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.

Click here to get instant access to 170+ detailed Q&A’s just like this one on every chicken keeping topic you could imagine

Click here to grow the most productive organic garden you’ve ever grown. Once you integrate this into your gardening, you’ll never look back. It’s one of the easiest, most natural, organic ways you can help your plants thrive