A question I frequently get from readers is “How long do chickens live?”
So, how long? While on average chickens live about 8 years, chicken lifespans depend on a lot of factors, including breed, quality of life, and environment.
There’s also the little fact that many chickens people raise are intended to be food – and you can bet those poor souls don’t get to take advantage of intended chicken longevity.
And then there are the oldest chickens in the world. We’ll discuss those in a minute – stay tuned. They are adorable and amazing and you don’t want to miss seeing them.
Simply saying that the life expectancy of a chicken is about 8 years isn’t always a real, hard fact.
My friends, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you probably know my answer to the question “how long do chickens live?” is….Well, it depends.
Let’s explore exactly why I’ve given such a frustrating answer to the seemingly simple question.
Table of Contents (Quickly Jump To Information)
While there are, without a doubt, chickens that live 8 years or longer, most backyard chickens won’t make it to that ripe old age. The main reason is that there’s something in their environment that does them in long before they get to experience a life without having to lay an egg every day.
Predators like foxes, raccoons, and opossums, among other hungry critters, are often the culprits. Chickens are prey to many dangers at night.
Unless your chickens are locked up 24 hours a day in a VERY predator-proof run, chances are, you’ll lose a flock member or two to a hawk, domestic dog, or other critter bent on a free meal.
Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t allow your chickens to play outdoors – quite the opposite.
As they said in Steel Magnolias, “I’d rather have 30 seconds of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing.” It’s FAR better to allow your chickens to have a happy life outdoors enjoying the world than to keep them cooped up all the time.
Don’t feel bad if you can’t let your chickens free-range in your particular situation. But if that’s the case, be sure they have plenty of room in their coop. Also, provide a nice run for them.
There are also super tiny predators – parasites (worms, lice, mites). Believe it or not, those pests can lead to death. Do all that you can to prevent an overload of these tiny killers.
Click here to see some of my favorite things to ward off these little jerks.
Proper Care Factors
Veterinarians (and common sense) have long told us that pets that receive proper care are more likely to live longer than animals don’t.
Chickens that aren’t getting a consistent and proper diet, including feed and fresh water, who aren’t given basic medical care, or who aren’t given access shelter out of the elements, will likely have their lives cut short.
Check on your flock regularly looking for any signs of sickness so you can address it early on and have better success in winning the fight against it.
Naturally, the type of breed (including whether they are hybrid chickens or heritage chickens) is a factor that, in part, determines lifespan. Heritage breed chickens, like Rhode Island Reds and Orpingtons, have the potential for a longer life than hybrids.
Some breeds are designed to live longer than other breeds. One example is the Cornish Cross breed (broiler chickens). Because they’re bred to grow very quickly, Cornish Crosses generally don’t live very long. They’re harvested at 8 to 10 weeks of age, and even up until then, they’re on shaky ground.
Many develop heart issues, kidney problems, liver disorders, or other health issues. If they aren’t butchered by 8 or 10 weeks, they will die on their own.
Similarly, breeds of chickens developed to be frequent egg-layers (hybrids such as Production Reds) might develop internal issues associated with laying more frequently than other breeds. This, of course, will affect the chicken’s life and lifespan.
I’ve been specifically asked about bantam chickens as well. Bantams are essentially smaller chickens and their lifespan isn’t much different than their full-sized counterparts.
And then there’s Muffy, Old Hen, Matilda….and Bob Ross
Those three lovely names, plus Bob, are the names of the oldest known chickens in modern history. First, I love the fact that they have such adorable names.
Muffy was a Red Quill Muffed American game chicken. She is said to have lived 22 years! Although she was old, her age was never confirmed in any official capacity. But we will trust the owners, especially since there isn’t exactly a billion-dollar prize for the oldest chicken award.
Muffy passed in 2011. Fly high, sweet Muffy!
I can’t confirm if Old Hen is still living, but as of an article I read dated May 2021 she was 20 years old. She is a mixed-breed bantam and apparently, she has been an excellent mother. However, she didn’t lay as many eggs as most chickens and her owners think that may be a contributing factor to her longevity.
The first chicken to hold the title of the World’s Oldest Chicken in the Guinness Book Of World Records, Matilda, lived 16 long years!
This cutie was born in 1990 and was part of her family’s magic show for about 10 years. Her owners contacted the Guinness Book of World Records in 2001 to see about getting her inducted. She was an indoor bird, taken to a vet regularly, and never laid eggs (which the vet said likely contributed to her longevity).
I left Bob Ross for last because I’m sure he was a gentleman that would insist the ladies go first.
Bob died, after 20 years of life, in 2010. He was a blind white crested Polish show rooster. He assisted his owner in a fortune-telling gig. I’d say it was a bit of a comedy show more than anything since fake eggs containing fortunes “magically” appeared beneath him.
What Lessons Can We Learn From Muffy and Friends?
Purely pet chickens that are spoiled rotten, like the oldest chickens in the world, have an increased chance of living beyond the average lifespan.
Now, 16 to 22 years is a REALLY long time for any hen to live and I wouldn’t necessarily expect any of my chickens to live that long. Although I wouldn’t be opposed to it.
So How Long Do Chickens Live?
Officially, I’ll stick with the “about 6-8 years” answer, largely because there haven’t been studies to prove otherwise.
We’ve personally had chickens live that long….and then we’ve had chickens that don’t live past the first year because of predators.
There are truly so many factors that no one can give an exact answer and I think we can all understand that. This is precisely why this is the million-dollar question, so to speak.
Tips for Keeping Your Chickens Healthy:
- 10 Abnormal Eggs: What You Need to Know
- Keep Your Hens Healthy With A Dust Bath
- Organic Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe
- What Your Chicken Coop Should Include
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Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.