How Long Do Chickens Live?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions among newcomers to chicken keeping. It’s reasonable to want to know how long chickens live, and it can be difficult to find a clear answer. This is because the lifespan of a hen or rooster varies greatly, and there really isn’t one clear answer.
First, let’s make it clear that we’re talking about backyard chickens, not wild chickens or slaughterhouse chickens. For those keeping backyard chickens, the lifespan is usually five to ten years. There is the famous Matilda, a chicken who lived to be sixteen years old. However, the average tends to be around eight.
There are many factors of course that come into play, just as is the case with any animal or plant. Some of the common causes of death are rather avoidable if you care for your chickens, while other causes of death are hard to control for.
There are many environmental factors that play a role in how long chickens live. The most common cause of death among hens kept in the yard is predators. These may be domesticated dogs, larger birds like hawks, foxes, racoons, or any number of other hungry critters. You can try to keep your chickens safe in a closed-off coop, but most backyard chicken keepers lose a hen or two to an animal looking for a free meal.
Another environmental factor in the lifespan of a chicken is the climate. Some breeds are hardy in the winter, while others cannot handle the cold. The same goes for warm weather. Finally, some chickens do not do well in damp and rainy environments. Many chickens are lost due to overheating or freezing temperatures, so make sure you know your hens well and what they need!
There are of course many other environmental pieces that come into play, such as dangerous foods and plants, places where your hens can get stuck, and holes through which they can escape.
Care and Health
The way in which you care for a chicken can of course also impact their length of life. Duh! This starts with vaccination, an important piece of medical care that many people choose to do for their chicks. Chicken vaccinations must be done immediately after hatching, generally within the first day of life. This can help protect against Marek’s, Bronchitis, Salmonella, and more.
The chicken’s care also can majorly impact how long your hen lives for. A chicken needs proper food, water, and shelter. If a chicken doesn’t have a warm place to sleep, isn’t getting proper nutrition, and doesn’t have enough fresh water, they can get sick and die at a much younger age than is normal.
Many different breeds have different lifespans. In general, breeds that lay a lot of eggs often have more internal problems and are likely to have a shorter lifespan. Other breeds, like the Polish, may live a bit longer as they are slower layers.
Common Causes of Death
The causes of death among backyard chickens are not reported or kept in clear statistics. However, we can say what some of the most common causes of death are that we’ve seen in our own flock and on the group message boards online. Common causes of death include:
- Heart attack
- Egg binding
- Eating poisonous plants
- Infectitious Bronchitis
A chicken may also experience what is known as sudden death a condition that may be caused by a number of different things. With sudden death, a chicken which seemed healthy will suddenly be found dead. This may be from a disease, heart attack, or egg binding.
For more information on chickens, check out our Chicken Keeping Resource Guide with FAQ’s, book recommendations, information about different breeds, and all you need to know about coops, runs, feed, and more!