The Average Chicken Lifespan: How Long Do Chickens Live?
If you’re new to raising chickens at home, you might have many questions about these animals, such as:
- How long do chickens live?
- What impacts their lifespan?
- How do you care for them properly?
We’ve got the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions here.
How Long Do Chickens Live?
You can generally expect your chickens to live for an average of five to ten years.
Factors such as nutrition, diseases, and predators can impact how long your birds will live.
Your chicken’s breed will affect their lifespan, as well; some breeds are known to have greater longevity than others.
Life Expectancy: Heritage vs. Hybrid Breeds
Although there are hundreds of different breeds of chickens worldwide, the breeds can be loosely grouped into two categories: heritage and hybrid breeds (1).
Heritage chicken breeds are born and raised in natural conditions, while hybrid breeds are bred for specific traits such as egg-laying and fast growth.
Of these two subtypes, heritage chickens generally live longer and are better adapted to foraging and mating than their hybrid counterparts.
While heritage breeds don’t grow as quickly as hybrids and aren’t as commercially profitable to raise, they are often healthier and more resistant to diseases.
Chicken Breeds With the Longest Lifespan
If you have any of these breeds in your flock, you can expect a longer lifespan.
1. Plymouth Rock: 10-12 years
Considered a hybrid breed, Plymouth Rock chickens can live a long time.
How long? Well, a decade and even more!
But don’t expect them to reach old age, if you don’t provide them with a proper and predator-proof coop and the right feed.
2. Bantam breeds: 10+ years
Next on our list are bantam breeds – either heritage or hybrid.
Since bantam birds are smaller and are primarily kept as pets and not as egg layers or meat birds, they outlive average-sized (and even large) chicken breeds.
As long as you give bantam chickens adequate water and feed, predator protection, and fresh air, these birds will be with you for at least 10 years before you have to say goodbye.
3. Rhode Island Red: 8+ years
Rhade Island Red chicken is a heritage breed.
Although their average life expectancy is about 8 years, they make the perfect backyard chicken breed because they are great as egg-layers or meat birds.
Plus, they fair well in either confinement or a free-range setting.
4. Orpington: 8+ years
Orpington is another heritage with the longest life expectancy.
Just like Rhode Island Red chickens, Orpingtons can live up to 8 years old. But if you keep them in ideal conditions, this breed can live longer.
Chicken Breeds With the Shortest Lifespan
- Cornish Cross (hybrid): About 1 year
- Golden Comet (hybrid): 4-5 years
- Jersey Giant (heritage): 5-6 years
What Factors Can Impact Chickens’ Life Expectancy?
How long your birds will live depends on many different factors — including how well you care for them and protect them from harm.
Although genetics play a part in your chickens’ overall health, it’s also important to provide them with good nutrition and safe living conditions while keeping diseases and predators at bay.
Let’s break down some of the biggest factors that influence chickens’ lifespans and what you can do to help your birds live long, healthy lives.
1. Diet and Nutrition
Our animal friends need to eat a healthy, balanced diet with a variety of nutrients in order to thrive.
Choose the best chicken feeder you can find and foods that give chickens enough nutrients to fuel their bodies’ needs — including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Water is also essential for birds, so be sure to give them plenty to drink.
Most of a chicken’s diet will be made up of carbs and starches. Often, these starches come from fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Backyard chickens will often eat grass, as well.
An animal feed will often provide a decent balance of nutrients. However, you may need to supplement with additional minerals (like calcium) that are important for bone growth and eggshell formation.
Additionally, different chicken breeds may need different balances of nutrients, so be sure to research your birds’ specific needs.
According to Justin Fowler, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia, what works well for one breed could be dangerous or even lethal for another (2).
The most common mistake in feeding poultry can be as simple as feeding the wrong feed. For example, calcium levels in a layer feed will be upwards of 4%, which can lead to leg abnormalities and even death if fed to a young broiler (a meat bird)
With that in mind, you should never skimp out on providing the right diet and nutrition for either your meat birds or egg layers.
To figure out the appropriate feed, you should know the breed of your chicken flock first and then consult with a veterinarian.
2. Living Conditions
Where you house your chickens can make a big difference, as well.
Ideally, keep your birds in their own chicken coop where they can have shelter from the elements and safety from predators.
Make sure to give them comfortable living quarters to stay warm during the winter and cool off during the summer heat.
If you have egg layers, you should provide them with the right chicken nest box size so they can produce eggs in peace. Overcrowding can result in smashed eggs and hens fighting over the nest.
Many backyard chicken owners also keep their coops clean to prevent diseases.
Are you raising baby chicks? Here’s a 101 guide so they can grow happy and healthy adults.
Backyard flocks can also fall ill, especially when then their immune system is compromised or too weak to ward off bacteria and viruses.
While most of the diseases that could affect backyard chickens are relatively minor (like lice and parasites), but as the head of the flock, you should always take preventive measures.
Regular veterinarian care is important to prevent diseases in chickens.
Many poultry veterinary clinics offer vaccine programs for hens and roosters alike. This can include vaccination against viral and deadly diseases like Marek’s Disease and Avian Influenza or bird flu.
Alongside vaccinating flock members, you should adopt a more stringent cleaning procedure since a dirty coop is a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. With a clean coop, you can prevent contamination, minimize the smell, and keep your chickens happy and healthy.
Don’t forget to give your birds enough space to spread out from one another — living in crowded conditions can make it easier for infectious diseases to spread.
If you want to know more about chicken diseases, how they can infiltrate your flock, and what you can do to help sick birds, here’s a handy guide about the 15 common chicken diseases.
Much like other small pets, chickens are vulnerable to predators too.
Raccoons, red foxes, coyotes, and birds of prey are notorious chicken killers. Chicken predators like minks can even savagely attack all your hens just for fun (3).
To protect your flock, keep them safe in a fenced yard with a well-built coop, so your birds don’t wind up becoming another animal’s dinner.
Some predators like snakes and rats love eggs too. So, make sure to harvest eggs as soon as you can.
Here’s how a predator-proof chicken coop should look like:
When reinforcing the chicken coop, you should consider sturdier roofing and flooring.
Swap out chicken wires too because predators like Raccoon can put their tiny hands through the barrier and grab the heads of chickens – yikes!
Many backyard chicken owners use hardware cloth because it’s stronger and has smaller woven squares.
As we mentioned before, the breed you choose can have a big impact on chicken longevity.
Some chickens simply live longer than others — and the best way to ensure that your chickens live a long time is to choose breeds with longer lifespans. For instance, the ear-tuft trait of the Araucana chicken breed is a killer gene (4).
Other breeds with shorter life expectancy include the Cornish Cross, Golden Comet, and Jersey Giant.
If you want hens for many years to come, you can choose chickens like the Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons, and Plymouth Rocks. These breeds can live 8 years or more.
Plus, depending on the exact breed, hens can start laying eggs as early as 18 months old.
Whether you’re raising baby chicks or tending to adult hens and roosters, owning chickens can provide you and your family with years of companionship (as well as delicious eggs!).
Although it’s impossible to say for sure how long your chickens will live, you can set yourself up for success by taking great care of your birds and treating them well.
There are different ways you can help your chickens live longer. One of which is providing your hens and roosters with the right diet and nutrition. Many chicken owners make the mistake of choosing the wrong feed for their flock, especially when they have different breeds living together. If you’re unsure what you’re using is right for your chickens, you can always consult with your poultry veterinarian.
Alongside a healthy diet, you can provide good quality housing, regular vet appointments, and protection from predators.
Chicken can lay eggs 2 to 3 years before their egg production begins to slow down. If one of your hens is 5 years old or more, they may no longer lay eggs but it doesn’t mean they’re useless.
When you have bugs and ticks in the backyard, you can keep the population under control with the help of old hens – they make perfect bug catchers. Since they have more experience than younger laying hens, they can step in and help sit on the eggs and raise the chicks.
Caged chickens — typically kept for commercial egg-laying — don’t live as long as their free-range counterparts. Chickens in cages typically stop laying eggs after a little over 1 year of age, at which point they’re considered “spent.” Free-range chickens may live for much longer under the right conditions.
Many people consider it more humane to let chickens run free rather than keeping them in a cage, particularly if you want to have them as pets. Caged birds have almost no room to move around, which can lead to muscle wasting and reduced bone strength.
- Accepted Breeds & Varieties. Retrieved from: https://amerpoultryassn.com/sample-page/apa-breeds-varieties/accepted-breeds-varieties/
- Nutrition for the Backyard Flock. Retrieved from: https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C954&
- Mink. Retrieved from: https://wildlifepark.novascotia.ca/animals/mink.asp
- Ear tuftedness: a lethal condition in the Araucana fowl. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/jhered/article-abstract/72/2/121/822363?redirectedFrom=PDF