Prized for their friendly disposition, hardiness in cold climates and large brown eggs, black and white barred rock hens are a familiar sight in many backyard chicken flocks. Assuming she’ll be treated as a beloved pet – as well as a great egg-layer -- and allowed to live out her normal life, your barred rock hen should live between 8 and 10 years. Of course, there are exceptions -- some have lived to the ripe old age of 20 years.
Day One to Six Weeks
After incubating for 21 days in her fertilized egg, the little barred rock chick pecks through the shell and makes her grand entrance. For the next few weeks she’ll learn about the world around her. Her teacher will be either her barred rock hen mother or her human “family.” She’ll have to be taught how to eat and drink. Over five to six weeks she’ll grow from a fuzzy little baby covered in black and yellow fluff to a gawky, feathered young hen, or “pullet.”
Pullet: Six Weeks to One Year
Young female chickens less than 1 year old that have fully feathered out and are about the size of large pigeons are called pullets. Expect your barred rock pullet to start laying eggs when she is about 16 to 20 weeks old. Once she begins laying, she should produce one egg every 25 hours – except during the cold, dark hours of winter when she may not lay at all -- until her first molt a year later.
Best Laying Years: Age 1 to 2 Years
Between the ages of 1 to 2 years, your barred rock hen is an "egg machine" -- producing a medium to large brown egg approximately every 25 hours. Egg production drops during the shortest winter days unless you provide artificial lighting. By her third year, while still laying healthy eggs, her production begins to decrease as she ages. According to chicken expert Gail Damerow, a healthy hen should still lay until she is 10 or 12 years old.
Companion Hen: Age 4 Years and Beyond
By the age of 4 or 5, your barred rock hen is considered “old." She’s still producing eggs, but her peak years are over. Even though she's no longer a super egg-layer, she's your pet: friendly and curious, active and alert; amusing to watch as she chases bugs and scratches in the dirt. In her retirement, until her natural death, she deserves the same care and treatment as any other beloved pet. After all, you raised her from a chick and watched her grow.
- poultrykeeper.com:Rearing Chicks
- Barred Plymouth Rock Chickens: Heritage Poultry Breeds
- "Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens;" Gail Damerow; new edition 2010 (orig 1995)
- "Chickens In Your Backyard A Beginner's Guide;" Rick and Gail Luttmann; 1976
- "Keep Chickens Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs and Other Small Places;" Barbara Kilarski; 2003
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images