Do You Need to Add Your Chickens to Your Will? How Long Do They Live?

Posted by Christy Caplan

I'm not a chicken expert. I've lived as a 'chicken keeper' for a little over a year and the number of chickens I own has grown. Other chicken keepers call this chicken math and my chicken math is fuzzy. I started with ten and one roo. Now I have over 20 chickens and two roosters. Some of my chickens lived a few years with a previous owner before I moved into the house and they were three-years-old by the time we were introduced.

Others were hatched a few months after I moved in so now they're over one-year-old.

So I can't really answer this from personal experience but it's one of the most searched questions on Google so let's tackle this together. There was one story about a chicken that lived until it was 20-years-old. Yet, I'm pretty sure this was a viral story that no one could really confirm but told by a farmer somewhere in the midwest to his children. If any readers have proof of this I'd love to see pictures!

How old is the oldest chicken (alive or dead)?

Guinness World Records tell us that one of the oldest living chickens lived to 16-years-old. Her name was Matilda and she never laid any eggs which is why people believed she lived as long as she did. So does Matilda count? How many chickens don't actually lay eggs? Egg laying is complicated and can lead to about 100 illnesses.

"Matilda (1990 - February 11, 2006) was a fourteen-ounce (400 g) hen, and the first chicken to receive the title of World's Oldest Living Chicken from Guinness World Records. She is thought to have been descended from the Red Pyle color variation of the Old English Game breed." 

How long do chickens really live?

It's common for a hen in a backyard setting to live 8-10 years. This is a really long time! I'm not sure I actually did this research when I decided to become a chicken keeper and perhaps I would have simply looked at other livestock. 

What if you need to move? Is a chicken like a parrot where you need to find someone who will take them if you die?

Now, nature certainly will take its course if you let your chickens free-range and predators will show up and your chickens may only live a year or two as a result but any chicken keeper should be prepared to love and care for a few that live until their ten!

What breeds are known to live the longest? 

Long-lived birds include Orpingtons, Plymouth Rock, and Old English Game Fowl. These are all considered heritage birds.

I have two Orpingtons that I call our 'yellow chickens' rather than by their actual name, Orpington chickens. They may be living with me for eight-ish more years.

I imagine that pet chickens live a lot longer than those of us that keep them more as livestock. If the average lifespan is 8-10 years than my gut tells me a lot of chickens live half of that. Backyard chickens are hardy but there are so many circumstances like weather, the coop, predators like raccoons and general bad luck like egg binding diseases that may cause your birds to live a shorter life.

Yet all chicken keepers should consider how long they want to have fresh eggs for and most of us want them daily!

I also have many Wyandottes and some have had a few health issues. I hope they live to a ripe old age of 10 but I'm just not sure they will. Wyandottes are chicken breeds known to be a hardy long-lived bird so we'll see!

Another factor that plays into a chicken's lifespan is diet! The layer feed you choose is really important and I believe the better their diet the longer they'll live. Not only will it impact egg production but life expectancy. Fewer treats and more feed! With that in mind older hens really need a high-quality feed even if they're laying fewer eggs. These older egg layers will live longer if they're happy and healthy!

This commitment is really no different than living with a cat or dog.

Know someone who would like to add chickens to their flock? Tell us in the comments below!

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Do You Need to Add Your Chickens to Your Will? How Long Do They Live?