August 30, 2013 | No Comments

Experienced chicken keepers have developed their own schedule based on years of experience.  But if you’re new, sometimes it’s hard to know when to change things or when to expect changes in their chickens, so I’ve put together this little chicken keeping timetable.  At the same time I’m including as many links as possible to other chicken keeping articles where you can find more information.  You might also find my New Chicken Keepers Dictionary useful.

Chihcken Keeping 101


Up to 10 daysStorage of eggs for incubation without serious loss of viability
21 daysIncubation
2 weeksRefrigerated eggs are at their best quality
4 weeksUnwashed and unrefrigerated eggs are at best quality.
90 daysRefrigerated eggs safe for eating by government standards.
7 monthsRefrigerated eggs are probably still safe for eating, though quality diminishes with time.
1 yearFrozen eggs are safe for eating.

Chicken Care

First 5-7 daysKeep chicks on paper towels to avoid sour crop from eating bedding.
When you begin feeding anything but starterOffer chick grit or allow outside regularly.
Until at least 2 weeks after regularly allowing outsideFeed medicated starter
2 -4 weeks after regularly allowing outsideSwitch to unmedicated starter or grower
6-8 weeks or until fully featheredKeep in brooder with heater
About 10 weeks (until at least half the size of potential flockmates)Earliest introduction of new chicks to an existing flock. The exception is chicks who hatched in the coop and are being protected by mother hen.
16 weeks or start to laySwitch to layer feed. Alternatively, continue grower feed oyster shell and/or crushed eggshell in a seperate feeder.
About 16 weeksSexual maturity or start to lay for production breeds. Heritage chickens and special breeds may mature later, even up to 1 year of age.
16-18 weeksBest time to butcher for the most tender meat.  Heavy breeds but not Cornish Cross.  None of this timetable applies to Cornish Cross.
2 yearsProduction breeds will often stop laying near 2 years of age.
8 yearsHeritage breeds will often lay for up to 8 years.  8 years is also the most typical natural lifespan of a chicken barring illness or injury.
20 yearsRarely a chicken will live up to 20 years with excellent care and barring illness or injury.

Seasonal/Cyclical Timeframes

2-4 weeks after matingHens can still lay fertile eggs after a rooster is removed from the flock. Probability drops after 4 weeks, but it is still possible to have fertile eggs even up to 8 weeks later.
6-8 weeks Broody hens who are not allowed to hatch eggs will stay broody about 6-8 weeks if not broken.  Broodiness might last longer if there are other broody hens in the flock (broody hens make broody friends). Hens are most likely to become broody in the spring.
SpringHeaviest egg laying period.
SummerLighter egg laying due to heat stress.
FallMolt. Many production breeds have been bred not to molt or to have a very light molt. Chickens will not often molt their first fall, but each fall after that.  Chickens will rarely lay during a heavy molt.
WinterLightest egg laying due to shorter daylight hours.  Some keepers supplement light to keep hens laying.  Others allow their chickens a "vacation".  The exception to this rule are production pullets that started laying late summer to fall.  They often continue to lay well throughout their first winter.


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