Friday, March 10, 2017

How long do chickens live?

Have you ever wondered "How long do chickens live?" This question came up the other day while I was feeding Sally her favorite treat, mealworms! Sally is an Olive Egger hen and she came from one of the first eggs I hatched in an incubator. I realized a year ago that Sally was the last chicken left from that first hatch. That makes Sally almost 8 years old. 

There are various reasons why we no longer have the other chickens from her flock. Most of the boys became dinner, we had a fox issue one year, one hen fell sick etc etc. 8 years later, only Sally remains. This is not unusual in the history of chickens. Until recently people only kept chicken for food or their food producing capabilities so it never really mattered how long chickens live, till pet chickens became a thing.

Life span of chickens

Now that chickens have entered the backyard pet world, more and more people are wondering just how long they can expect their chickens to live for. According to The Guinness Book Of World Records Matilda the hen was the first chicken to receive the title of World's Oldest Living Chicken in 2004. She died almost 2 years later at age 16. Matilda was a pet chicken and even toured as part of a magic act! Matilda was pretty cool for a chicken!
Unfortunately, Matilda is the exception rather then the rule. It turns out the average age for a chicken to live to is closer to 8 years. Many chickens meet their end much sooner though due to predators or illness. Of course the answer to the question also depends who you ask...

The My Pet Chicken website believes that chickens live to be about 8-10 years old.
Reference.com says 5-7 years is expected on average, but that pet chickens can live closer to 10 years.
Countryside Daily claims that the average age is 8-15 but it's possible for a chicken to live up to 20 years old!

None of these answers take into consideration the breed of the chicken and some breeds are said to live longer than others. The main cause of a backyard chickens death is often predators. Illness is also an issue but predators definitely take out more hens than sickness. We had a chicken from the second set of eggs that I ever hatched that lived almost the same amount of time. She was a white Silkie named Q-tip that sadly met her end only a few months ago because of a predator. She was also a healthy chicken and had that not happened, I'm sure she'd still be with us. Sadly predator problems are not uncommon.

As they get older, hens tend to taper off on their egg production. At around 2 years of age their laying decreases and many seem to slow down even more in the following years. Sally still lays 6-8 eggs a month in the warmer months. That equals out to 1-2 a week which isn't abnormal for older gals like her! The color of her eggs is more of a blue with an occasional green tint now. It's a far cry from the olive color they were for the first several of her egg producing years

Backyard chickens have longer life span

Even though she's lived quite awhile for a chicken, Sally is as friendly as ever and still does the 'dance' when I go to pick her up. She loves to mutter and chat with us and still comes running when I call her name, especially if I just came out of the house. She's still spry enough to jump up and try to pull the mealworm bag out of my hand when she sees it! She knows where the treats come from! Her quality of life is still the same as when she was younger. She does seem to put herself to bed a little earlier now though...which I just find hilarious! 

Oh, and spoiled miss Sally says you should definitely get your chickens some mealworms, because they are the best treat in the world! No matter how long or short your chickens live, they deserve to live their best life with lost of treats and friends.

~L 

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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer

7 comments:

  1. Wow! I can't imagine having a chicken for 16 years!

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    1. That does seem rather long, doesn't it?

      Lisa

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  2. Nice, I hope my chicken live for 10 years

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    1. Me too! I have some that are real sweethearts!

      Lisa

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  3. Well folks, I inherited my uncles farm. Along with a bunch of chickens came 28 spanish turkeys and a few dozen canadian geese and an old duck.Some of these birds were here when I was in my 20s. One being that old duck. We figured Lucky was about 20 years old and some of those chickens as well! Not sure how they squeaked by but they did. Duck has died, but I have one hen still and she is a spry old thing. She used to hatch upwatds of 12 chicks at a time! Now I'm lucky to get an egg now and again! Chicken menopause. Hmmm.

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  4. I have a chicken that's 10years old and still rearing chicks. In fact she has 5 as we speak.

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  5. I just lost my Buckeye chicken at age 8...she just dropped off her roost during the night and died. I still have one one of her "litter mates", a Welsummer, who survived an attack from our neighbor's dog when she was 2, and still lays a couple of eggs a week. She walks with a limp from the attack, but is otherwise healthy. I also have 2 hens that are 7...a Chanticleer and a Speckled Sussex. Both are still laying, although the Chantcleer has never laid a lot of eggs. She is beautiful, however, and beloved by my granddaughters. I have sadly lost several of my girls to foxes, a dog, and a raccoon.

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