Animal Info Chickens Physical Facts

About the physical facts of chickens including size, life expectancy, egg production and breeds.

CHICKENS

PHYSICAL FACTS

Chickens are virtually earthbound. If they can fly at all, it is only a few sporadic feet off the ground. They also have an inferior sense of taste and smell, although their hearing and eyesight are acute.

The average cock weighs from 6 to 13 lb., the average hen from 4 to 10 lb. Bantam chickens can weigh less than 1 1/2 lb. Chickens usually have four clawed toes on each foot, but the Dorking breed has five.

There are 180 varieties of the more than 50 standard chicken breeds set by the American Poultry Association. The four most important classes of chickens are the Mediterranean, American, English, and Asiatic. The Mediterranean class includes the champion egg-laying breed, the White Leghorn, which can lay up to 300 eggs a year.

A hen now lays an average of 240 eggs a year, as compared to about 100 in 1940. A pullet (a hen less than one year old) becomes an egg layer at about five months. It is not necessary for a hen to be mated to lay eggs. In fact, almost all eggs sold commercially are unfertile.

There's only one catch for the hen in her increased egg-laying capacity, but it's a big one. She can maintain her high production rate for about 14 months. Then she's slaughtered and sold for meat. Nevertheless, a laying hen has better odds than meat chickens, which are killed and sold as broilers and fryers when less than three months old.

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