How Old Are My Chickens: Simple Way To Find Out

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You can roughly determine the age of your chickens by their physical features. Spurs begin developing on the back of their legs at 3 years of age while their egg production begins to noticeably lower. Their feathers also start to lose their vibrancy and some may begin falling out.

When buying chicks from a breeder or hatchery, they will usually be able to give you an accurate time for when the chicks were born. However, there are some cases where you might not know exactly how old the chicks you’re getting are. 

For example, if you’re given a bunch of baby chicks from a neighbor or friend as a gift, how can you make an educated guess as to how old they all are? In this article, we will determine how to come up with an approximate age by looking at the main life stages of a chicken.

Freshly Hatched Chicks

The first main life stage starts once an egg begins hatching. Fresh out of the egg, day-old chicks will need to spend several hours in an incubator before they are fully dry. This is when you will see their most easily identified feature: their fine down coat.

If a chick is still predominantly covered in their fuzzy down coat, they can be identified as most likely around 12 weeks old or younger.

CoatsBaby chicks are easiest to identify because they won’t start getting feathers until about day 7 or 8. Most chicks will be covered in this fuzzy yellow coat while going through a series of mini-molts over the course of about 16 to 20 weeks.
Boy chicks will start growing long and pointed feathers around their saddle, tail, and neck. These feathers are called saddle, sickle, and hackle feathers, and they will only grow in males.
Girl chicks usually start growing feathers that are rounded, and will not grow any of the aforementioned male feathers.
Chicks will have incredibly small combs and wattles that usually only start to become pronounced at around the 12-week-old mark. Boys will generally have larger wattles and combs than the females, but they will still be rather small and pale in color when compared to cockerels and pullets.
Definitive features of baby chicks

During the first 6-8 weeks of their mini-molts, it’s usually best to keep your chicks in a brooder to make sure they are staying safe and warm while their feathers are coming in.

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Cockerels and Pullets

Once chicks have finished their series of mini-molts and are now fully feathered, they have reached their “teenage” era. From about 12-20 weeks of age, a female chicken is considered a pullet and a male chicken is considered a cockerel.

CoatsCockerels and pullets will usually look fairly awkward during this time, as they will be fully feathered but still not have their full adult coats of feathers. It usually takes a full year for a chicken to reach its first full molt and grow their adult plumage.
SizeUsually at around 20 weeks, your chicken will be at about half of its approximate adult size, so it’s important to know what kind of breed your chicken is. For example, at this time a Rhode Island Red pullet will way around 3.3 lbs and a cockerel will be around 4.2 lbs. Knowing these approximate weights will allow you to better track where your chicken is in its overall life cycle.
EggsPullets will lay eggs for the first time right around 20-26 weeks. Once your pullet starts laying eggs, another good way of telling its age is by measuring the distance between its pelvic bones. Right when they first start laying eggs, this distance will be about two fingers wide, and this distance will usually increase as the pullet grows into a hen.
In this stage, the combs and wattles will start to become more pronounced. Both will start to grow a more vibrant red color. Cockerels will start to flaunt their larger combs and wattles, and their male feathering will start to make them appear more like a rooster.
Definitive features of cockerels and pullets

Adult Chickens

Chickens are normally considered to be adults once they’ve fully molted into their adult feathers, which is usually between 12-18 months old. Pullets will now be considered hens, and cockerels are now roosters. With all of their young feathers gone, their new coat will usually be more uniform, glossy and vibrant.

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Rooster CoatsFully matured, roosters have many distinctive features that make them easily distinguished as fully grown. Having gone through their first adult molt, roosters will have sharply pointed sickle feathers coming off the back of their main tail feathers. These long feathers will then blend nicely into their  long saddle feathers. 
Hens CoatsEven though hens won’t have any long or distinguishing new feathers, their coats overall will appear much more uniform and colorful. A hen’s feathering will also be much thicker than a pullet’s, as they need the extra insulation for her eggs to stay warm as they roost.
LegsAnother great indicator of a fully grown chicken’s age is their legs. While pullets and cockerels still have soft legs that are pale in complexion, fully grown chickens will have legs that have started to become more rough to the touch and will have a brighter yellow pigmentation.
Definitive features of adult roosters and chickens

At this point, your chickens should also be at their full weight. Knowing what breed your chicken is will make a huge difference in understanding their age.

There are some chicken breeds that are huge, such as a Brahma rooster which will weigh about 13 lbs when fully grown. Other bantam varieties will stay small even in their adult years, such as silkies who have roosters that only weigh about 1.5 pounds.

Old Chickens

Adult chickens are usually in their prime between the ages of 1-3 years old. After 3 years of age, you can start to pick up on some visual and behavioral changes that will distinguish them as older birds.

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EggsOlder hens will start to slow up on their egg production and potentially stop laying eggs altogether. On average, most hens will lay eggs for about 2-4 years, but this will vary from breed to breed.
LegsLegs are again a great indicator of age at this point in the chicken life cycle, as older hens will start to develop spurs at the back of their legs. Spurs will usually start growing at around the 3 year mark, and will continue to grow, with long spurs indicating that the bird is older. Also, after several years of molting, the legs will gradually start to lose the pigmentation and will look more pale and gray. The same will be true for the coloration of their feathers, combs and wattles as well.
RoostersRoosters usually lose their ability to produce sperm at around 3 years old, so they will then stop attempting to mate with the hens. When this happens, you will also notice other behavioral changes in roosters, such as they won’t crow as often or as loud and they’ll usually become less aggressive towards other secondary males and cockerels.
Definitive features of old chickens and roosters

Many breeds of backyard chickens can live on average between 6-9 years, but can live even longer given the right living conditions. These older birds will be easy to identify, as they will likely lack in their overall energy when compared to younger chickens and will move around much slower.

While they will still enjoy foraging out in the yard, you may notice that your older birds might tend to prefer to stay close to or inside of the chicken coop.


Raised in Wisconsin, Leland has spent most of his life adjacent to the rich farmlands of the Midwest. He has visited many farms while exploring his home state, which eventually led him to work directly with farmers on a variety of projects. Between building furniture with Amish-milled wood and helping a local farmer construct a greenhouse, Leland developed a deep interest in homesteading and wants to one day have farmland of his own. Leland is able to combine his love of writing and recent passion for agriculture by writing articles focused on a variety of aspects of farming and homesteading.

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