Identifying The Age Chickens

“My chicken venture recently started when I was given two pairs of chickens, a Rhode Island Red pair and a white Cochin pair. Any chance I can tell the age of them?” ~ Janelle Burnett

Hi Janelle, thanks for the question.

It can be difficult to tell the age of a chicken but there are a few indicators to help give you an idea.

The condition of your chickens’ shanks may help you determine their ages. A younger chicken will have smooth shanks, an older bird will have rougher and larger shanks.

The easiest way to tell the age of a rooster is by the length of his spurs as smaller spurs would indicate a cockerel (a male under 1 year of age.) The challenge is that if the spurs have been removed from a mature rooster, they will be small too.

The age at which a rooster crows is not a good indicator because some will try to start crowning as early as a few weeks of age, others will wait until they are 6 months to start and some never crow at all.

The indicators for aging hens may be a little more accurate, and since you received your birds in pairs I’m assuming the male and female are similar in age.

One way to tell the age of a hen is by how many eggs she lays, if she’s laying eggs at all, and the size of the eggs.

Most breeds start laying between 5 and 6 months of age.

The eggs are wonky for a little while; you may get eggs that have no shell or have a very soft shell. The eggs usually start out small and slowly increase in size. The frequency will also be unpredictable.

By 7 weeks or so after she starts to lay, she’ll have it all figured out; the eggs will be normal size and will come with regularity and a firm shell.

After her first season, meaning she has completed her first moult, her eggs will be larger and her production will decrease a bit.

After her second season and each subsequent season thereafter, her eggs will remain large and her production will diminish a little more.

Another age indicator is by observing your hens’ coloring.

Before a hen starts to lay, she will have all of her yellow coloring. Once she starts laying “bleaching” will begin.

After she has been laying for a couple of weeks, she will loose her coloring around her vent, eyes and ear lobes.

After a couple of months of production her beak will loose it’s coloring also.

She will loose her coloring in her shanks, feet, toes and nails after she has been laying for 6 months.

When she stops laying, either for a moult or at the end of her productive life, the yellow color will come back in the same order it had previously faded.

Janelle, I hope this information has been helpful and you can better determine the ages of your new chickens.

Best of luck with your new venture.