You’re probably raising some chickens in your backyard for their eggs. You hope to keep it going for as long as possible. But, you’re also wondering, how long do chickens live?
At first, the answer seems rather simple. And we wouldn’t be lying if we told you chickens lived anywhere from 5 to 10 years, generally.
Usually, however, the reality may be a lot different. And a lot of factors may influence how long your chickens live.
It means that any of your chickens could die before reaching age 5 or even live beyond 10 years.
The bird’s genetics, nutrition, and living environment will play key roles in how long it lives. The prevalence of diseases or predators may also have a hand in its lifespan.
History of Chickens and Life Expectancy
The chicken is one of the most common domesticated animals. It is bred for both its meat and eggs.
It is thought that chickens trace their ancestry to the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) The red junglefowl is native to multiple regions in Southeast Asia. Studies indicate that it was there that the domestication of chicken began some 7,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Over the years, chickens have been raised for various reasons.
Over the last 100 or more years, though, chickens have been raised predominantly for the production of eggs and meat.
In that time, chickens have acquired diverse genetic characteristics that have helped them adapt to a bunch of challenging conditions such as heat stress, humidity, and disease.
It’s difficult to imagine that there are any chickens in the wild. The truth, however, is that there are.
These chickens can be found in diverse places around the world. You’ll mostly find them in rainforests, bamboo forests, forest edges, and shrubby areas.
Unlike domesticated chickens, wild birds don’t require human support for food, water, or shelter.
But, in the wild, chickens have zero access to proper healthcare, proper diets, and safety. Thus, they’re vulnerable to brutal weather and predators.
On average, the wild chicken will live between 3 and 7 years.
Backyard chickens, on the other hand, can be expected to outlive their wild counterparts.
Of course, this may not always be the case. But, when you think about it, domesticated chickens are protected from harsh weather conditions. They’re given balanced diets.
They’re also much better protected from predators than wild chickens are.
All other things being equal, a domestic chicken can live up to 15 years when kept well. It is understood that the oldest chicken that ever lived, Matilda, died at the ripe old age of 16!
Heritage vs Hybrid Breeds
There are hundreds of chicken breeds all over the world. Still, all chicken breeds can be classified mainly by their genetic heritage or hybrid nature.
Depending on the kind of bird you have, you may classify it as a heritage breed or hybrid.
So, what’s a heritage breed? A heritage breed of chicken can simply be referred to as an “original.”
Heritage breeds have been in existence for dozens of years.
The bulk of heritage breeds was created in the 1800s. They are those the American Poultry Association (APA) refers to as Standard breeds.
They grow at a slow, natural rate, mate naturally, and experience a long productive outdoor life. Usually, it’s not beneficial to raise them for commercial purposes.
But, generally, they’re a lot sturdier and healthier than hybrids. You’re likely to get about 8 years out of them.
Examples of heritage breeds include the Andalusian, Australorp, Croad Langshan, and Plymouth Rock.
Hybrids are those chickens bred from Standard or heritage chickens.
The advantage of hybrids over heritage chickens is that the former is bred to possess genetic qualities that make it best fitted for commercial purposes.
Hybrids grow faster, start laying quicker, and gain considerable weight within a relatively shorter period.
Over the past few years, breeders have put in a lot of work to develop hybrids that can lay pretty-looking eggs of diverse coloring including green and blue ones.
But, hybrids are often prone to a host of medical conditions. For, they are mostly not bred through natural means. They also attain maximum body weight in very short periods. And for commercial purposes, they don’t forage naturally.
Hybrid chickens will live anywhere from 2 to 4 years. At most, you’re going to get 5 years from them. Examples include the Isa Brown chicken, Easter Egger, Speckled Humbug, and Columbian Blacktail.
How long do roosters live? The average rooster only lives 5 to 8 years. But, it’s not for reasons that you might think.
Roosters live shorter lives than hens as it’s their job to protect the flock. Most roosters die an early death because they take the job seriously.
Usually, a rooster will die from the wounds it sustains from fighting a predator. If a rooster has the same protected setups as females, it could easily live longer.
Chickens meant for meat production have the shortest lifespans. Most broilers live only 18 to 24 months. And not necessarily for the reason, you might think.
For, even if you refuse to butcher these birds, they might still not live long enough.
Most broilers, like the Cornish Cross, grow incredibly fast. Their bodies hit physical maturity by only a few weeks old.
At this point, their bodies become heavy and oversized.
It, therefore, makes it impossible for them to move freely. And even if they could move around, their hearts have a hard time keeping up with their oxygen needs.
So, they end up not having much of a chance to live an average long life.
Egg Producers Lifespan
How long does a chicken live if bred for egg production? Older hens have been known to produce more than 250 eggs a year. This typically equates to a shorter lifespan. Some of these hybrids have a lifespan as short as 3 to 5 years.
They have shorter lifespans because they use all of their energy for peak production.
They typically suffer from reproductive illnesses and have a hard time keeping their immune system healthy.
Most of them have chronic egg binding, egg yolk peritonitis, and other reproductive deformities.
So, if you want a great egg producer without sacrificing lifespan, you will want to look for breeds that lay 250 eggs or less a year. These chickens will still give you the eggs you want while living to a ripe old age.
What Factors Affect Chicken Life Expectancy?
The life expectancy of your chickens will heavily depend on their genetic makeup.
Still, there are plenty of other factors that determine how long chickens live.
The onslaught of diseases/infections is one. The food you feed your chickens will also play a role in how long they live.
Coop setup, good healthcare, and the threat of predators must also be considered.
Here, we’ll discuss a few of these factors and offer suggestions on how you can manipulate them in favor of your chickens.
Even with impeccable care, you can’t make a chicken with a 3-year lifespan live to 15 years.
Some chickens simply possess genetic characteristics that make them better suited to live longer. The reverse is also true.
Take the lethal ear-tuft of the Araucana chicken for example. Chicks possessing two copies of the tufted gene don’t make it out of the egg.
Some breeds like the Cornish Cross and Golden Comet just aren’t meant to live that long.
So if you want a longer-living chicken well past its first year and second year, you might want to choose a breed known for its longevity.
The lifespan of a chicken is directly correlated with what you feed it. Feeding a proper diet for every life stage is essential for your chicken’s success.
Between starter, grower, and layer feeds, are all made for a specific purpose.
If you don’t provide the diet that your chicken needs, it could have detrimental effects.
Foraging also gives chickens the ability to graze the food options that they need most.
Whether they need protein, grains, or grit, chickens know what their bodies need most. All of these aspects are vital to give your laying hens a well-balanced diet.
Conditions Of Living
Chickens that are in unclean living conditions are twice as likely to get sick than others that aren’t.
How long do chickens live if they are in dirty conditions? The answer is, not long. The main concern is a fecal buildup in the coop and run. If these areas are left uncleaned, ammonia builds up.
This ammonia causes respiratory infections that can lead to other health issues. Things like heart conditions, lung damage, and reproductive problems are some of the most common side effects of chronic respiratory diseases.
But, keeping the coop clean and providing fresh air using proper ventilation reduces ammonia.
Dirty coops and runs can also increase your flock’s risk of getting parasites, mites, and bacterial infections.
Generally, chickens are very durable birds. During the summer and winter months, they don’t need fancy heating and cooling.
But, with every change of the season, you might need to take a few precautions.
Things like weather-proofing and winterizing are vital to keeping your chickens healthy.
Ventilation for the summer to provide a nice cool breeze prevents heat stroke. And with proper ventilation, your chickens also won’t get frostbite in winter.
All of these precautionary measures will help keep your chickens from dying an early death.
At some point or another, your chickens will get sick.
Sometimes, these illnesses are entirely avoidable. But, other times, they’re inevitable. Chickens are prey birds, so they like to hide their conditions until they’re worse off.
By the time you catch wind that your chicken is sick, the situation might have gotten really bad. The best solution to this problem is to conduct daily health checks.
Make sure all of your chickens are eating and drinking well. And you might want to do a head-to-foot inspection. That way, you catch any abnormalities before they become life-threatening.
The most common reason for premature death is a predator. If you want your chickens to have a fruitful long life, you need to predator-proof to the max.
To do this, you should first think like a predator. Inspect your chicken coop with an eye for all the possible access points that make entry by a predator easy.
With a combination of hardware cloth, chicken wire, and motion detection sensors, your chickens can be well-protected.
These safety measures might seem like much. But, nothing is too drastic for our flocks. And with a beautifully landscaped run, your chickens won’t even notice that they are confined.
Which Chicken Breeds Have The Shortest Lifespans?
Primarily, the Cornish Cross is raised commercially for its meat.
These birds grow super fast. Roosters reach about 10 pounds while hens weigh around 8 pounds when they’re 8 weeks old.
With a life expectancy of 6 months to 1 year, the Cornish Cross has one of the lowest life expectancies among chickens.
The Isa Brown is a hybrid chicken bred purposely for eggs. You can expect your Isa Brown chicken to live anywhere from 2 to 4 years old.
The Leghorn is rather on the small side. Roosters weigh about 8 pounds while hens weigh around 5 pounds.
The average lifespan of the Leghorn is between 4 and 6 years.
The Golden Comet is a hybrid that derives from the union between a White Rock and New Hampshire chicken.
Roosters weigh around 6 pounds while hens reach about 4 pounds.
The Golden Comet doesn’t live very long. At most, it will live up to 5 years.
The Jersey Giant is one of the largest chicken breeds you can find in the world.
A rooster can weigh anywhere from 13 to 15 pounds. Hens weigh around 11 pounds. Generally, the Jersey Giant lives up to 6 years.
Which Chicken Breeds Have The Longest Lifespans?
Plymouth Rock is a heritage breed. Roosters weigh around 7.5 pounds and hens, 6.5 pounds.
Generally, the Plymouth Rock chicken is hardy. You should expect a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years.
The Orpington chicken has one of the longest lifespans among chickens.
Roosters can weigh up to 10 pounds. Hens will usually weigh up to 8 pounds. The life expectancy of the Orpington is usually between the ages of 8 and 10 years.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red is one of the most popular chicken breeds in the world.
Hens weigh around 6.5 pounds while roosters weigh around 8.5 pounds. This breed usually has a life expectancy of 5 to 10 years.
The Wyandotte is a dual-purpose breed that can live up to 10 years.
Silkies are originally Bantams and will usually live till they’re about 7 to 9 years old.
The Cochin is a very large breed that can live anywhere between 8 to 10 years.
The Brahma is also a large breed with roosters weighing about 12 pounds. Hens weigh around 9 pounds.
Brahma can live from 8 to 12 years.
Bantams aren’t exactly a breed of chicken.
Rather, Bantams are the smaller-sized versions of most chicken breeds.
A Bantam can weigh anywhere between 1 pound and 2.5 pounds. When properly cared for, Bantams can live anywhere from 10 to 15 years.
So, how long do chickens live? That is a loaded question. As we’ve discussed, plenty of factors play a role in how long chickens live.
Still, the average age is anywhere between 5-10 years. But, with proper care and choosing the right breeds, your chickens could live to a ripe old age.
They might not be the next Matilda. But, you could get pretty close!
Below is a Pinterest-friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!