Chickens grow very fast during the first several weeks of life. They go from a cute, fluffy baby chick to an awkward looking adolescent pullet, and eventually to a full grown chonky chicken.
Keep reading to see what my Plymouth Rock chickens looked like from day old chicks through the first 9 weeks.
What Chickens Look Like at 1 Week
When chicks first hatch from the shell, they are wet looking. After their downy feathers dry off, they look like fluffy baby chickens.
Chicks that are a week old still have mostly downy feathers. Some breeds will start to grow flight feathers by the end of the week, starting with their wing feathers.
One week old chicks are just getting their bearings after being in an egg for 21 days. They will walk around their brooder, eat, drink, poop, and sleep. They will make quiet chirps when they are awake and feel comfortable.
Even at this young of an age, chicks will start to scratch the bedding in their brooder.
Chicks at this age will sleep on the ground of their brooder, sometimes with their necks and wings outstretched. They will sleep at random intervals throughout the day and night. This is different from adult chickens who usually only sleep at night when it’s dark outside.
If you plan to handle your chicks as they get older, now is the time to start holding them.
If you can, approach their brooder from the side instead of directly above. Even at this young age, chicks understand that predators approach from above.
I ordered my Plymouth Rock chickens from an online hatchery. The day after my chicks were born, they were shipped to us in the mail. The Post Office called Steven that morning and he went to pick them up. During that first week, we spent a lot of time just watching them move around in their brooder and trying to hand feed the less timid chicks.
What Chickens Look Like at 2 Weeks
By 2 weeks old, chicks will start to grow flight feathers on their wings. Before this time, their feathers blended in with their bodies since they were down feathers similar to their bodies. The flight feathers will look like the feathers they will someday have as adult chickens.
At this age, a chick’s beak will have grown a bit larger, as well as their legs. In general, they look less delicate and fragile than they did a week ago.
Around 2 weeks of being in the brooder box, your chicks might be getting bored. This is a good time to start taking them outside for field trips in warm weather.
By this age, chicks can start pecking behaviors, especially when they see something that is red.
If chicks get too bored, they will start to peck at each other, sometimes leading to blood. Once the other chicks see the blood, they will also start pecking at the wound. This is why many chicken keepers, including myself, had infrared lights in the coop so everything looks red.
My chicks liked to peck at the thermometer I had in the brooder. I would randomly hear their beaks pecking on the plastic dial thermometer throughout the day.
What Chickens Look Like at 3 Weeks
At 3 weeks, the chicks will have flight feathers on their bodies, not just their wings. They might have some flight feathers starting to pop out at their tails.
Their necks and heads will still have the downy feathers. Chicks will continue to have downy butt feathers, even as they grow into adult chickens.
The flight feathers on their wings will be strong enough at this point where the chicks can flap their wings to get onto the roosting bars. Our coop had both roosting bars and nesting boxes about a foot off the ground and our chicks were able to get on both at this age.
We moved our chicks from the brooder to outside at 3 weeks. After spending about 2 days in the coop, we let them out to explore the yard. The chicks were very curious and would roam the yard, pecking at the ground and scratching.
What Chickens Look Like at 4 Weeks
By 4 weeks, chicks will be mostly feathered. This means that most of their downy feathers have been replaced with flight feathers.
My Plymouth Rock chicks still had downy feathers around their necks, but it was quickly being replaced by flight feathers.
Chicks at this age will still have short tail feathers, although they have grown a bit longer since last week. They still look like little birds, but not quite like the chunky chickens that they will grow in to.
Four week old chicks will also do run-flying if they have the space. This is when they run and flap their wings enough to get a few inches off the ground.
Chicks can run very fast at this age. Adding to their speed is their small size which makes them almost impossible to catch.
What Chickens Look Like at 5 Weeks
At 5 weeks of age, chickens are still growing. They will be getting taller and gaining weight.
Most chickens at this age will have at least 90% of their flight feathers (some will be fully feathered by this point).
Some people will consider this stage the “ugly” phase for chickens since they can be very awkward looking with their tall, skinny bodies. They go from being called chicks to being called pullets.
It is around this time that a pecking order will start to establish (if it hasn’t already).
What Chickens Look Like at 6 Weeks
A 6 week old chicken will look similar to a chicken at 5 weeks, just a bit taller and heavier.
Many chickens will have 100% of their flight feathers, with no baby down feathers remaining. However, they will still have the soft downy feathers on their butts, which is how it will remain for chickens as they become adult chickens.
What Chickens Look Like at 7 Weeks
A 7 week old chicken will be a fairly good sized bird. They will have plumped up over the past few weeks and have all their flight feathers. Their tail feathers are still short and have more length to grow before they are adult chickens.
A 7 week old chicken will have a very small comb that is yellow. It will still be several more weeks before a chicken will have a red comb and wattle.
At this age, chickens will be able to fly higher as their wings are strong enough to carry their body. They will be able to jump fly several feet off the ground.
This is the time when chickens are most likely to fly over a fence. Their wings are strong enough to hold their body weight. As the chickens put on more weight later, their wings will not be strong enough to carry them.
What Chickens Look Like at 8 Weeks
Chickens that are 8 weeks old are slightly bigger than they were last week. You might notice that some of their flight feathers on their wings are very long.
Their tail feathers are still growing. It seemed like it took my chickens forever to get their tail feathers fully grown!
Similar to last week, the chickens’ combs and wattles are still small and not yet red.
By 8 weeks, chickens are getting into everything! If your chickens free range, they will be flying into bushes and low hanging branches on trees.
Depending on how many chickens you have, your yard might be showing signs of damage from scratching chickens. Chickens will scratch up your grass and will get in potted plants to dust bathe.
Chickens at this age are super curious and will run to you if you have been interacting with them since they were chicks. Some of my chickens would still let us hold them at this age.
What Chickens Look Like at 9 Weeks
A 9 week old chicken will be about 75% of the size they will be when full grown. They should have all their flight feathers by this point (fully feathered). The chicken’s comb and wattle will be small and not red yet.
By 9 weeks, chickens are running, jumping, and flying on anything that is up to about 4 feet off the ground.
Some chickens can even fly onto things that are 6 feet tall (or even slightly higher)!
My chickens loved to jump-fly onto the window sills outside and look in at us. They would also get on top of the lids on the trash cans. This would then serve as a jumping point to get on top of the 7-foot fence. (Eventually, they realized if they got a good jumping start, they could jump directly on top of the 7-foot fence without the need of the trash can…)
By 9 weeks of age, you might need to consider some methods to prevent your chickens from flying (see 5 Tips to Prevent Your Chickens from Flying).
Why didn’t this post show photos of chicks at 5 and 6 weeks, you might be asking?
Well, those particular weeks were very busy and rough personally for us so we didn’t get around to taking photos of our chicks. I was a bit upset when I realized I skipped several weeks of getting photos of my chickens, but that’s life. The good thing about raising chickens is that they are fairly easy to keep up with, even when life gets crazy.