HENS A young female chicken usually starts laying eggs when at about 24 weeks of age - at this stage she is called a pullet. When a pullet gets to 1 year old she becomes a hen. Hens remain productive layers until they are about 5 years old but this depends on how well they have been looked after – thereafter they can continue to lay albeit sporadically. An average life expectancy for a hen is about 8 to 12 years. Hens of different breeds can be combined in a group, as long as they have space, good conditions and are well-looked after they should be fine. Stressed, over-crowded, under-fed or otherwise poorly cared for hens may start pecking each other and often an individual can be singled out for ‘hen-pecking’ with the result that it ends up being killed.
Cost: A laying pullet can cost between $15-25 and this price can increase if you start looking at fancy breeds.
ROOSTERS are banned by councils in most towns and cities for reasons of noise at unsociable hours, but if you’re in a rural setting and your neighbours aren’t too close having a rooster amongst your hens can be a good idea. A rooster establishes a hierarchy that helps to prevent hens from bullying and pecking each other. A rooster will look after his hens, warning them of potential dangers and herding them to safety. He’ll often call hens to a newly-discovered food source - like an ant nest - with a soft scratchy noise. For those keen on rearing their own chickens a rooster provides fertilised eggs that can be incubated by a broody hen. Roosters can live for between 8 and 12 years.
Cost: Roosters are often given away free as not many people want them.