Most chickens have surprisingly little heft for their size. Most people know that birds are naturally of slight build, but it is always worth a chuckle when you reach down to pick up a big, poofy chicken and it feels like it weighs almost nothing.
Beyond this, understanding the overall weight of a chicken will help inform your estimation of how much meat you can harvest from them. This is something that every owner needs to know. So, what is the average weight of a chicken?
The average weight of a chicken is between 5 1/2 and 6 1/4 pounds (2.5 and 3 kgs) depending on your standards. There is considerable variation in the average weight between breeds, and still more variation between domestic and wild birds.
That really isn’t much when you think about it, but it might surprise you to know that any chicken you are likely to encounter is far heavier now, today, than they have been at any point in history.
Why is this? How did chickens get so big? Want to know more? Keep reading!
Is that the Average Weight of a Domestic or Wild Chickens?
The figures quoted above are for domestic chickens. These are the chickens that we have bred to be larger and heavier than their wild counterparts.
This is done for a variety of reasons, but mostly it is so that we can harvest more meat from them.
The Average Weight of Domestic Chickens is Much Higher than Wild Birds
The chickens we know and keep today are far, far different from their ancient, wild counterparts.
The red jungle fowl was and is a much smaller bird than probably 80% of domestic chickens, and virtually all common ones raised for meat or eggs.
The average weight of a wild chicken, in comparison, is only about 2 1/2 pounds!
These birds are much smaller because they have not been selectively bred over many generations to be larger.
In the wild, bigger birds have more difficulty escaping predators, flying, and obtaining enough food to survive.
As a result, the average weight of a wild chicken is significantly lower than that of its domesticated cousins.
In the wild, you’d see a jungle fowl flying and lithely hopping around and down from trees. That’s a rarity with the birds we know today!
Domestic Breeds Have Gained a Lot of Weight Over the Years
Even comparing apples to apples, our domestic chickens have gotten much bigger over the years.
The average weight of a domestic chicken back in the 1920’s was only about 3 pounds. In the long decades since then, they’ve easily doubled in size across most breeds, and some have tripled or more!
This is due to a few factors, but the primary one is that we’ve selectively bred them to be ever larger in our insatiable quest to get more meat and more (and bigger) eggs from them. It is just a matter of economics, sadly.
Though most domestic chicken breeds kept by people today would be unrecognizable to their wild ancestors, they still enjoy a recognizable “chicken” lifestyle when allowed to range.
They move around, scratch, peck, forage for short distances, and roost in trees when they can. Some of them can even manage to still fly! Or, at least, fly in long hops.
Some Breeds are Much Bigger than Others
Something to keep in mind when assessing the “average” weight of a chicken is the average weight of the breed. Domestic breeds vary quite a lot in size, and several are real whoppers.
The Jersey Giant, for example, can reach weights of 12+ pounds (5.5+ kilograms) in roosters and 11 pounds (5 kilograms) in hens.
The Brahma is another large breed, with roosters averaging about 10 pounds and hens around 9.
No matter which sex and no matter the typical weight, you’ll have a lot more bird on hand to deal with, but correspondingly large eggs and a big harvest of meat upon slaughtering.
Some Breeds are Tiny!
Conversely, so domestic breeds are absolutely tiny.
This can be another trait that was selectively bred for various purposes or just the result of a quirk in biology that saw these breeds trending toward a much smaller size.
In any case, many are much closer in size to their ancestral jungle fowl ancestors, though they still might not look much like them.
Common petite breeds include the Old English Game, weighing in at an average of 4 pounds in roosters and 3 1/2 pounds in hens, and the Sebright, even tinier with average weights of 3 pounds.
Obviously, you will need to harvest more birds to get the same yield of meat that you’d get from one of the giants listed above.
That being said, some of the smaller breeds can still prove to be prolific layers, so you won’t necessarily be giving up eggs if that is what you care about.
Bantam Breeds are Stereotypically Tiny
Speaking of small chickens, we cannot leave out Bantams.
A chicken is a bantam when it is basically a miniaturized version of an existing breed or one that is very small but naturally occurring. This means bantams are a class of chicken and also a breed in some cases.
That is to say, any chicken can be selectively bred to be a Bantam, though some breeds are more likely to produce healthy Bantams than others.
Bantams range from very small to positively tiny. The Sebright bantam rooster, for example, only reaches about 24 ounces when fully grown.
The Japanese Bantam is even smaller, with hens topping out at about 22 ounces and roosters a bit more at 27 ounces.
Lump these in with other domestic breeds, and you’ll get an average chicken weight that is probably a bit below 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms).
They are often categorized on their own for this reason, but if you wanted to be really strict with your data set you can include them.
The Average Weight of Factory Farmed Chickens is Higher Yet
But all is not as it seems when you consider the average weight of domestic breed chickens.
Those that are destined for a short and brutal life on a factory farm might typically weigh several pounds more than the same “base” breed you and I might raise in our backyard.
This is due to the fact that these poor creatures are further selectively bred for and given growth hormones to pack as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time.
So, even though they might be the same genetic stock, their bodies have been manipulated to produce something pretty grotesque: a densely muscled bird that is nonetheless so hideously overweight it cannot stand under its own power in many cases.
It is an ugly truth, and accordingly these “factory” chickens are usually omitted from breed averages in discussions like this one.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.