How Fast Do Chickens Grow?
If you’re new to poultry farming, it’s normal to experience anxiety and excitement as you tend to your chicken. You’ll want to ensure that you afford proper care such that your birds grow healthy and produce high-quality eggs and meat.
The question is, how fast do chickens grow? It mainly depends on the breed and the type of food you provide. Read on to discover about the expected growth rate of your chickens, how you can improve it, and the mistakes to avoid.
How Long Does It Take for a Chicken to Reach Full Size?
It takes about 16 to 18 weeks for a chicken to reach full size. However, this can vary depending on the breed of chicken. Some chicken breeds grow faster than others. The average chicken will weigh between four and six pounds when fully grown.
What’s the Difference between Fast and Slower Growing Breeds?
A chicken’s breed is the most significant factor affecting its growth rate. Generally, broilers grow faster than layers. However, other factors such as health, feeding habits, and environmental conditions affect the growth rate among individual birds.
– Faster Growing Chickens
Broilers have a fast growth rate – they develop into thick, heavy birds within forty-eight weeks after hatching. This is because they’re genetically geared to reach market weight in a short time.
– Slower Growing Chickens
On the other hand, layers grow slower than meat chickens. Some, especially excellent egg-laying breeds, can take up to two years to grow.
What is the Average Growth Rate for Chickens?
Chickens are considered mature when they start reproducing. Usually, this occurs 16 to 23 weeks after hatching, depending on the breed. However, some birds develop more slowly or faster than others. The average time it takes for chicks to become adults in 18 weeks.
– The Egg Laying Process
A chicken’s life starts after eggs from inside hens. The yolk forms inside the ovary and travels through the oviduct before vaginal expulsion. This process takes 25 to 26 hours per egg. After an egg is laid, it takes three weeks of incubation and brooding to hatch into a developed chick.
Healthy chicks have soft downy feathers covering their tiny bodies and their eyes open during hatching.
– Chick Growth and Development
Chicks lose downy feathers and start developing ‘real’ feathers three to six weeks after hatching. During this period, the birds also grow combs and wattles.
Growth varies depending on the breed, genetics, feeding habits, and overall well-being. If you have any concerns over the growth behavior of your chicks, call your avian vet. On average, chickens live for eight to ten years.
What Factors Affect a Chicken’s Growth Rate?
Here are the factors that affect a chicken’s growth rate.
– Stocking Density
Having too many birds reduces their growth rate. First, heavily populated coops cause overheating. Birds don’t have sweat glands and are highly sensitive to environmental temperatures. If overcrowded, their bodies won’t lose heat to the environment, affecting the growth rate.
Secondly, overcrowding makes it harder to manage chicken waste. A high urine concentration and faeces degrades your birds’ food health and hinders growth and development.
A house with proper ventilation is mandatory for optimal poultry health. When the coop has adequate air circulation, the air is less likely to get saturated with carbon dioxide and ammonia from urine.
Additionally, ventilation keeps the ambient temperatures consistent. This helps in keeping your birds healthy.
Light affects several behaviors in chickens, including alertness, inclination to eat, drink and reproduce, and physical movement. Birds are less likely to engage in these activities in a dark room, affecting their growth rate.
– Chick Quality
High-quality chicks almost guarantee a healthy and productive flock. When purchasing chicks, check for any signs of diseases – if it looks weak and sickly, it’s likely to have many health complications as it grows.
– Nutrition and Water Supply
Chickens must eat to grow. The food you give must be rich in nutrients because it’s the fundamental building block of growth and development. More importantly, it should be a balanced diet – don’t expect your birds to grow healthy if you don’t give a particular type of nutrient.
Similarly, your chickens need plenty of clean water. Because they don’t have sweat glands, your birds need water to keep cool. Water also helps with indigestion.
What Do You Need to Do to Ensure That Your Chickens Grow Properly?
If you want your chickens to grow fast, some valuable practices to observe.
– Provide High Protein Food
Carbohydrates help provide energy and increase your birds’ body mass. However, the best way to make chickens grow fast is by giving them foods rich in protein.
Animal by-products are a quality source of proteins for your birds. On the other hand, plant proteins provide a cheaper and more accessible alternative.
However, protein feeds don’t always guarantee fast growth. This is particularly true if you have a slower-growing breed. In such cases, it’s best to let genetics take its course.
Additionally, giving too many proteins can cause early maturation. This has its side effects, including egg binding and prolapse.
– Proper Feeding
Allowing your birds to forage is good for their health, as it enables them to eat grass and substances that aid in digestion. However, it mustn’t be the only source of food.
For optimal growth, ensure that you complement foraging with high-quality formulated feeds like starter mash, layers mash, and growers mash. Like humans, chickens grow healthier when they feed on a balanced diet.
– Vaccinate Your Chickens
Some chicken breeds are hardy to most diseases, but this isn’t an excuse for forgoing vaccination. Giving them immunity shots increases their chance of survival during outbreaks, especially for viral infections like Newcastle disease and influenza.
Ensure that you adhere to the vaccination schedule prescribed by your vet. There’s no need to give one vaccine and miss others – instead of improving immunity, such a habit predisposes your birds to infectious diseases.
– Provide Proper Housing and Biosecurity
Your chicken coop must provide comfortable living conditions for your birds. Ensure that it has enough space to allow the birds to roam and prevent overcrowding. Besides making the chickens restless, a small coop provides excellent conditions for spreading infectious bacteria and viruses during outbreaks.
It’s also essential to invest in heaters, especially if you live in cold areas. These ensure that your chicken continues laying eggs throughout the year. Likewise, AC units are a worthwhile investment for lowering the risk of heat stress during the hot months.
Additionally, you must observe high hygiene and sanitation standards. This is the best way of reducing the spread of bacterial diseases that thrive in dirty environments.
– Selective Breeding
When purchasing chickens, choose birds with desirable properties like early maturity, hardiness and resistance to diseases and adverse weather, and prolific egg-laying or meat production. It also helps to exchange your roosters often to prevent inbreeding, which reduces the quality of the offspring.
– Provide Adequate Water
Water is vital to keeping your chicken healthy. It aids in digestion and helps in flushing out toxins. Ensure that the chicken coop has an uninterrupted supply of water. More importantly, the water containers must be at a level where the birds drink with straining.
Common Mistakes that People Make when Raising Chicken
Here are the common mistakes you must avoid when keeping chickens.
- Overlooking sickness symptoms: It’s crucial to observe your birds for sickness symptoms. When you know their normal behavior, you can tell if it’s sick. A healthy bird is active and has bright eyes, a healthy and firm comb, and glossy feathers.
- Lack of financial preparation: Don’t venture into poultry farming without a feasibility study. Ensure that you have enough money to buy feeds and medicines and cover miscellaneous expenses. This way, you’ll never have to abandon your project halfway.
- Keeping harmful chemicals within your chickens’ reach: most farm chemicals can kill your birds. Ensure that you keep the substances out of their reach to avoid fatalities. If you must disinfect the coop, find alternative housing for your bird until its effects subside.
- Overcrowding: keeping too many birds in a small space causes cannibalism, stress, etc. It also makes it easier for diseases to spread. Ensure that you build a spacious coop for your chicken. It’s wise to construct a large building so that you’re on the safe side if you decide to expand your flock.
- Poor ventilation and hygiene: these increase the risk of developing health complications like respiratory diseases, pest infestations, etc. They also affect egg and meat production. Ideally, the coop should receive adequate natural light during the daytime. At night, you can light electric bulbs. Also, ensure that it has proper ventilation and observe high hygiene standards.
- Poor quality feeds: it’s advisable to provide your birds with products from reputable manufacturers. Due to the increased cost of production, some companies are adulterating and producing low-quality feeds that don’t improve your chickens’ health. Sometimes, such products can hurt your bird. You can also formulate feeds yourself by mashing different ingredients – this is a healthier and more affordable approach than buying off-the-shelf meals.
Chickens grow at varying rates, mainly depending on the breed. However, you can control other factors such as nutrition, ventilation, lighting, and vaccination.
If you want your birds to mature fast, ensure that you provide the requirements and avoid the mistakes mentioned in this article. Also, it helps to have enough cash to cater to miscellaneous expenses.