How Long Do Chickens Live? Chicken Breeds and Life Expectancy

So, you have just got backyard chickens and are probably wondering how long do chickens live for?

The chicken’s breed will play a big role in determining how long they will live for.

Production breeds like ISA Browns live the shortest, while heritage breeds like Plymouth Rocks tend to live the longest.

However there are a variety of factors that may affect your chickens’ lifespan such as their diet, genetics, access to veterinary care and disease.

Curious to see how long your chickens might live? Keep reading to find out…

Life Cycle Of A Chicken

How Long Do Chickens Live?

On average chickens tend to live somewhere between five to ten years.

However there are many factors that can impact exactly how long your chicken will live.

Because of this, each chicken’s life span will be unique to them.

One of the major factors that impacts how long a chicken lives for is their specific breed. Some breeds tend to live longer than others.

The category of the breed is very important.

There are three categories that breeds can fall into: production, dual purpose and heritage breeds.

Production chickens are chickens raised for the purpose of eggs or meat. They are generally fast growing and quick to reach maturity so that they can fulfill their purpose. Especially for egg laying production hens, their lifespan tends to be shorter due to the great amount of strain egg production has on the small body.

The average production breed lives for 3-5 years.

Dual purpose chickens are chickens raised for the purpose of meat and eggs. Because they are not specialized like the production chickens, these breeds are slower to reach maturity. They tend to live longer than the production chickens and can reach 6-8 years.

Heritage breeds are slow growers and have a long life.

Raising this breed outside naturally helps expose them slowly to pathogens which makes them hardier. Most heritage breeds can reach 8 years and some even live up to 10 years.

You can read more about this in our article, the complete life cycle of a chicken explained.

Why Do Some Chickens Live Longer Than Others?

A Flock Of Dominiques

There are many factors that affect the life expectancy of your chicken.

The breed of your chicken plays a major role in determining how long they will live for.

Feed and diet are also important elements to consider when raising chickens. A poor diet with poor quality feed can cause certain nutrient deficiencies and early onset of diseases.

Coop setup can also play an extremely significant role in the lifespan of your chicken. Proper ventilation is essential to the air quality inside the coop – this is very important if you keep your chickens inside the coop for extended periods of time every day.

While certain things (like vet care and good diet) will increase the lifespan of a chicken, others can both shorten and lengthen their lifespan.

A good example of this is roaming.

Letting your chickens free range is excellent for their health. Bugs and seeds can supplement their diet and make them a healthier and fitter chicken.

However, with access to roaming comes predators. Predators are one of the greatest threats to shortening a chicken’s lifespan – unfortunately many chickens are simply a tasty treat. Your best bet is to build an enclosed run where your chickens can have the best of both worlds: free space to roam and safety. Read our article on chicken predators and how to stop them for more guidance.

Lastly, diseases are one of the most dreaded causes of a shortened chicken lifespan.

As much as you can try to prevent them sometimes these diseases will occur randomly. Your only option is to take as many preventative measures as possible and prepare a holistic treatment plan.

While some diseases that can affect your chickens can be treated, some (like Marek’s disease) cannot be treated. As usual, prevention is better than the cure.

10 Most Popular Breeds And How Long They Live

Breed Expected Lifespan Popularity
Rhode Island Red 5-8 Years #1
Silkie 7-9 Years #2
Plymouth Rock 8-10 Years #3
Orpington 8-10 Years #4
Leghorn 4-6 Years #5
Wyandotte 6-12 Years #6
ISA Brown 2-3 Years #7
Australorp 6-10 Years #8
Cochin 8-10 Years #9
Easter Egger 8-10 Years #10

Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Reds
Rhode Island Reds are well known for their egg laying and can lay around six eggs a week. This breed is an excellent forager and loves spending time outside. They are a self-sufficient heritage breed and this can play a big factor in their long lifespan. On average this breed will live five to eight years but can easily outlive this with the proper care.

Silkies
Silkies are a surprisingly hardy breed. You can expect them to live for seven to nine years on average. Their long lifespan may be due to their low egg laying capabilities. This means that because they lay eggs less often, they experience less strain on their body.

Plymouth Rocks
Plymouth Rocks live surprisingly long lives (eight to ten years). Their long lifespan can mostly be attributed to their good and varied genetics. They are naturally hardy birds that can endure many temperatures and are unlikely to develop many illnesses.

Orpingtons
Orpingtons are another very well known and loved breed. They are a heritage breed so their lifespans will naturally be longer than the average chicken. This breed is generally very relaxed and tolerates cold and hot weather well. As long as they are taken care of this breed could easily live eight to ten years.

Leghorns
Compared to other popular breeds the Leghorn has a relatively short lifespan. This is because they are a production breed that has been bred as an egg layer. You can expect them to live about four to six years.

Silver Wyandotte

Wyandottes
Wyandottes are well known to be excellent birds. They have a calm and enduring temperament and are seemingly unbothered by usual chicken stressors like constant handling and confinement. They also lay eggs but only about 200 eggs a year. Both of these factors contribute to their long lifespan of six to twelve years.

ISA Browns
ISA Brown chickens are well known for their egg laying abilities. In fact they are often used as a commercial egg layer. Due to the amount of eggs they produce these chickens have a relatively short lifespan (around two to three years).

Australorps
Australorps are Australias most popular breed. They are excellent egg layers but can also be kept as dual purpose chickens. You can expect them to live to about six to ten years in a healthy and caring environment.

Cochins
Cochins are well known for their fluffy appearance. They are prone to some health issues such as obesity and parasites. However outside of these issues Cochin chickens are fairly healthy and will live a whopping lifespan of about eight to ten years.

Easter Eggers
Easter Eggers are technically not an official breed. This is a name given to hybrid hens that lay eggs in colors such as blue, green and pink. Because they are a hybrid they are genetically more diverse and robust than the average breed. This contributes to their long lifespan of eight to ten years.

Shortest Living Breeds

ISA Brown

Unfortunately some breeds of chicken will not live as long as others.

This is because certain breeds have been bred for production. Over many years these breeds have been selectively bred to either lay more eggs or gain more mass. Overall this has produced certain breeds that do not live as long because their genetics have been bred for production.

For meat production chickens, they are raised to a point of peak maturity then harvested at the optimum time for quality meat. Certain production meat chickens (like Cornish Rocks) only have a lifespan of around six months.

You also have certain breeds that lay lots of eggs like ISA Browns.

Breeds like this that lay an extremely high amount of eggs do not have a very long life expectancy. This is because egg laying causes an extreme amount of stress on the hen’s body, which will ultimately add up over time. We discuss this in more detail in how long do chickens lay eggs.

The three breeds with the shortest lifespan are:

  1. ISA Brown
  2. White Broilers
  3. Cornish Rock

Longest Living Breeds

Plymouth Rock Chicken

Because some breeds have a deeper and more varied gene pool, they will live longer.

If the breed is a landrace breed then it is likely that the breed will live a long life.

A landrace chicken is a chicken that has developed without human intervention and is highly adapted to their native environment. Because of this they have followed Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest.

Hybrid breeds are generally likely to live longer than most other breeds as well, due to their reduced likelihood of certain diseases. Their large gene pool gives them only the traits that have given their ancestors the best chances of surviving.

The three breeds with the longest lifespan are:

  1. Plymouth Rock
  2. Easter Egger
  3. Cochin

Most Common Causes of Premature Chicken Death

Unfortunately, a chicken’s life can be cut short for several reasons.

The two most common reasons are predation and Marek’s Disease.

Sadly predation is common and very easy to recognize. Hungry predators (like hawks and foxes) will attempt to catch your chickens. To stop this you need to make sure your chickens have a safe and enclosed run that is predator proof.

The second most common reason for a premature death is Marek’s Disease.

This is one of the most common chicken diseases and it is incredibly deadly.

Like many diseases, some chickens may be asymptomatic. However, once the chicken is infected they cannot be cured and will remain infected for the rest of its life. This drastically shortens their lifespan.

Apart from vaccinations and good biosecurity , there is not much you can do to prevent Marek’s Disease.

It is definitely a chicken owner’s worst nightmare. If one of your chickens is infected you will most likely need to cull the entire flock.

4 Tips To Help Your Chicken Live Longer

  1. Prepare a good coop. Your chicken coop should both be comfortable and secure. This means that there should be enough insulation in the walls to protect your chickens from the cold weather during the winter time and enough ventilation to help your chickens cool off during warmer weather. Additionally your coop should be built securely enough to prevent predators from getting inside and attacking your chickens.
  2. Choose your chickens carefully. Caring for a long living chicken starts from day one, the moment you choose them. Get your chicks from a reputable breeder and do your research on what breeds suit your lifestyle and live the longest.
  3. Take them to the vet. Just like with a cat or dog, taking your chickens to the vet to get checked out is important if you would like for them to live for as long as possible. This makes sure that any health ailments are caught and treated early on.
  4. Choose a good, high quality feed. Selecting the correct feed and diet is extremely important when considering the lifespan of a chicken. Food is essential for the body and it ensures that your chicken will have all the nutrients and supplements necessary to live a happy life. If your hen is laying eggs, make sure that she has enough calcium in her diet for strong shelled eggs as well.

Chicken eating from feeder

World’s Oldest Chicken

The oldest chicken to ever live was called Matilda.

She lived until she was 16 years old!

At this age she officially became the World’s Oldest Chicken. Interestingly, she was the first chicken to ever receive the title.

Matilda had an eventful life.

She was the animal assistant to Keith Barton, who was a magician. She was able to be a part of many magic tricks in her lifetime. Matilda was also very famous. She once appeared on the Tonight Show in 2004, making her a television star.

Matilda was also eventually inducted into the Alabama Animal Hall of Fame as an honorary member in 2006.

How did Matilda live 16 years when the average lifespan of a chicken was only five to ten years? Well, veterinarians guessed it was because Matilda had never laid eggs. This probably extended her lifespan because her body was never put under the strain of frequently birthing an egg.

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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