We all love our chickens. A very common question of chicken lover is how long do they live? There is no exact answer to the question as chicken’s life depends on so many things. Nowadays, hens have become a productive pet for thousands of people, and they want the best for them. So it’s important to know what you can expect from your chicken. Today, we are going to take a look at the lifespan of the average chicken and talk about some of the things that can affect their long life.
The lifespan of Typical Chickens
There are two types of chickens:
- Heritage Chicken
- Hybrids Chicken
Heritage chickens are raised and bred naturally with their own kind. The benefits of heritage hens are many, including a longer life span. A well-raised heritage chicken can be expected to live for up to 8 years. They are bred to be ‘natural’ layers so their laying period can cycle over 2-3 years. Some other chicken may have longer laying period depending on the breed you have. As their bodies and genetic content haven’t been hybridized, they are likely to live much longer than hybrids. According to the American Poultry Association definition of heritage a bird must:
- Mate naturally
- Slow growth rate
- Have a longer, more productive outdoor life
- Come from pure stock
- Must meet the APA standard for the breed
Almost all hens, including heritage hens, have at some point in their history been developed by poultry folk, but once the standard is set, very little will be done to alter the accepted bird.
Hybrids chickens have been manipulated by mankind as productive layers. Their laying cycle is pretty much done by the second year. They were produced precisely for the egg lying industry that started during the 1940s. The goal was to get chickens to maximize production, and when they were done laying, they were sent to the slaughterhouse.
Industrial or commercial hens laying period is done at 18-24 months of age. After this age, peak production is on the decrease, and the hens are considered as expended even though they will continue to lay for another 12 months or so. Meat birds have an exceptionally short life. Some breeds can be slaughtered as early as 5 weeks. Other meat breeds such as the Red Ranger, can be allowed to grow and begin laying if wanted depending on your requirements.
Life Expectancy of 5 Popular Breeds
It’s very difficult to pick 5 popular chicken breeds as we love them all! Here I have discussed life expectancy of my favorite 5 chicken breeds.
Rhode Island Reds
Rhode Island Reds are prolific egg layers and talkative birds and one of the most popular chicken breeds for backyard flocks for a variety of reasons. They are heritage chickens, so their genetic makeup has been left pretty much intact since the creation of the breed. They can live 8+ years in ideal environments and with suitable nutrition and care. Moreover, a well-fed Rhode Island hen can lay 6-7 eggs a week!
Wyandotte is also a heritage chicken breed. So they have a good genetic profile. If this hen is given good care, appropriate nutrition, ideal environments, she should live to 6+ years.
This is a hybrid chicken breed, and it is created for high egg production. The breed was initially made for the commercial industry, but it has successfully transitioned into small farms and backyards across the world. Golden Comets are the most widely kept hybrid hen. The expected life span of Golden Comet is 10 – 15 years, but 7 is average for most dual-purpose breeds.
This breed is my personal favorite. Orpington is a heritage breed, so they have longer life spans than the hybrids. Orpingtons are generally mellow and can live 8+ years under ideal circumstances, good care, and appropriate nutrition.
Easter Eggers are a crossbreed or hybrid hen. These chickens lay colorful eggs and are very popular for their colorful eggs. Though people buy these colorful eggs, Easter Eggers was never meant for high egg production. Lucky for them, Easter Egger has a long lifespan than many hybrids and can live for 8+ years.
5 Factors That Impact Life Expectancy of Chickens
The lifespan of chickens depends on many things. Here I discussed 5 factors that play a significant role in the life expectancy of chickens.
Diseases of poultry are now much better understood. Moreover, porters nowadays do a lot of precautionary things for hens to keep them healthy.
Parasites such as mites, lice, and worms can adversely affect the health of chickens. Mites suck blood causing discomfort and anemia, lice cause skin irritation and feather damage, and worms can kill a hen in extreme circumstances.
Precautionary actions such as dusting and worming can be done regularly or when you have a problem. You can perform any of this method or both depending on your management. If you are not able to do a close inspection of your chickens on a weekly basis, then make sure you perform regular dusting to prevent infestations.
Chickens accommodation has a great impact on their lifespan. Chicken housing has come a long way since Grandma’s day. Back then the chickens stayed in the barn with the larger livestock and made their living from whatever food was available to them. Under those circumstances, chickens could freeze to death, be trampled by bigger animals, or killed by predators.
Nowadays in the backyard situation, they have houses that are designed to keep them cool in summer and warm in the winter. They are sheltered from the worst of the weather. Moreover, they are given bedding specifically for them! There is no doubt that having safe, secure, protective and clean housing has expanded the lifespan of chickens.
Diet and Nutrition
Diet and Nutrition is another area where tremendous progress has been made in recent years. There were times when chickens used to live on whatever they could find in the way of grains and morsels, plus whatever the farmer might give them. Nowadays the scenario has changed, and the poultry diet is specifically manufactured for every stage of life, from chick to old biddy. Appropriate nutrition has played a remarkable part in increasing the lifespan of poultry. In fact, some breeds are facing some problem because of nutrition and diet.
The surroundings in which a hen is kept will ultimately contribute towards her long lifespan. A hen that is kept in a clean, dry, warm place with adequate food and water is going to live longer than the hen that is kept in filthy conditions, with minimal diet and nutrition fending for her.
Manipulation of breeds for higher egg and meat production has a harmful effect on the long term survival of the chickens. Chicken breeding can be tricky with breeds that have a small genetic pool. Moreover, birds that are reproduced excessively can damage the species as a whole; this clearly impacts lifespan.
As a general rule, chickens that have good housing, food, and care and are allowed to express their natural behaviors properly have a strong immune system. Chickens, with a strong immune system, tend to have a long lifespan as they fight off any possible disease threats.