Whether you are just considering getting chickens or you already raise them, you may be wondering “how long is a chicken’s lifespan anyways?”
To be honest, there isn’t one age that fits all to this answer, but I’ll be able to give you a better idea so you can make plans for the long term commitment of raising your flock.
What is a Chickens Lifespan?
Before you make the financial and emotional investment of adding backyard chickens, it’s a good idea to learn about how long they’ll live.
Believe it or not, a chicken has a similar lifespan to a family dog. As a rule of thumb, a chicken’s average lifespan is around 5-10 years, others have been known to live longer.
I believe the record was 16 years and she was an Old English Game Breed called Matilda.
While some chickens have a lifespan of 5-10 years, many factors play a key role in prolonging or shortening your chicken’s life.
There are several factors that contribute to a chickens lifespan such as
Breeds of Chickens With Long Lifespans
Some breeds are known for living longer than others. Many of your heritage breeds of chickens have longer lifespans than your crossbreeds.
A couple examples of heritage breeds that live an average of eight years or more are
- Rhode Island Reds
- Barred Plymouth Rocks
You can learn more about each chicken breed and how long they are expected to live in my book, The Beginners Guide to Chicken Breeds.
Genetics of A Chicken
Genetics play a huge role in the chickens lifespan. This is why whenever I have a chicken that shows poor genetics or health issues, I make sure not to hatch out any of their eggs. Continuing to hatch eggs or raise chicks from a weak or genetically inferior hen will just weaken the bloodline.
Another part of genetics that affects a chickens lifespan is their size.
Take a Cornish Cross for instance, they are bred to grow big and fast. Past the age of nine weeks their health will begin to decline and they will die from health-related complications. Larger breeds tend to have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds.
Predators Can Affect A Chickens Lifespan
Clearly predators play a huge role in a chicken’s lifespan. Chickens are pretty much at the bottom of the food chain, I mean even chickens like the taste of chicken (gross but true).
Ensuring the safety of your flock is key to a long and protected life.
Key items to help protect your flock against predators are
- Providing a secure chicken
- Motion lights
- Livestock Guardian Animal(s)
You can check out more details and step-by-step instructions on how to protect your flock from predators PLUS how to identify a predator in my new book, The Intermediate Guide to Raising Chickens.
Health and Disease Will Affect A Chickens Lifespan
Much like humans and any other livestock or animal, chickens are prone to sickness and disease.
Since chickens are a prey species, by nature, they tend to hide their sickness so as to not attract predators. This is why it’s important to spend time with your flock observing their behavior.
Chickens are creatures of habit, once you’ve spent some time observing them, it is easy to notice when something is off.
A sick chicken will decline quickly if not addressed. Three things to keep in mind when raising a healthy flock:
- Observe: spend time with your flock.
- Assess: write down the signs your chicken is expressing.
- Treat: based on your observations, treat the condition if possible or seek a farm vet.
Some of the common chicken illnesses or diseases that can greatly reduce a chickens lifespan are
- Impacted crop
- Pasty butt
- Sour Crop
- Egg Bound
- Merricks Disease
You can learn more about the above, signs to look out for’ and treatment options in my new book, The Intermediate Guide to Raising Chickens.
Stress Can Affect Your Chickens Lifespan
Just like us at work, in traffic, shopping in a crowded store, or when our kids are pulling on our last nerve, chickens get stressed. So much so that stress can have a huge impact on their health and quality of life.
Of course you’ll never be able to reduce all the stress in your flock’s life, but there are some small changes you can make to reduce stress and help keep them alive and kickin’ for years to come.
- Predators: add suggested items mentioned above under Predators
- Hen to Rooster ratio: Too many roosters will stress out hens and cause fights in the flock. 1 Rooster to 8 hens is a good ratio.
- Pecking Order: Other chickens constantly pecking on them.
- Food: too many chickens and not enough feeders or waterers.
A happy chicken is a healthy chicken. So what makes a chicken happy?
To answer that can also lie in our own key to happiness.
- Free from attack
- Protection from elements
- Food and Water
- Ability to frolic and have fun
Interestingly enough, a scientific study done by a veterinarian for commercial poultry was conducted about the different levels to a chicken’s ultimate happiness. I discuss this in detail in my new book, The Intermediate Guide to Raising Chickens.
How Long Do Chickens Live for as Pets?
Chickens serve many purposes, some people, like myself, raise them as a multi-purpose livestock. Meaning they are used for meat, eggs, insect control, and income.
Without a doubt, we love our feathered friends, pet them, care for them, and ensure they are happy and healthy…we don’t consider them pets.
While others simply enjoy their company and don’t care to collect eggs, raise them for meat, or make an income from them. Chickens raised solely as pets tend to live longer than those that are raised for egg production.
Typically speaking, chickens raised as pets tend to be pampered and cared for more than those raised for food production which increases their lifespan.
What Is The Average Lifespan of a Laying Hen?
A hens lifespan is no different than any other, unless she is a breed that is known for high egg production such as a Golden Comet.
They are egg-laying rockstars and their high egg production places a huge demand on their little bodies. When their egg-laying days are over their health tends to decline.
How Many Years Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
Chickens are born with all the eggs they will ever lay.
The first year of a chicken’s life is generally in development and they start laying at four to six months.
The second year is optimum egg production.
The third year they still have decent egg production but it starts to decline.
By five years old, many hens are not reliable egg sources.
Hens that produce 300+ eggs a year will stop laying eggs sooner than a hen that produces 150 eggs per year.
Additionally, if artificial light is used in the coop during winter to stimulate egg production, her laying years will be reduced.
Do Chickens Die of Old Age?
A healthy, happy chicken can be expected to be a part of your life and homestead for five to ten years or more and pass away peacefully of old age.
Sometimes as a chicken ages they develop disease much like humans do but other times they will pass without us ever knowing or expecting it.
Of course, no matter what you do to ensure their health, when it’s their time to go sometimes there is nothing we can do.
Understanding that chickens can live up to a decade or longer can better prepare you for the commitment involved in raising them.