If you are anything like me, you might be wondering how long do chickens live as pets?
Chickens are among the approx. 40 livestock species to be domesticated in human history. To date, most of these livestock species still promote agriculture and food production as domestic animals. The chicken, however, is one of the most ubiquitous tamed species.
The domestication of chickens by humans from the jungle is dated somewhere between 4,000 and 10,500 years ago. Research shows that chickens were used for cockfighting which was a popular type of entertainment. In fact, this still continues in some places even after it was banned.
They would later be bred and perfected as dual-purpose birds that provided both eggs and meat. According to an article in the New York Times, however, an archaeological dig in Israel concluded that chickens were used as table birds about 2,200 years ago.
Since then, many breeds of chickens were introduced globally for various reasons in different sizes and shapes. Today, chickens are the most popular birds in most people’s backyards. These birds come in three types, including production hybrids, dual-purpose, and heritage breeds. And while they are known for eggs and meat purposes, some chicken breeds are bred as show and ornamental birds.
In this article, we shall be looking at how long your chickens will live with a focus on what affects their life expectancy as well as tips to help your chicken live longer.
How long do chickens live?
This is not the type of question that one would answer with much certainty. There are many factors that affect a chicken’s lifespan. Like dog breeds, small chickens tend to live longer than large or giant chickens. Breed variation, however, is the major factor that determines how long different chickens will live.
Chickens are calm, smart birds that like to spend most of their time foraging. In the wild, chickens can enjoy a happy lifespan of between 3 and 7 years, and sometimes longer. This is in spite of the challenges that they face while living in the wild, especially threats from predators.
Typically, production hybrid chickens tend to have a shorter lifespan than heritage breed and dual-purpose chickens. On average, however, chickens have a life expectancy of between 5 and 10 years.
Why do some chickens live longer than others?
A lot of factors determine how long your chicken will live, with the type of breed being the primary determinant.
The dynamics that affect the lifespan of a chicken include genetics, nutrition, poultry parasites and illnesses, the environment, and the presence of predators. In addition, the type of chicken also affects the lifespan.
What does that mean? Mostly, chickens are developed in three categories, including production breeds, dual-purpose breeds, and heritage chicken breeds.
Production breeds are the types of chickens kept for meat or eggs. They are fast-growing as they have to fulfill their purposes before they expire. Dual-purpose chickens, on the other hand, are raised for both meat and eggs and tend to grow slower than production chickens. Heritage breeds have the slowest growth rate and tend to live longer than the first two categories.
When it comes to your chicken’s lifestyle, the coop setup also plays a significant role in lifespan. Do your chickens have access to proper air circulation? Proper ventilation is crucial especially if your chickens spend most of their time inside the coop.
How long do chickens live and lay eggs?
You might be wondering how often chickens live and lay eggs.
A healthy hen, according to an article by the Penn State Extension, will start laying eggs when it is 20 months old, but this changes as they get older. There are, however, disparities among different chicken breeds as well as strong variations between individual chickens.
Normally, how long your chickens lay depends on whether you prioritize high egg production or an extended laying period.
Backyard chickens tend to have a longer and happier life expectancy because most keepers want steady layers that will provide for several years. On average, hens in your backyard flock will lay eggs between 3 and 4 years in the 6 to 8 years they live.
That is unlike industrial producers that keep hens that mature fast and lay many eggs before they get old. Modern chicken hybrids lay eggs efficiently nearly daily for 18 months or 2 years (about 85 weeks of age) and then stop production considerably. This type of laying causes a strain on the chicken’s body leading to reduced lifespan. Read more on the modern egg industry.
Hybrid chicken breeds, on the other hand, produce eggs frequently and last longer while still laying. Expect a hybrid production strain bird to lay eggs for 3 to 4 years. If you have a pure heritage chicken breed or one that lays infrequently, it will bless you with eggs for 5 to 10 years.
Just keep in mind that how frequently your chicken lays eggs will decrease gradually as they advance in years. This happens until they stop laying totally.
Check out this article on egg production from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
How long do chickens live: 10 most popular chicken breeds and how long they live
A table of comparisons between the life expectancy of the 10 most popular chicken breeds
|Popularity||Chicken Breed||Expected Lifespan (Years)|
|#1||Rhode Island Red||5 to 8|
|#2||Silkie||7 to 9|
|#3||Plymouth Rock||8 to 10|
|#4||Orpington||8 to 10|
|#5||Leghorn||4 to 6|
|#6||Wyandotte||6 to 12|
|#7||ISA Brown||2 to 3|
|#8||Australorp||6 to 10|
|#9||Cochin||8 to 10|
|#10||Easter Egger||8 to 10|
Here is a list of the chart-topping chicken breeds with information on how long they live in the order of popularity.
1. Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is highly praised, especially for being an independent heritage chicken breed with a life expectancy of between 5 and 8 years.
With origins in Rhode Island in the United States, the Rhode Island Red is a famous chicken breed that is known for its egg-laying capabilities. These birds can lay about 6 eggs per week or between 200 and 300 eggs per year that are brown in color.
The Silkie is yet another chicken breed that will surprise you. They are among the most popular birds that you will find in most people’s backyard flock. Silkies have an average life expectancy of seven to nine years.
This long lifespan is attributed to the breed’s low egg-laying capabilities which means they have less strain on their bodies. Silkies lay 2 to 3 small eggs (100 to 120) that are cream or white in color.
3. Plymouth Rock
The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose chicken breed that is known to have a long lifespan of between 8 and 10 years. These hardy birds with decent and diverse genetics contribute significantly to their long lives. In addition, the breed has been well maintained from the beginning and is less likely to develop diseases.
Plymouth Rocks lay 4 to 5 brown eggs per week (about 200 per year) that are large in size.
Orpingtons are yet another heritage breed of chickens that is well-known and beloved by many backyard flock keepers globally. Unlike the average chicken, Orpingtons tend to naturally have a longer lifespan. This breed can live 8 to 10 years with proper care and feeding.
The Orpington chicken is a hardy breed that tolerates both cold and warm climates excellently. These birds lay 3 to 5 eggs per day (200 to 280 eggs per year) that are light brown in color.
The Leghorn chicken is developed as a production breed and is famous worldwide for its egg-laying abilities. This means that these chickens experience a lot of stress on their body since they tend to lay eggs which affect their lifespan. Expect Leghorns to live between 4 and 6 years.
This chicken breed is known to be self-sufficient and will live well with other breeds in your backyard flock. The Leghorn and its ancestors are the most common chickens in America. They lay almost every day meaning you can expect 280 eggs per year (or 300 to 320 eggs in some cases).
The Wyandotte is a celebrated chicken breed that is so popular in America that you will most certainly find it in almost every backyard flock. These beautiful birds tend to have a very long lifespan of 6 to 12 years. This life expectancy is attributed to Wyandotte’s ability to withstand confinement, handling, as well as having a sweet temperament.
Expect Wyandotte girls to lay 4 eggs per week (200 eggs per year) that are large and brown in color. This means that they experience less strain on their bodies unlike other breeds such as the Leghorn.
7. ISA Brown
The ISA Brown is a hybrid breed of chicken that is famous for its egg-laying capabilities. It is one of the most popular commercial egg layer chicken breeds on the market today. Sadly, they have a very short lifespan as the egg laying causes deep strain on their bodies. ISA Brown chickens have a life expectancy of approx. 2 to 3 years.
Surprisingly, ISA Browns are in a league of their own as they can lay 1 to 2 eggs per day or 300 to 350 eggs per year. Their eggs are large and brown in color.
As the name sounds, Australorps are an Australian chicken breed that was developed as a utility bird. If provided with a clean, healthy environment and taken good care of them, these birds have a life expectancy of between 6 and 10 years.
This dual-purpose breed of chickens is a famous egg layer that will bless you with 4 to 5 light brown and large eggs per week.
Cochins are a chicken breed that is identified for their fluffy appearance and gentle disposition which makes them a wonderful addition to your backyard flock. Despite being predisposed to certain health issues like obesity, Cochins will still live a good 8 to 10 years.
These beautiful birds lay 2 to 3 medium brown eggs per week (150 to 180 eggs per year). They grow slowly and start to lay when they are 8 months old.
10. Easter Egger
Easter Eggers is a hybrid chicken breed that is yet to be recognized officially. And since they are hybrid chickens, the genetic diverseness makes them strong that the average chicken breed. Expect Easter Egger chickens to live between 8 and 10 years.
These birds are decent layers that will bless you with 4 eggs per week that come in a range of colors such as pink, blue, and green. That means 200+ eggs per year.
3 of the Shortest living chicken breeds
From the review above, you can see that there are breeds of chickens that live shorter than others. The life expectancy all comes down to the type of chicken and why they were bred.
Typically, chicken breeds that are specifically bred for meat or egg laying tend to have short lifespans. They grow and mature very fast to attain the premeditated goal and they expire or are slaughtered for meat. So, chickens that are genetically developed for production have shorter lifespans.
Here are the shortest living chicken breeds:
1. Cornish Rock
Cornish Rocks are a production meat chicken breed that grows and matures very fast. These birds have a life expectancy of around 6 months before they are slaughtered.
2. ISA Brown
As mentioned above, ISA Browns are a breed of chicken that is developed for egg-laying purposes. Due to the strain caused by laying many eggs, they have a short life expectancy of 3 to 4 years.
3. White Broilers
White Broilers are selectively bred as table birds. They grow and mature fast and are ready to slaughter after 5 to 7 weeks.
Longest living chicken breeds
From the information above on the 10 most popular chicken breeds and how they live, the longest-living chicken breeds include:
- Plymouth Rocks (8 to 10 years)
- Easter Eggers (8 to 10 years)
- Cochin Chickens (8 to 10 years)
Factors affecting chicken life expectancy
So, what are the most common causes of premature death in chickens?
There are many reasons why your chickens will not live to their full potential, with predation and Marek’s disease being the most common reasons. Some breeds like the Cochin are prone to obesity which can be life-threatening to most livestock’s health including chicken.
As you would expect, predators such as foxes and hawks are the main reason chickens are in danger of dying early or at any time. While most chickens love to range freely outside the coop, it is recommended that you fence their run and roaming space to keep them safe
Make that they are protected from predators. If you have a flighty chicken breed, make the fence extremely high. This will prevent them from going to places where they are easy targets of predators.
The second most common cause of premature death in chickens is Marek’s Disease. Although chickens are prone to diseases like internal and external parasites, Marek’s disease can sweep your entire flock. This incredibly deadly disease enters your chickens through the respiratory route. Marek’s disease is highly transmissible and can be spread by infectious feather-follicle dander as well as fomites, among others.
Can a chicken recover from Marek’s disease?
The main challenge is that any chicken infected with this disease can’t be cured which means that it will suck the life out of them severely reducing their lifespan.
How long do chickens live with Marek’s disease?
In late Marek’s disease infection, the mortality can stretch out to 40 weeks of age.
Unfortunately, birds that are affected by Marek’s disease develop an extremely weak immune. Hence, they are prone to both parasitic and bacterial diseases.
Guidelines to help your chicken live longer
If you want to help your flock live a long and happy life, here are 4 tips to achieve this:
- Make a decent coop
A well-built coop provides a safe haven for your chickens against predators, winter climates, as well as shelter during hot days. As such, make sure that the coop is made with strong materials and is equipped with enough ventilation for consistent airflow. Your chickens should be comfy.
- Be careful when selecting your chicken
A healthy chicken starts from the breeder. Therefore, make sure that you buy your chicks from a reputable and responsible breeder that is not in the market just for the money. Ensure that you also understand what kind of lifestyle the chicken breed you choose wants.
- Give them high-quality feed
Just like humans, livestock also thrives best when they are fed high-quality feed that is correct for each life stage. As chicks, they need more protein to foster proper growth and then 16% layers when your hen starts to lay eggs. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate diet for your breed.
- Vet visits
Just like your feline and canine buddies, chickens also need vet care to spot any kind of illness that might become a problem for your birds. Treating any disease early prevents premature deaths in chickens.
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