How Long Do Chickens Live?

Many people keep chickens as pets, while others keep them for eggs or meat. Chickens are one of the most popular animals in urban and rural backyards around the world. They come in many different breeds, sizes, and coloring.

When you bring a chicken home, an important question is: how long will it live? You want to make sure it’s given a good life with plenty of love and care.

When caring for chickens, understanding their lifespan is key. There’s no single answer; different breeds and individual birds have vastly varying lifespans due to genetics and environmental factors. 

In this article, we’ll explore the overall lifespan of chickens to provide you with an idea of what to expect when raising chickens at home.

Photo by pixabay

How long do chickens actually live for?

Chickens are a popular choice for backyard flocks due to their hardy nature and relatively short lifespan. Generally, hens can live between five and ten years with proper care. This includes providing them with a safe environment free from predators, such as foxes, and ensuring they have access to a balanced diet.

Additionally, it is important to monitor the flock for any signs of illness or injury that may shorten the life expectancy of the chickens.

However, if given ideal care and protection from predators, chickens can live even longer than that. In fact, some breeds have been known to reach ten to twelve years old in age.

To ensure your chickens live as long as possible, it is important to provide them with plenty of space to roam around and access fresh food and water on a daily basis. Additionally, regular check-ups by an avian veterinarian can help identify any potential health issues before they become serious problems.

How long do wild chickens live for?

Wild chickens are incredibly diverse, with so many breeds around the world. This makes it difficult to determine an average lifespan for these birds, but generally, they can live between five and ten years in the wild.

Wild chickens have a longer lifespan than their domestic counterparts, despite the risks posed by predators and other dangers of living in the wild.

Photo by Engin Akyurt

What about backyard domesticated chickens?

Backyard chickens have become increasingly popular in recent years, as many people choose to adopt or rescue chickens from the egg industry and keep them in their homes as companions.

If a family provides their chickens with adequate care, including high-quality food, shelter from bad weather (typically in the form of a coop or fence), protection from predators, and veterinary checks on the regular, they can live longer than they would on farms.

In fact, some backyard chickens have been known to live for up to a decade or more!

What is the most common cause of death for chickens?

The majority of chickens in the United States are bred, raised, and killed for eggs or meat on intensive agriculture operations known as factory farms. This means that the number one cause of death for chickens in the US is slaughter at the hands of humans. Chickens are not given a chance to live out their natural life span and instead are killed when they reach a certain age or size.

In addition to slaughter, chickens can die from disease or injury due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions on factory farms. Poor conditions can lead to respiratory illnesses, bacterial infections, and other health problems that can be fatal if left untreated.

Furthermore, some chickens may die from stress-related causes such as fear or exhaustion due to overcrowding and lack of space.

Photo by alexas-fotos

What factors can affect their lifespan?

Nutrition is one of the most important factors that affect a chicken’s lifespan. Factory-farmed chickens are typically fed an unnatural diet that lacks essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy growth and development. This lack of proper nutrition can lead to weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections.

Overcrowding is another factor that can reduce the lifespan of chickens; when too many birds are kept in close quarters, it increases the risk of spreading illnesses among them. 

Breeding

The breeding of chickens for both egg and meat production has a significant impact on the lifespan of these animals. In the meat industry, chickens are selectively bred to grow much faster than they would naturally, resulting in an overabundance of muscle mass that can lead to serious health problems.

Meanwhile, layer hens bred for egg production are subjected to an even more extreme demand on their bodies, leading to painful conditions such as prolapses, calcium depletion, and ovarian cancer.

The sheer volume of eggs they produce is far greater than what wild chickens might produce in a year. This intensive breeding is not only cruel but also shortens the lifespan of these birds significantly.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

Diseases

The appearance of disease in chickens raised for food is a major concern for both animal welfare and public health. On factory farms, the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions make it easy for pathogens to spread quickly among chickens.

This is why chicken farms often give antibiotic treatments to their birds as a preventative measure, even though this can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In addition to the risk posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, there are several diseases that can affect chickens and reduce their lifespan. All of these illnesses can cause serious health problems in chickens, including pain and suffering, reduced egg production, and even death. 

For domestic chickes, the news is much better. As long as they are given lots of space in a regularly cleaned environment with good food, they are not prone to any diseases.

Photo by Todd Trapani

Final Thoughts

The average lifespan of a chicken in the United States is significantly shorter than it would be in the wild due to intensive breeding, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions on factory farms.

We hope that this article has given you an insight into the world of keeping chickens and how long they can live as pets, and on farms.

FAQ

Are domestic chickens friendly?

If you keep pet chickens, you will quickly find that they all have personalities, quirks and habits. They are so entertaining. Additionally, once they identify you as the person that feeds them, they will come running to you and might even allow themselves to be petted.

What are the downsides of keeping chickens?

Like all pets, chickens poop. If you are lucky, they will go in the same place and make it easier to clean up. If not, they may well track it all over any area they have access to.

Do chickens attract rats?

Chickens are not considered prey of rats so they are safe from predation. However, rats will be attracted to chicken feed. That is why it is so important to keep the area clean, not only of poop but excess food on the ground.

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