If you are trying to familiarize yourself with the world of keeping chicken, probably one of the questions you have is how long chickens live. In normal circumstances, a chicken can live between five and ten years. However, different breeds have dramatically different lifespans.
Several factors affect the lifespan of chickens, and these vary across the different breeds. In this article, you will find factors that play a role in the lifespans of chickens.
Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Chicken
There are a few life-extending and life-abbreviating issues that affect how long a chicken lives. Here they are.
Chickens, like most other animals, get diseases. While the most common health issues among chickens are treatable and less life-threatening, some can be extremely brutal. Mites and ticks’ infestations are usually manageable, and it’s less likely your chickens will die from that.
But, some infections such as Coccidiosis are fatal. The disease targets the gut of chickens and quickly ravages intestinal cells. This results in loss of appetite and inability to absorb nutrients. Another deadly disease, fowl pox, stunts birds’ growth, cuts life expectancy, and dry up egg production.
Fowl cholera, a chronic disease that affects the chicken’s organs and joints, can bring about sudden death in infected birds. This disease affects roosters more than hens and tends to hit mature birds. Salmonellosis, on the other hand, affects young chickens. It may not kill the chicken directly but spreads quickly. This may affect the lifespan of the chickens in the long run.
The worst of them all, Avian Influenza, commonly known as bird flu, can sweep out your entire flock pretty quickly. It is quite adverse as it spreads from bird to bird to humans and other animals.
Housing is not directly a life-threatening factor and does not come into play very often when considering how long a chicken will live. In the past, housing was a significant factor to consider as there were no guides on how to provide the best housing for your chickens. In those days, chickens used to live in large barns with other types of livestock. As much as this was beneficial in some ways, it was easy for the chicken to be trampled on by the other animals.
The housing conditions were not as friendly, and predators would easily find themselves inside the barns. In most cases, the chickens would freeze to death. But, this is not the case anymore with the advancement of chicken housing.
Today, chickens have specially built coops to keep them comfortable all year, including the colder months. With proper housing, chickens are protected from adverse weather conditions and predators.
One of the ways that have positively impacted life expectancy in chickens is in diet and nutrition. In the past, chickens ate scraps and leftovers from the household. Most chicken keepers did not care to feed chickens a proper meal; instead left them to fend for themselves.
Now, chickens have access to wholesome and nutritious food. More to this, the feeds are specially formulated to meet the chickens’ needs at every stage of life. This helps to optimize the growth of chickens and ultimately thrive.
Even with the special feeds for all chickens, there are ways you can manipulate the diet to help them live longer. For example, you can go slow on the treats and scheduled meal times. This can help reduce obesity, which can lengthen their life in the long run. Also, you might want to reduce how much protein you feed your chickens to prevent kidney problems in addition to weight.
It is only in the recent past that chickens are now kept as pets. In the past, they were purely raised for meat or eggs. On this note, keepers gave very little attention to a chicken’s genetics and how long it was expected to live. In simpler terms, a chicken was just but a chicken.
Early in the 19th century, people started experimenting with chickens’ genetics to see if they could improve productivity. During this period, some behaviors in some breeds were suppressed. The creation of hybrid chickens led to a decrease in longevity while other breeds increased.
Some chicken breeds have undergone breeding over time, which has led to them living longer than others. Some, however, have gone through so many stages of breeding that have dramatically decreased their lifespan.
In a typical world of animals, females live longer than males, which is the case with chickens. This factor is not a paramount one to keep in mind since other factors play a more significant role in the chickens’ lifespan. But, as the statistics say, roosters do not live as long as hens. But why?
This is because roosters tend to charge toward a threat instead of running away. This leads them to fall victim to various threats, which wear them out earlier than hens in the long-run. It is important to note that if raised in similar conditions as hens and where there are no threats, roosters can live as long as hens.
How the Breed Impacts How Long Chickens Live: Heritage vs. Hybrid
If you are raising chickens as a beginner, you might be confused about the difference between heritage and hybrid chickens. Heritage chickens have been raised and bred naturally, while hybrid chickens have been selectively bred for specific qualities.
Another difference to help you understand is that heritage chickens are natural at laying eggs and can go through a two to three-year cycle of laying eggs. Hybrid chickens, on the other hand, go hard on laying and quickly fizzle out. On this note, hybrid chickens do not live as long as heritage chickens under normal conditions.
For a chicken to be considered as a heritage breed, it has to meet some qualifications. One, it has to mate naturally. Additionally, it has to grow slowly and show a long, productive life when raised outdoors. All chickens have been bred, but for heritage chickens, very little has been done to alter their characteristics.
This is not the same as hybrid chickens. Over time, they have gone through a series of breeding, which has changed their overall characteristics. For example, you will find that some hybrid chickens have been bred to be exceptional egg layers while others are bred to produce meat in just a few months of keeping them.
Examples of Chicken Breeds and Their Average Lifespan
The Wyandotte chickens are great egg layers. In fact they are thriving at laying eggs but can also be kept for meat When raised correctly, the Wyandotte can live for six years or more.
Rhode Island Red
This is a classic heritage both for egg-laying and meat production; since it is a heritage chicken, its lifespan is expected to be more than most hybrid breeds. On this note, it can live for eight years or more.
The Rhode Island Red can adapt to most weather conditions and tolerate free-ranging as well as confinement. This, in a way, contributes to its long lifespan in addition to being a heritage chicken.
The Orpington chicken is a favorite for many, and this has to do with how long it can live while staying steady with its productivity. It is a heritage breed and can live much longer than the average bird of other breeds. Orpingtons are laid back, docile, and takes a lot to get it excited. This is why it makes a perfect chicken breed for a beginner. It has an average lifespan of eight years or more when raised in an ideal environment.
Plymouth Rocks are common among people raising chickens. This breed is one of the few that can live for a very long time. Plymouth Rock chickens can live for 10 years pr more in ideal conditions.
Most people believe Bantams live longer than most breeds. This is somewhat true; however, Bantams are available in different varieties of the breeds. Each type has its genetics and behavior, which can generally affect the lifespan.
Digging deep, Bantams are much smaller than average chickens, so they do not have a lot of mass to maintain. Larger chickens tend to dier much earlier, so Bantams might use that to their advantage. Another reason why they live longer has to do with the environment they are raised in.
Usually, people keep Bantams as pet chickens and not for meat or egg production. Because of this, they grow in excellent conditions and have access to all the food and water they need. They also get limited threats from predators, which can contribute to the long lifespan. On average, a Bantam chicken can live for 10 years or more.
Related post: Guinea Fowl: A Guide to Raising
The Bottom Line
How long does a chicken live? This depends on several factors, including health, nutrition, genetics, housing, among others. Some chickens are hardy than others, depending on whether they are heritage or hybrid birds. All the same, it is difficult to determine how long a chicken lives, but these factors can be great pointers when keeping chickens.