How to Handle the Ageing Process of Chickens

By Mountain Peeps · Aug 4, 2015 · Updated Aug 4, 2015 · ·
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  1. Mountain Peeps
    How to Handle the Ageing Process of Chickens

    Like any living creature, chickens grow old. They start out as tiny embryos inside an egg and end up as large, clucking birds full of life. Chickens have a life expectancy with 5-8 years being the average. However, some chickens have been known to live past 10 or even 15 years! Throughout these years, chickens will begin to slow down. In this article, you will learn about the natural declining process of a chicken’s life.

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    Deciding what to do With Hens that Quit Laying
    Hens begin laying eggs when they are anywhere from 18-30 weeks. Depending on the breed, their egg laying will start declining around 2-4 years. Sometimes hens eventually stop laying completely while others lay occasionally throughout their entire lives. Some chicken owners like to retire their old hens and start over with new chickens every 2 years or so. Other people keep them until the hens grow old and pass. Hens are wonderful to raise since they lay eggs and then once they quit, they can be put in the stew pot for dinner. But, if you’re anything like me, your hens are pets and the last thing you want to do is cook them for supper! If this is your case and you still want some fresh eggs, you’ll need to add to your flock. So, make sure you build your coop and run big enough to contain more chickens in your future. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until your current hens live out their lives in order to get new birds.

    My family is always telling me that we should eat our flock and buy new ones who will lay. But, I love my hens too much to kill them and I will keep them until their time is up. Three of them are 4 years old now and lay only on occasion. I don’t have as many eggs to sell or eat as I used to, but I would much rather have their personalities than their eggs!

    Enjoying Your Flock in Their Old Age
    While there are many disadvantages to an aging group of chickens, there are also some wonderful advantages. They won’t be as lively which means they might enjoy simply resting on your lap for longer periods of time than they used to. Older hens have been known to “teach” young pullets the ropes of laying. My grandma once had an old hen that literally showed the pullets how to arrange the nest bedding and get comfortable inside. Then once the pullets started laying, she would sometimes stand outside the nest, talking to them while they laid!

    And of course older chickens will still enjoy ranging in the yard, eating treats and spending time with you as well as each other. Make sure to watch their health as they continue to age.

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    Why Old Chickens Generally Die
    Predators are the biggest cause of chicken deaths, no matter what their age. Sickness and diseases are other big problems that will often take a chicken’s life. Marek’s is a very common disease that many chickens can get, especially those who are old and have weaker immune systems. Chickens can also die from accidents such as falling off something, getting stuck or caught in something or from problems like frostbite or heat stroke. Although it’s impossible to prevent ALL issues that chickens can have, try your best to keep their immune systems strong. Make sure your coop is sturdy and built to keep out your area’s predators and weather extremes. It might be a good idea to vaccinate your chicks when they are young to help prevent diseases such as Marek’s. Chickens also can die simply from old age. Their bodies eventually shut down no matter how safe and healthy they are.

    Losing a Special Chicken
    The loss of a chicken is just as hard as the loss of any other beloved pet. We grieve for them and never forget them. Chickens can become part of the family and when they pass, everyone will miss them. The best thing you can do for yourself during this time, is bury the body in a special place outside. Also, flood yourself with the happy memories you had with them. Nothing lasts forever and we should cherish the time we have with our animals, just as we should with one another.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. MykaMom
    "Nice! Glad to know I'm not alone with my old hens!"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed May 18, 2019 at 2:20 PM
    Well written article, thanks!

    Our old hens are special, having survived predator attacks, weather events, injury and illness. She should be allowed to live her life out comfortably. She can contribute to the younger flock's development plus still entertain with her antics. My oldest hen is 9 now!

    I'd like to know more of what to look out for in old age. So far, only thing I've noticed besides not laying is she is a little slower than she used to be. You dont look at her and think, wow, you're old!

    I'd like to know more about old age in poultry. Are there age signs we can see? Comb, feather, leg/foot changes? Do they pass without warning or is it a visible process?

    For fun, I've added a picture of my 9 year old black laced silver wyandotte, Little Sis.

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  2. rockranchchickens
    "Thank you for a wonderful article."
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed May 10, 2019
    The neighbors across the street gave us 21 2 year chickens--20 hens and 1 roost. Various breeds, but 5 appeared to be Americanas, including the rooster. One hen, my favorite, Dusty, was killed by a raccoon at 6 years of age. The rest lived on, and started passing away at around 10 years old. 3 hens lived to be 12. Randy the rooster lived to be 15 when a mink got him. I still miss them all.
    MykaMom likes this.
  3. Cadence A Waller
    "Great Article!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Apr 20, 2019
    My chickens are pets too! I thought that this was a very sweet article.
    MykaMom likes this.

Comments

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  1. joselleceline
    Was hoping for some actual advice. I have a 7 year old Silkie, the last of my city-flock. She's not interested in food so much anymore.
  2. Debby in france
    Last year I lost my Bluey. She was a Sussex, loved spaghetti and strokes under her chin.
    One day one of her legs stopped working and she couldn’t get up. I did my best, daily massages (which she enjoyed), lots of protein and calcium in the way of dried mealworm (which she enjoyed even more) and, of course, spaghetti. She was 9 years old.
    Eventually I realised she had to go to the vet for the long sleep. My vet is very kind and gentle and realises I am an animal nut with two dogs, three cats and my girls. We discussed and agreed that any treatment would be unproductive and she was put to sleep in my arms. I cried.
    I have to say here that I live in sw France. A farming community. Chickens are for food not for pets. My French neighbours think I am funny as I name my girls and love them.
    RIP Bluey
      ArianDolympia likes this.
  3. Chick Wrangler
    Thanks for your beautiful article! Lost two of my older "girls" recently. Cried like a baby both times!
  4. gladimsaved
    Four and a half years ago, if anyone would have told me that I'd be raising baby chicks and loving them....I would have laughed!! Well....we have four chicks from our original group that are now 4 yrs old!! I love each one of them!!!!! I don't care if they ever lay eggs again or not!!!!! They are here to stay and be loved by me!!! We had one get broody last year, and she gave us 5 more chicks! One rooster we had to dispose of...and truly, I'm not attached to them so much at all. They don't have names...they're just 'the babies.' Our first four have names and places etched in my heart!!!

    So......KEEP THOSE OLDER CHICKIES!!!!!! :) God gave them to us, and I choose to love them no matter what!!!!!!!!!! :)
      Rocky-Acres likes this.
  5. silverback
    Thank you for this article. I recently lost our dear Floppy at 8 years old. She started slowing down and over several weeks and after much research I think she had kidney or liver failure or possibly cancer. She just got slower and droopier (along with some other specific symptoms) but still kept her top place in the pecking order until the end when she died peacefully in her sleep. Her "sister" - also 8 years old is the picture of health and is laying 4-5 eggs a week. My 4 and 5 year old hens mostly lay 3 days in a row, take a day off and start again. I call them all champions - except one who is just not into laying - never has, never will, but she is cute anyway. So thanks again for reaffirming the delight in keeping older hens and dealing with the sadness of their demise.
  6. nancypo
    Yes and we just set our hens age and keep them. FYI you may want to use spell check before you publish an article since aging does not have an E in it
  7. GamalZin
    I summarized
  8. Spiritsmeadow
    This is a very true and touching article. I have held almost all of my hens as they passed, several from injuries from foxes (while my Great Pyrenees killed the fox), finding them with water belly beyond hope, or finding them with that trance-like look in their eyes, as if they were seeing the sacred. I agree...make your coop large enough to house your flock and new additions. I build a nursery on mine, with a door covered in chicken wire so the old hens can interact with the new babies. My dear hen Emma used to sit in my lap and pull yarn for me while I was knitting, loved potato chips, and loved the snow. You love them, you never forget them, and then there are the babies who heal you heart. Amen.
      Bosky02 and BarredRockMom like this.
  9. 2hnznroo
    Thank you for this article. We lost our 3 year old Speckled Sussex yesterday to water belly. This is our first loss of our pet. Her friend, the australorp is very sad today.
  10. microchick
    Nicely and sensitively written. Thank you!
  11. achiekitty
    Thank you. We’re relatively new to chicken keeping. Two of our girls, Brownie and Grey are almost 3 years old and we’ve had them since they were a month old. Then a year later, we got Blondie/Goldie and she was already 4. She’s now going on 6 and seems to be slowing down. She sits a lot. Yesterday, she just sat contentedly right outside the steps to our bedroom. She also hasn’t laid her green eggs since she started molting last fall.

    And we don’t care if she never lays again. Anyway, she’s still a contributing member of the flock with her scratching, bug-eating and pooping free fertilizer.
    She’s still entertaining and provides extra drama to our little flock of three.
  12. Rajandura
    Thank you for sharing, im glad to see im not crazy for thinking of my hens as pets and keeping them around just for personality as they age. I get why the commercial folks do what they do... and id like to think that i can get a batch of broilers one day to raise just for meat birds without becoming attached to any of them, but... maybe ill just keep getting layers and build some retirement coops... :)
  13. sunflour
    Well done, enjoyed reading your article.
  14. chick-adee
  15. Yorkshire Coop
    Lovely article Sarah, well done!!
  16. N F C
    Wonderful article Sarah, I have to agree with TwoCrows...one of your best yet!
  17. TwoCrows
    Very nice article Sarah...Very well done. One of your best yet!! :)
  18. Americano Blue
    Nice job Sarah! It's sad that chickens have such a short life span... :(
      BarredRockMom likes this.
  19. dan26552
    Very good, I like it

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