How to Handle the Aging 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.
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.
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.