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  • Writer's pictureBrowns' Family Farmstead

The Lifespan of Chickens: How Long Do They Live and Produce Eggs?

When considering what breed to add to your flock there are many considerations from appearance to temperament. It is also important to consider how long chickens live and produce eggs as this varies with each breed.


We have put together a complete guide covering the life expectancy of some of the most popular breeds.

Cuckoo Maran and Easter Egger Staring at the Camera

Table of Contents

How Long Do Chickens Live?

The average lifespan for a chicken raised in a backyard coop is between 10 and 12 years.


This is dramatically higher than in the wild where chickens' lifespans are between 3 and 7 years. That is still higher than chickens used for commercial meat and egg production, as these birds seldom live more than 2 months to a year.


A less common situation that can lead to shortened lives of chickens is keeping them in the same pen as other animals. Specifically, sharing housing or a pen with baby goats can lead to decreased lifespan for chickens.


Why Do Some Chickens Live Longer Than Others?

Chicken's lifespans vary based on a variety of factors including protection from the elements and predators, the quality of their food, diseases, lack of veterinary care, genetics, and even their breed impacts their lifespan.


Protection

Protection from the elements and predators plays a huge role in the length of a backyard chicken's life expectancy. Chickens need comfortable living quarters that provide adequate space and are not overcrowded or will fight (even hens).


Chickens also need to be protected from extreme weather including heat, sun, snow, and rain to live long and productive lives. This is especially important if the breed is not hardy or tolerant to certain weather.


It is important to know how to keep your chickens cool in hot weather, view our complete guide for more tips and tricks.


Protection from predators is also a big factor in the reduction of life expectancies, as chickens are a prey animal (they run and hide) and most breeds don't fight back. Most common predators include large birds, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, wild dogs and cats, skunks, opossums, and bears.


The best way to keep your flock safe is to have a keep your birds in a sturdy coop and run with chicken wire sealing gaps (our run is fully enclosed). Limited free-range time, especially unsupervised, will help to keep your chickens safe.


If you suspect there is a predator using lights and making noise can be a sufficient deterrent for some predators. For additional protection a guard dog or even a rooster will help to ensure your flock stays safe.


Quality Feed

Quality and cleanliness of food and water play a crucial role in the health of chickens. A balanced diet with the proper vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins is important.


While we feed our chickens a reputable and balanced commercial feed, we still had a chicken with a vitamin deficiency to the point that she was not walk normally. To ensure our chickens are getting a proper dose of vitamins we use a supplement in their water. Since then Taupe has made a full recovery and we have not had any other vitamin deficiencies.


In addition to ensuring chickens are getting the proper ratios of each group (which can change based on age and breed). Providing supplemental nutrition through kitchen scraps and leftovers can not only keep a balanced diet but can also reduce waste.


Even feeding your chickens their own baked eggshells for grit can provide them the grit they need at no cost to aid in their digestion.


Diseases & Illness

As with any living thing, health is crucial to its wellbeing and length of life. Chickens are no except to this, in fact they are susceptible to a variety of diseases including Salmonella, Coccidiosis, Avian Influenza, Fowl Cholera, and Marek's.


Each disease/illness requires its own treatments if they are treatable. Unfortunately, some diseases such as Marek's have an extremely high (chickens seldom survive this) fatality rate. In instances like this the best thing you can do is to ensure your flock has the proper vaccines to prevent the disease in the first place.


Other illnesses are caused due to the high production of eggs, which takes a toll on the hens reproductive system. This can lead to cancer, tumors, and other life shortening circumstances.


If your chicken does contract an illness such as bumble foot, a vitamin deficiency, or wound these ailments can typically be healed at home with proper care or with the aid of a vet. In either instance acting quickly to heal your feathered friend is important as these illnesses can rapidly evolve.


Minor ailments such as a calcium deficiency, can impact how long farm fresh eggs last for, particularly if the eggshell is brittle.


Heritage vs Hybrid (Genetics)

There are a wide variety of chickens around the world. Breeds can be broken down into two categories, heritage and hybrid.


Heritage

Heritage chickens, also known as purebred have genetic lines that can be traced back several generations and are recognized by the American Poultry Association or similar organization.


Heritage breeds typically have longer lifespans, can reproduce naturally (without artificial insemination) and grow at a slower rate than hybrids.


Hybrid

Hybrid chickens are crossbreeds between purebred chickens. Have been specifically bred to develop the most desirable qualities from their parent breeds. Due to this manipulation of these chickens' genetics to maximize their meat and egg production, consequences have emerged.


Hybrids tend to be more susceptible to varying diseases depending on the breed. Hybrids also have difficulty breeding and producing healthy offspring.

Barred Rock broad side and a Cuckoo Maran staring into your soul

Popular Breeds Lifespan

Most popular chicken breeds and their life expectancy.

Breed

Life Expectancy

Australorp

6 to 10 Years

​Araucana

6 to 8 Years

Barbu D’Uccles

8 to 10 Years

Barnevelder

7+ Years

6 to 8 Years

Brahma

5 to 8 Years

Cochin

8 to 10 Years

​6 to 12 Years

5 to 8 Years

5+ Years

2-4 Years

6 to 8 Years

4 to 6 Years

7+ Years

New Hampshire Red

7-10 Years

8+ Years

Plymouth Rock

10 to 12 Years

Polish

4 to 7 Years

Rhode Island Red

8+ Years

​5 to 8 Years

​6 to 8 Years

​2 to 3 Years

7 to 9 Years

Sussex

8+ Years

6 to 12 Years

How Long Did the World's Oldest Chicken Live?

The oldest living chicken according to the Guinness Book of World Records was names Muffy (1989-2011) after living a long life of 22 years. Muffy was a Red Quill Muffed American Game bird.


Before Muffy the oldest chicken was Matilda who passed at 16 years old. She was also believed to be a game bird variety.


When Do Chickens Start Producing Eggs?

Chickens typically start to lay eggs between 20 and 24 weeks (5 to 6 months). This is dependent not only on the breed, but each bird as well.


We have several chickens of each breed we own, and we have noticed some of our chickens started to lay right at 4.5 months where others of the same breed began a full month later.


Larger chicken breeds such as Jersey Giants and Marans grow and mature slower than other breeds. They start laying eggs between 8 to 12 months.


How Long Do Chickens Produce Eggs?

Chickens typically start to lay eggs for 3 to 4 years, depending on the breed. Hens are the most productive egg layers in their first year. After a full year of egg laying their production decreases each year thereafter until it ceases completely.


Final Thoughts

The life expectancy of your backyard chickens depends on a variety of factors including their safety from predators, illnesses and diseases, genetics, and even the quality of their food. But with proper care, chickens all over the world are living long lives.


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