chickens perceive sound from 15 to 10000 Hz (humans up to 20000 Hz).  Sensory organs in chickens feet allow them to sense vibrations in the ground.

Hens talk to their unhatched chicks and the chicks peep back from the egg.

Deaf chickens can repair their hearing.

Chicken have a great sense of smell.  This is used to hunt for food and recognise other birds.  They can also smell high concentrations of carbon dioxide and ammonia.

They will hate a dirty coop

Chicks can even smell in the egg

Beak can distinguish hard, soft, hot, cold, rough, and smooth.  Nerves int he beak means that chickens can feel pain in it

Only have 350 taste buds (humans have 9000) can distinguish between sweet, salty, bitter and sour.  By a time a chicken tastes it is already past the point where it is able to spit it out.

When a chicken pecks certain grains out of commercial food it is more likely due to them glowing (reflected UV light)  Chickens will prefer to eat and drink food that is close to their body temperature.

On hot days they prefer cold water.  As Chicken can’t sweats – panting, spreading their wings, finding shade are the only way they can keep cool

Chicken Instincts:  Preening, scratching ground, foraging, avoiding stinging insects, dust bathing, talking.  Competitive behaviours starts after day 3.  They can recognise individual birds up to 30 birds, after that it is a general flock and they are more tolerant.

Must be taught to drink, not to eat their own poop

Chickens can tolerate cold better than hot.

Chickens with starve without water as it helps them process feed.  Food will form clumps in the crop without water.

Dust bathing cleanses of parasites and dead skin and helps prevent the build up of oil from preening.


Water is not only important for hydration but critical in helping bird swallow.  Birds prefer clean, fresh, cold water especially on a hot day.  Clean the waterer regularly.  Try to avoid puddles as drinking from these puts the birds at risk of disease.


Chickens are lactose intolerant – milk products are wasted on them

Chicks 0-6 weeks

Pullets 6-30 weeks

Fattening Broilers 0-7

Adult Laying Hen 18-30 weeks




Chicken Talk

Sniffing, sneezing, coughing, and gurgling.  – Bird is unwell.  Could be anything from dust in nasal cavity to gape worm or a viral infection

Clucking, Singing – relaxed bird

Cackle – soft alarm when danger is perceived – also when laying an egg or leaving the nest.

Screech – single loud squawk.  Most commonly heard if a bird is picked up

Alarm Calls – To warn of threats such as dogs or hawks.  Loud and unmistakable.  Research suggests that chickens have different calls to differentiate land or air based threats

Bugger off – a growl, usually from a broody hen when disturbed.  Also to each other if intruded on ie on the perch or having a dust bath.

Cooing/burbling (chicken whispers) – when roosting if they percieve something that disturbs them

Lost and Alone – Chicks peep calling out to the mother hens.

Cock-a-doodle do – Singing the song of his people.  Look at me!  I’m stunning!  …  as a wake up call, as a battle cry, a dominant hen can crow – this occurs if there is a regression in her ovary either due to tumour or age.  This may reverse in time or be permanent.  Hens have 2 ovaries but only one works so the regression will occur when her good ovary fails.

The Bird

Light breeds tend to be egg layers whereas heavy breeds are dual-purpose.  Both laying and eating.

Along with body size difference in metabolise and nutritional requirements.

Light Birds

Usually Mediterranean in origin.  Often more highly strung/flighty.  Smaller appetite.  Generally lay more eggs than heaver breeds and usually the eggs will be white or light beige in colour.

leghorns, Minorcas, Anconas – all from Southern Europe (Spain/Italy)

Polish, Campines, Hamburgs, Houdans, Welsummers – North Europe

Silkies – Asia

Araucana – South American (blue/green eggs)

Hyline Brown and Shaver Brown are commercial breeds and are actually cross breeds.

Heavy Birds

Adult weight greater than 3kg, Brown eggs.  Fewer eggs than the light breed

Plymouth Rock, Wyandotte, Rhode Island Red – North American

Orpington, Sussex, Cornish, Dorking – Great Britian

Faverolle, North Holland Blue, Barnevelder – France and Holland

Longshan – Asia


New Hampshire Red – North America – is classed as a heavy bird but weighs less than 3kg on average.



Clean out coop regularly

Quarantine new birds for 2 weeks

try to keep wild birs out

Use good quality feed

Provide good shelters

Isolate sick birds

Ensure adequate fresh water


Know your poop

your chicken poop will tell you a lot about your chickens health.

Chickens do it all in one go – poo and wee.  All in one neat little parcel

The colour and consistency will change depending on what your chicken eats

Changes to watch for

f the white or clear part goes green or yellow (liver)

red (bleeding)

Brown (lead poisoning)


Black and tar like – internal bleeding

green – liver

white – digestive problems

lumpy or undigested – food to hard to digest

Keep an eye out for worms in droppings

Smelling – most likely a bacterial infection such as salmonella


Hanging about in trees

Perching in trees is natural for chickens but can become a problem

To avoid this:  Make your coop as attractive as possible – try changing the perches to be actual branches.

Feed the chickens late in the afternoon close to their house

Round the chickens up and lock them in their house for the night.  (Make sure they have access to water and food)

Red mites – Dermanyssus gallinae

Cigarett ash on wood – is a red mite infestation.  Can remain dormant for months – even years