One sad fact most homesteaders realize is that commercially reared chickens don’t have a particularly long lifespan. But how long do chickens live if cared for properly in a backyard flock? And how many years will a hen lay eggs for?
Let’s examine everything you need to know about how long chickens live – commercial, heritage, and hybrid breeds!
- How Long Do Chickens Live?
- Chicken Lifespans
- How Many Years Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
How Long Do Chickens Live?
Hens reared as part of a backyard flock usually live for 6 to 8 years, provided they do not succumb to injury or disease at a younger age. The average chicken lifespan can vary widely depending on the breed, with heritage breeds often having a longer life expectancy than hybrid birds intended for high egg production.
Plymouth Rocks, hugely popular with backyard chicken keepers, have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years – pretty impressive! In contrast, high-production breeds such as hybrid ISA Brown hens will only live for 3 to 4 years due to the high numbers of eggs they lay yearly.
The natural lifespan for chickens is usually anywhere from six to eight years. But – as you can see from the chart below, not every chicken is so lucky! Broiler chickens get culled as early as six to ten weeks. And many commercial laying hens face culling after their egg production declines into their third year.
Luckily – many rural and family homesteads keep their heritage chickens as part of their flock even after egg production slows. These free-range, small farm chickens are the luckiest of the batch – and can live for six to eight years. Some chickens can live for even longer!
Other elements can also dramatically impact a chicken’s lifespan. Factors like diet, environment, chicken breed, hybrid type, genetics, free-range life, veterinary care, and disease play significant roles.
|Chicken Type||Life Expectancy|
|Heritage Chickens||6 to 8 Years|
|Hybrid Chickens||3 to 5 years|
|Bantam Chickens||7 to 10 years|
|Broiler Chickens||6 to 10 weeks|
|Commercial Egg Chickens||2 to 3 Years|
Also – remember that some hybrid chicken breeds, like Cornish Crosses, ISA Browns, and Golden Comets, have famously short lifespans – and may only last a few years naturally.
There are also many more chicken lifespan nuances to consider.
Let’s examine them more closely.
How Long Do Caged Chickens Live?
Caged chickens usually only have lifespans of two to three years. And there is good reason why we would never knowingly buy eggs from caged hens – not only do these birds have a terrible life, but their life expectancy is also very low. Caged chickens are usually removed from the system when they cease productive egg production.
During the first 18 months of laying, hybrid breeds like ISA Browns will produce up to 300 eggs per year, but after this, the numbers start to decline very quickly. So, when a bird reaches her second birthday, she is no longer regarded as cost-effective and will be depopulated. Most of these hens get culled unless they are lucky enough to be part of a caged hen rehoming scheme.
Sadly, even caged hens who go on to live a better life still don’t have a great life expectancy. Taking on ex-cage hens is incredibly rewarding as you can see them discover the joys of a life with more freedom, free-range space, friendly flockmates, and plenty of treats. However, unfortunately, these birds often have many health issues and a shorter lifespan despite the best of care.
Here’s a handy reference for learning more about the chicken lifecycle. It’s the Life Cycle of a Chicken by Karen Latchana Kenney. The book shows how chickens transform from eggs to adult chickens. The Life Cycle of a Chicken is perfect for kids ages six to nine years and features beautiful, colorful illustrations.
How Long Do Farmed Chickens Live?
Two to three years is a fair estimated lifespan for farmed chickens. That said – some farmed chickens, such as those in free-range systems, have a far more natural life than caged hens. But this doesn’t mean they necessarily get to live a longer life, as they often get removed from the flock as soon as their period of peak production ends. Most barn-reared and free-range hybrid chickens face culling (or depopulating) when they are two years old.
How Long Do Chickens Live as Pets?
Pet chickens have an average natural lifespan of around eight years, but some live for as long as ten or even twelve years. Smaller chicken breeds tend to have a longer life span than giant chickens, so a cute little Sebright will probably live for many more years than a majestic Brahma or Jersey Giant.
Most backyard chicken owners start rearing domestic chickens because they want to eat yummy eggs from hens that enjoy a good quality of life. The high standard of care and stress-free lifestyle homestead egg-laying hens enjoy means they often live much longer than their farmed relatives. And we are much more likely to keep senior chickens even when they no longer produce eggs. They’ve earned a nice retirement for all the lovely eggs they’ve provided us!
(Honesty, I couldn’t tell you which of our adult chickens lay eggs and which don’t. So they’re all here until they end their natural lives, as I cannot readily identify the unproductive ones!)
How Many Years Do Chickens Lay Eggs?
So, speaking of unproductive hens, just how long do chickens lay eggs for? As we’ve already discovered, hybrid commercial egg layers only lay at peak production for around 18 months, after which they face removal from the egg-laying industry. If they are lucky enough to find a new home, they may still happily lay some eggs but at a lower intensity than before.
Most homesteaders tend to opt for heritage chicken breeds for their backyard flocks. These trouble-free chickens do not lay as many eggs per year as hybrid commercial hens, but they go on laying eggs for longer. Heritage chicken breeds will usually lay at peak production for around two to three years and will continue laying eggs – albeit less prolifically – for three to five years following this. Over time, the quantity of eggs will diminish until she stops laying altogether.
Laying Efficiency of a Nine-Year-Old Egg-Laying Hen Over the Years
|Hen Age||Egg-Laying Efficiency||Yearly Eggs|
|1 Year-Old||100% Efficiency||200 Eggs|
|2 Years Old||85% Efficiency||170 Eggs|
|3 Years Old||65% Efficiency||130 Eggs|
|4 Years Old||55% Efficiency||110 Eggs|
|5 Years Old||45% Efficiency||90 Eggs|
|6 Years Old||40% Efficiency||80 Eggs|
|7 Years Old||35% Efficiency||70 Eggs|
|8 Years Old||30% Efficiency||60 Eggs|
|9 Years Old||25% Efficiency||50 Eggs|
The chicken’s health, breed, diet, stress, lifestyle, and veterinary care can also impact how many eggs they lay – and for how long.
At What Age Do Hens Stop Laying Eggs?
Realistically, you could expect your backyard hens to lay eggs consistently until they are around four years old. After this age, egg production will start decreasing. But hens can easily continue sporadically producing eggs for several more years after reaching four years.
If you want to maintain a productive flock, we advise adding new point-of-lay pullets every two or three years. These will come into peak production as the older hens begin slowing down, ensuring you always have a consistent supply of eggs.
How Many Eggs Does a Chicken Lay In a Lifetime?
Although homestead chickens may not produce as many eggs per year as hybrid farm-reared hens, they can often lay more eggs over their lifetime.
Consider that hybrid hens kept in commercial chicken farms are usually removed from the system when they are 24 months of age. At this point, they will have laid around 500 eggs in their short lifetime. In contrast, backyard chickens remain part of a productive flock for four to six years and can lay over 600 eggs during their longer lives.
Thanks so much for reading our chicken lifespan guide.
It might sound ludicrous to some – but we never want our chickens to get sick and die! 🙁
But – if you get lucky and maintain your flock with excellent care, feed, and veterinary upkeep – your chickens can last six to eight years on average.
And – if you get extra lucky, your flock can have even higher average lifespans.
No matter what happens – treat your chickens well. And give them a good life!
What about you?
- Do you raise backyard chickens? If so – what breed?
- How long does your average backyard chicken live?
- Have you ever seen a chicken live more than ten years?
- What’s the oldest chicken you’ve ever seen?
We’re diehard chicken-raising enthusiasts and love brainstorming this kind of stuff. And we can’t wait to hear from you.
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!
(We wish your birds a long, healthy life!)