With the ancient, unanswered question of who came first, the chicken or the egg, chicken birds are most widely domesticated birds utilized for their meat and eggs. Chicken falls under the family Phasianidae, the class Aves and the order Galliformes. In appearance a chicken measures upto 70 cm in height, weighs around 2.6 kgs and has a tail with a length of 30 cm. The Red Jungle Fowl is ancestor to all domestic chickens and the domestic chicken is called Gallus Domesticus. A male chicken is called a rooster and a female chicken is called a hen.
Let’s look at the life cycle of a chicken to get a better understanding.
Life Cycle of a Chicken:
1) The Egg – Stage 1 –
In chickens, the process of egg laying occurs during the long stretches of summer months. A female hen after ovulation, takes around 23 to 26 hours to lay the eggs. Another ovulation occurs in hens, one hour after the first set of eggs were laid. This frequent cycle of ovulation enables female chickens to lay as many as 300 in a year. The hen continues to lay eggs till she fills her nest with sufficient eggs.
2) The Chick – Stage 2 –
During this stage, the hen becomes a broody hen. A broody hen is a stationary hen that squats or sits on her eggs, in order to maintain optimum temperature for the eggs to hatch. The growing embryo absorbs all the nutrients from the egg. The embryo develops during this time and hatches tiny chicks after 21 days. These chicks are still wet but grow fully covered feathers in about 4 to 5 weeks. In this stage, the newly hatched chicks have imprinted on the mother hen. Chicks follow mother hen almost everywhere and are completely dependent on them during this time.
By week 3 or 4 the chicks start to grow bigger and develop proper feathers. By week 8, the chicks are large enough to go outside and change their food items. From pecking on grains, they are able to peck on mealworms, scrambled eggs etc.
3) The Pullet (Adolescent) – Stage 3 –
The term pullet is used to describe a chicken that is not a chick nor an adult chicken. The pullet stage is the teenager stage in a chicken’s life cycle. Pullets are skinny, all wings and legs and patchy feathers. A pullet is two-third the size of an adult chicken and can get bullied during the pecking order. An adolescent female chicken might lay eggs after 18 weeks and the eggs she lays are comparatively smaller than adult eggs.
4) The Adult – Stage 4 –
In this stage, the male chickens become rooster and the female chickens become hen. After 6 months, the roosters produce sperm and the hen produces eggs. A female hen under favourable conditions will lay eggs after 72 weeks, but depends on the time period of their first moult. Adult chickens moult annually where they shed old feathers and grow new feathers. After one year of monotonous egg- laying, the chicken gets exhausted and the chickens start laying eggs irregularly.
Chickens who are members of the free-flocking birds, live up to 6 to 8 years under favourable conditions. Chickens used for poultry can live up to 30 years. They can serve as egg warmers for about 2 to 3 years, before their owner slaughters them for their meat. The male adult roosters are utilized for sport activities like cockfighting. They are also castrated to become meat birds.
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Frequently Asked Questions on
Can chicken fly?
The ability to fly in chicken is limited and varies from species to species. The bigger species of chicken find it difficult to fly but smaller species of chicken fly as high as 25 feet.
How often does chicken eat?
A fully grown adult chicken feeds 120 grams of pellets in a day. They need to feed constantly throughout the day in order to produce eggs and sperm for reproduction.
How long can a hen lay eggs?
An adult hen produces eggs throughout the year and has no limit to laying eggs. While younger adult hens produce more eggs the older hens produce fewer eggs as time passes.