From Chick to Adult Hen

I’m at work on a couple of blog posts that are taking time to write. In the meanwhile, I thought I’d repeat a post that I did a few years ago. Many people are getting teeny fluffy chicks for the first time. Those little puffballs look so adorable that it’s hard to imagine them all grown up. The photos below are a reality check. That small box you’ve planned to use as the brooder will not do. Get that coop built!

Chicks transform from puff balls into adult hens in mere months. It’s as if a movie is being played in fast-forward mode.

This is a Buff Orpington at one week of age, which is the quintessence of what people think that a chick should be. This stage doesn’t last more than a moment.



Blink. Feathers coming in.

chick 17 days


Blink. Down gone.

buff 5 wks


Blink. Wings flapping. Dust baths and foraging outside.

BO 7 weeks


Blink. Combs on heads and large feet digging up the dirt. At 20 weeks, she’s laying eggs.

ready to lay


Blink. The hen is two.



And then time slows. Years go by. This hen is seven. She’s not as glossy. She’s not laying. She’s old. I like the Grand Dame hens as much as the puffball chicks. I like that we’ve gotten to know each other. This year I have plenty of productive layers. I won’t be adding chicks. Do you have chicks in a brooder?



  1. Hi Terry, I would love to have chicks but always go for 14-16 wk old so I do not have to deal with any Cock birds.
    I was hoping you would bring up aging birds, they have lovely mellow personalities as they age and are far more tolerant. What I wanted to know was when you next get young birds will you integrate the Ladies in with any of the Gems that will still be with you or would it be easier for the new girls to mix with the remaining Gems. Very I
    interested in what you would do ??
    Maybe a third barn !! :)

    • Two coops are plenty! Yes, in another year or two, I’ll combine the Gems and the Ladies, and the Little Barn will once again become a brooder.

    • Good question. In the case of that elderly hen that you see in the photo – Buffy – she survived many ailments, and each time her comb shrank and changed color. That, in turn, made the other hens peck at her, so that pieces were pecked off. Her comb became almost nonexistent. Other hens retain their combs, but they get more gnarly, the color pales, and there are blemishes. Like the rest of us as we get old :)

  2. So sweet! I have Buffs and they are the sweetest & friendliest birds, each with their own special personality. It’s such fun to watch them go through each of these stages. They are just so darn cute! One of my Buffs goes broody at the drop of a hat and she is a great momma to her babies. I hope to be adding some littles to my flock this summer. Would love to add some Australorps, too. :)

  3. No new babies this year, the inn is full, maybe next year. I do go to the grain stores and look though! I agree about the Grand Dames I have 3 from my original 6 They are regal ladies they just turned 4 They rule the yard, stay together, I just adore them, but I know they are old now, my black star Winnie-poo still lays quite a lot, funny we thought we would lose her when she was a chick, she was always the smallest. She turned out the strongest, never have any problems with her.

  4. The picture of the chick is adorable, but I agree, I love the fully grown older hens. It is amazing how quickly they grow and also how they can be known as “old” when they reach 3 1/2 – 4 years of age. I know that they are not a species known for their longetivity and this seems so sad. I have recently lost a girl who nearly made it to 4 years and it seems such a short lifespan. I had to get a friend for my existing 2 year old and have a lovely warren who is 24 weeks old now and she is fully grown and has been laying for the last 4 weeks. Just goes to show you really have to appreciate them and enjoy every moment with them and take comfort in knowning that you have given them the best life possible (although it is still heart breaking to lose them). I know that you would say it is part and parcel of chicken keeping, but they have such wonderful personalities and make such excellent pets. The pictures are great, thanks.

    • I had to look up “warren” – not a hybrid term I’m familiar with, it’s not much seen here in the states as it’s a cross of a RIR with a Marans. What’s the egg color?

  5. I got my chicks this past Tuesday.

    I think a chicken is at its “finest” in the 16 to 24 week stage
    I went to the Fenton Feed Mill. It is like taking a step back in time 70 to 80 years.
    They actually let you go into the mill area where the chicks are keep. (must step in disinfectant first and no touching). In the room are brooders full of chicks and usually one or two full grown roosters (in appropriate size cages) people have brought back, they sell only pullets but we know that sexing is not 100%. The fate of the roosters is generally…well….yes I asked.
    They have full grown hens that wonder around the grounds, amongst the customers, into the mill, into the store if they choose. They have their own coop on the property.
    There was the most gorgeous dark brahma hen wondering around. I ask to buy it and the owner would not give in. I even offered twice what I thought it was worth and he just wouldn’t budge. He said she was his favorite as well.
    They have the mill cats, who of course have a job. How good they are at the job is questionable as a big bowl of cat chow sits in the corner behind the counter and typically at least one cat is sitting on the counter just waiting for the next stroking from the next customer in line.

  6. My brooder is all set. I am using a giant Costco potato carton. They have big, rounded out corners so less worry of a chick getting trapped in a corner. I wanted a Brinsea heater so bad but staying with the affordable typical heat lamps. My first 21 chicks set to arrive Wednesday or Thursday from Murray McMurray. Columbian Wyandotte, Silver laced Wyandotte, Dominique which are all said to be winter hardy and not broody. My favorite Salmon Faverolle. hardy but broody but they are so adorable. White Polish. Not broody but says prone to hypothermia. Praying will be fine in a well vented coop and highly protected pen. M.M. is also including 1 surprise chick. Will be fun to see what it grows into. Hopefully not a rooster, LOL. I feel like a nerve wracked, expectant, first time mum.

    • Mary
      I use to order from McMurray all the time. I always placed my order by phone. I specifically instructed them that if they could not “guarantee the surprise/extra” chick was a pullet then please do not include.

      They were extremely accommodating. I either got the extra chick or I didn’t and the extra was never a rooster. (I did occasionally get a rooster in the bunch of pullets I ordered).

      My instructions were always on the invoice.

      Try it the next time you order from them.

  7. I got my chicks yesterday 12 redsexlinked 2 barred plymoth rocks 2 silkies and 2 blue andulusians

      • If for some reason some get bullied I have a second hen house. however I’m not terribly concerned I have an old Jersey Giant who dosen’t tolerate bullying.

  8. Warrens are a commercial hybrid hen. They are lovely brown hens and mine have white tails. They look like Gingernut Rangers (I think they are all a sort of warren). They lay light brown eggs and are excellent layers (as they are bred for the commercial industry – unfortunately). They have wonderful personalities, they are very friendly and very inquisitive – I love these brown hens!!

  9. What nice pictures! I’m thinking of starting some Partridge Chantecler this year.

  10. No peeps this girls are getting old…I will probably order some new birds next year!

  11. Of my first original 8 hens I have 4 left. They are now 4 years old. I added 4 new hens last spring. There is a surprise for me…I thought I could cull my old hens, but found that I don’t have the heart to do it. I am a farm girl and am used to animals being used for food when past their prime….but I am enjoying my four year olds, they are laying so very well and get along fine with my 4 young hens( I seem to be saying 4 alot:)..So I find myself with some old laying hens who are earning their keep…if I get more hens, maybe next year, I will have to build another coop(don’t tell my husband) because my old ladies will need a retirement home by then..:)

    • There’s a difference between having a large flock of mostly anonymous hens, and having just a few that you get to know well.

  12. Thanks for reposting this. It is lovely to see the Grand Dowager Buffy again. You took such wonderful care of her which couldn’t have been easy with all of her ailments. I keep hoping that one of my 3 three year old girls will go broody so I can sneak some chicks under her. I don’t really want to raise chicks in the house again. The dust! Hoping next year to have a shed with electricity…

  13. I have a broody hen right now. Nothing like watching the chicks peek out from under mama for their first glimpse of the world. It’s too cute. They do grow up extremely fast though. “Blink” and you’ll miss it ;)

  14. I do have chicks: just getting out of the brooder almost and outside when warm enough. You nailed it on the “Blink”. Of course, as your website showed clearly, there are other problems with just the one growing older and the requirements to care for such: What if there are MORE than the one? That’s not to mention other breeds with their own issues too. (my brother purchased a pair of Cornish Cross chicks; I knew of and informed him of their purpose of only growing fast to be butchered. We’ve no problem with that at all. What I don’t like to see is that these two seem to have trouble walking, as if all the targeted breeding to obtain this attribute has rendered them “unnatural”. I enjoy seeing that my other birds are happy and healthy instead, even if I do raise them for the same purpose).

    • Jp,
      There are many other meat hybrids out there. Such as the Red Ranger. They do not grow as fast as the Cornish Cross thus do not have the leg issues. I guy at work buys a freezer’s worth each Spring (his words not mine) and likes the end product.

  15. Our original 5 bantam hens turned 6 years old this month and laying has definitely slowed down. We just got 5 standard chicks a gold laced Wyandotte, Rhode Island red, buff Orpington, and 2 barred Holland. Apparently the Hollands are the rarest and most endangered American chicken breed. We have a .25 acre so we’re going to build a second coop and run. I’m excited to have more chickens!