"Pullet" is a term applied to a chicken of a specific age and gender. Chickens go by different names at different stages of life. A pullet is a female chicken under 1 year of age. The distinction is important for anyone thinking about raising chickens. While these domesticated birds provide nitrogen-rich fertilizer, help control weeds and provide a supply of meat, for many people, their most important advantage is their ability to supply fresh eggs.
From Chick to Pullet to Hen
From hatching until approximately 8 weeks of age, the baby chicken is referred to as a chick. In the next stage of growth, breeders differentiate chickens by sex. They call the female chicken a pullet and the male a cockerel. Breeders and buyers may also refer to chicks as pullets or cockerels to differentiate gender -- an important consideration when purchasing chickens to supply fresh eggs. When the pullet is 1 year old, it is called a hen.
According to the University of Minnesota, at approximately 8 weeks of age, the nutritional needs of a chicken change. This period of development from chick to pullet requires nourishment for rapid growth. Access to a yard and green plants can supplement feed. The next developmental stage occurs at approximately 20 weeks, when the pullet reaches laying age. At this stage, the pullet requires nutrients to support egg production.
Pullets and Egg Production
Pullets reach sexual maturity and begin producing eggs at 20 to 22 weeks of age. Longer days during the summer months may bring about earlier sexual maturity. According to pullet owners, younger pullets produce smaller eggs than hens. A pullet will continue to lay eggs for 11 months, through its transition to an adult chicken. Shorter days and reduced daylight may shorten the laying cycle, and bring about the natural break that occurs with the first adult moult.
Pullets and Moulting
Moulting is the process of shedding and regrowing feathers. According to a report by the Queensland, Australia, government, a chick goes through one complete moult before 6 weeks of age, and three partial moults as a pullet. At the pullet's last partial moult, the stiff tail feathers grow in. This moult occurs at 20 to 22 weeks, the age when the pullet begins to lay eggs.