As you raise your flock, ensuring they grow up to be healthy chickens from the time they start out as eggs are important. To do this requires understanding the chicken growth life cycle, along with the different nutrients they require as they move through life.
Regardless of the purpose of your chickens, it is your duty to ensure they are properly fed and taken care of during each of the below stages.
Three Overarching Stages of a Chicken’s Life
All chickens go through three primary stages of life, each of which comes with different nutritional and general needs. These needs during each stage of the chicken growth life cycle are important as they will influence the manner in which a chicken develops throughout their lifetime.
First and foremost, a chicken always starts out as an egg. Chickens require around 24-26 hours in order to lay an egg, but the process will begin again just thirty minutes after the prior egg has been laid. This timeframe starts when a hen ovulates a new yolk and ends when the white and shell of the egg are created, resulting in the egg being laid. Generally speaking, based on the time of day when an egg is laid, the hen will not lay another egg until the day after the next.
Most hens will lay around 12 eggs which will all hatch a day apart on average. Chicken eggs should hatch roughly 21 days after they are laid if using an incubator.
After an egg hatches, a chick emerges and this is when the nutrition aspect truly begins, as the chick used the yolk of the egg for nutrition prior to its birth. Most chicks need to be placed in a brooder following their birth, which is an indoor space that is heated up by an infrared lamp. They will remain here for the first few weeks of life and will be fed special food designed for chicks in the meantime.
By 18 days after hatching, the chick should show serious feathers and by one month after hatching it should show signs of the breed it is from. By the time six months have passed, a chick will be considered to be a full adult chicken.
The third and final stage is becoming a chicken. Some chickens may be ready to lay eggs as soon as 18 weeks after they are hatched, but this is dependent on a number of factors. Most chickens will continue to lay eggs for over a year before their capacity to lay eggs will dwindle. At this point, a chicken is considered to be retired and will serve as motivation for the flock.
Smaller Aspects of Chicken Growth to Keep in Mind When Choosing Feed
With the above stages of a chicken’s life outlined, it’s important to break down key milestones in a chicken’s life on a weekly basis. This will help a chicken owner identify the best bulk chicken feed for different stages of chicken growth based on what part of life your chickens are currently going through.
The most notable stages include:
1. Weeks 1-4
During the first few weeks following a chick’s hatching, it will need starter feed that contains the building blocks required for growth. Generally, 18% protein is a great starting point for promoting chick growth, and the feed should also contain amino acids that can assist with development. On top of this, chicks should be vaccinated and prebiotics, as well as probiotics, should be included in their food for immune health.
2. Weeks 5-15
When the chicks in your flock graduate to teenagers, noticeable growth changes will occur. This is when chicks start to develop their key feathers and pecking habits. Starter feed will still be required, but the calcium should be cut back so as not to hinder the growth of the chick moving forward.
3. Weeks 16 and 17
During weeks 16 and 17, the major jump from start feed to layer feed should occur. This feed typically contains less protein and more calcium, the latter of which helps to stimulate egg production. It’s also best to include key vitamins or minerals at this point in time that can help the chick continue to age.
4. The Age of Molting
After the chicken has begun to lay eggs, nothing will change for a long time. However, at around a year and a half of age, the molting season will really begin. This is when chickens take a break from egg-laying and shed their feathers for a number of weeks.
When this occurs, chickens will require more protein in their feed as they lose a lot of protein when their feathers fall off, but you will switch to the old feed when they begin laying eggs again.
Finally, when a chicken is retired from laying eggs, their diet should be switched back to one that places an emphasis on protein in its diet. This nutrition will help carry them through the rest of their life.
How Long Do Chickens Live on Average?
Believe it or not, the majority of a chicken’s life will be spent not laying eggs. Depending on the breed and a number of other factors, the average chicken lives somewhere between five to ten years. Chickens that are kept safe and don’t have any genetic issues may have the capacity to live as long as 12 years in certain situations.
Raise a healthy flock
Ensuring that your flock remains healthy for years to come needs to be the priority of every chicken owner. To do this, you need to have an adequate understanding of the chicken growth life cycle.
This will determine the food they need, as well as the nutrients, that are required for healthy growth and living in general. Don’t neglect the health of your flock or the purpose they serve may be negatively impacted.