Telling Chickens Age: Signs + What to Check

Signs of an old chicken may include less number of eggs laid, longer spurs, and bigger eggs. The signs are displayed through a chicken’s behavioral and or physical traits. Knowing the age of your birds makes it easy to determine the type of feed to provide, the ability to lay eggs, and general health.

A chicken’s age can be determined by the color change on its beak and legs. The wrinkled legs of an aged chicken will turn dark with loose scales on them. The rate at which an old chicken loses its feathers increases while its physical activities reduce.

How to tell a chickens age: signs and what to look for

To tell the age of a chicken, especially of more than one year old, your best bet is to rely on an educated guess. There is no reliable science to identify the age signs of your chickens. What you may consider ‘normal rules’ of aging may not even apply to other breeds.

For estimating the age of your chickens, consider:

1. The breastbone structure

Less than 12 months old chicken will always have a softer and flexible breastbone. That is why younger chickens are always featherweight since they have not filled out. With time, the breastbone gets firmer and firmer, as observed in older chickens.

2. The condition of feathers

Chickens that are aged below one year will not molt. Each year, chickens undergo molting, which enables them to replace their old and damaged feathers. Replacing feathers helps boost your birds’ protection against different elements, such as colds.  

Yet, looking at the appearance of feathers to tell a chicken’s age may not always be a reliable sign.

First, it may only be possible to approximate the age when not all the feathers have been replaced during molting. A chicken with a mixture of old and new feathers maybe around 19 months old.

Secondly, roosters are known to cause damage to the feathers of hens through pecking. So, your pecked bird may seem old when it is not.

3. Size of combs

The organ often appears more sizable, floppy, pale, and droopier as your bird matures. However, some birds have been specifically bred to possess large and dropping combs. One such popular bird is the Leghorn.

Before relying on the size of the comb to tell a chicken’s age, ensure that the organ is not damaged, disfigured, and has no removed tips.

4. Growth of beaks

A beak always grows and matures with the chicken. A young chicken has a shiny, smooth beak.

On the other hand, older birds have gloomy and rugged beaks. Mature birds also have beaks that are more sloping and lengthier. The beaks may even be curling downwards.

5. Feet condition

An older chicken often has feet that are weary and losing their natural color. Also, a mature bird may have feet without scales. And the toenails may be stockier and elongated.

6. Vent appearance

A waxy and dry vent may indicate that your bird is older and thus may not be worth keeping around anymore for eggs. A younger bird’s vent is moist,  brighter, and more flexible.  

If your chicken has not begun producing eggs, it will have a rounder vent, while a chicken that has begun has an oval vent.  

7. Working of the eyelids

Because the eyelids are droopy and or damaged in old birds, it may force some sections of the sclera to be displayed. For younger birds, though, the eyelids are in excellent condition and fully cover the whitish parts of the eye.

8. Production of eggs

An old chicken may lay just one egg in a week, while a younger chicken of 1 to 2 years often lays about 6 eggs per week.

The egg size laid by a younger bird is also smaller. The eggs produced for your consumption or sale should become bigger and bigger as the bird matures.

Two other potential signs of an old chicken to look out for are activity levels and general well-being. For instance, a chicken aged 4 years and above usually appears stressed and lacks strength and spirit. Also, an old chicken is less sexually active because of the decline in fertility.

How to tell the age of a baby chick

From hatching to around 6 days, a baby chick does not have feathers, only covered with a fine coat. About a day or two later, the baby chick often starts to develop feathers, observed at the tip of wings. Around this period, the hair looks like it has been poorly cut.

By the fourth week of living, the chick will have excellently developed feathers. From 7 to 12 weeks, a baby chick experiences the first molting. The feathers are eliminated and replaced by mature plumage.

You can also tell the age of a baby chick by its behavior. One or two-day-old chicks may not show too much about their normal behaviors. However, in a couple of weeks, you may see different behavioral traits on display, such as posturing.  

How to tell the age of a chicken egg

A fresh or young chicken egg has a shell appearing thick. Also, the yolk often stands firm after breaking a fresh egg.

But, when you crack an old egg, you will observe a wrinkled yolk that turns into a puddle almost immediately.     

When are chickens fully grown?

Chickens are fully grown when they are about one year old. However, some breeds may continue growing and developing a little more after reaching one year old.

As they age, chickens are easily constipated and exposed to infections plus fowl diseases. Therefore they need more attention and basic care. Watch what they eat, give them lots of water and keep them from new birds introduced into a coop.

How to know the right age to slaughter a chicken

A chicken should be slaughtered at about 3-4 months old. Still, as long as the chicken is not older than ten months, it is okay for you to slaughter it. There are chicken breeds that grow much faster or slower than others.

Past 8 or 10 months old, a chicken’s meat may be tough and contains less supply of the much-needed protein.

In conclusion, remember that to approximate the general age of your birds, consider the aging signs provided above. Like with every rule, there may be exceptions when determining your bird’s age. You should therefore maintain a record of your birds, including their ages, which may be useful in diagnosing their issues.