The average chicken hatches after 21 days of incubation, is old enough to be on it's own (away from mama) at 2 months, reaches puberty (hens begin laying eggs, roos begin mating hens) at 6 months old and have a life span of 6-10 years, give or take a few years either way. Their life span, of course, depends on their health and lifestyle, and individual birds may begin laying or crowing earlier or later than average. Personality traits and behaviors vary widely from breed to breed. Chickens are by nature and instinctually very social flock animals, and do NOT do well raised singly, without other chickens. In the absence of other chickens, your lone chicken will bond to YOU or any other pets you have, such as the family dog. Chickens (and birds in general) have the intelligence and emotional level of a 2 year old human child. It's important to realize that chickens have very definite individual personalities, and can and do feel and display strong emotions such as affection, loneliness, jealousy, fear, sadness and revenge. They can form special bonds to other specific birds or humans, and mourn them when they die. If you want to expand your knowledge of chickens, DON'T just stick to books and websites on chickens--read up on other birds such as parrots and cockatiels. They have been around as pets much longer than chickens have, and people have studied their behaviors more. You'll find that what is true of caged pet birds is also true of chickens--a bird is a bird when it comes to behavior and emotions!  By the way, chickens don’t read the chicken books–they don’t always do what the book says they do.

As a rule, young birds will be very energetic, playful and stupid. They haven't had the life experiences to wise them up that old birds have had. Young birds are more prone to dumb accidents because they are exploring the world. Young birds are also more friendly towards humans because they haven't learned the hard way that most humans suck--they can be mean or absentminded. In this respect young chickens are like young children, innocent and trusting. If you want your chickens to be tame, handle them frequently when they are young.

Very old birds tend to be mellow and their life experiences have shown them to expect anything and take it in stride. Older birds may not always want to be picked up and handled, but they will come around and hang out with you and keep you company. The older hens tend to be the ones whom the other chickens look to for wisdom, watching how they react to new things.

In the middle are adult birds that are in their prime. How they react to you depends greatly on how they were raised as chicks--if raised by other chickens in a barnyard, with minimal human contact, they will tend to be wilder and less apt to approach you. Birds that have been raised by humans or handled a lot when young have learned to trust and love humans, some to the extent that they seem to think that they ARE humans, and prefer to hang out with you rather than the flock.

Chicken Basics

Do your hens need a rooster? Well, strictly Hens can get along perfectly fine without a rooster. Hens will lay eggs and even go broody (set on a clutch of eggs in an effort to hatch them) with or without a rooster. Roosters merely provide fertilization for eggs, which you have to have if you plan on hatching any chicks from your hens' eggs.

Roosters also provide an important part of the flock--the leader, protector, provider, lover and father figure. In my opinion, hens are much happier with a roo than without and the flock is more of a cohesive family and community unit with a rooster present. Hens take as much joy in following a rooster around as he does in escorting them around the yard. You will get a truer picture of chicken behavior in a flock with a rooster than without.

To Roo Or Not To Roo?

Chickens In A Nutshell

Velvet Sparrow

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