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5 year RI red hens.

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by zeiset777, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. zeiset777

    zeiset777 Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey, I'm hoping for some expert advise, or any random ideas would probably be helpful too.
    I live in central Pa and have 5 or 6 year old hens. ( I can't remember what year I got them) I've lost many of my hens to foxes, mostly the flighty ones that can't stay put in the fence. Last winter I lost one to what I thought was sickness. It was this time of year (COLD) and she got really slow and inactive for a few days, didn't move around much and several days later she died. She would've been 4 or 5 years old. I assumed she caught something and died. In the summer, I had the same thing happen one in the beginning of the summer, and one just recently at the end of summer, at that point it was 90 degrees and I too just figured some sort of sickness from the heat. Now I am wondering, because back in October, when we had a cold snap with some snow I noticed one was acting slow and inactive and she died a few days later. When the October hen died, my wife asked me if I noticed that Lumpy was acting the same as the others that have died in the past. I did. But she went from October to today doing normal chicken things with the rest of the flock, just at a much slower pace. She died quicker than the others. The others had a 24 hours or so stretch of time before they died where they wouldn't eat, scratch, drink or anything. I didn't notice that with the one that died today. I did notice the slowing down, not flying up on the roost with the rest at night (She just slept in a hay pile on the floor) but just last night she was out and about with the others. I found her this afternoon dead.

    Any ideas? 5 or 6 seems young for a chicken to die of old age. Maybe a virus is getting passed around in the hen house?
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    It could be so many things that people would just be guessing. I imagine that Pennsylvania has a poultry lab that you could send your bird to for a necropsy.
    That's the only way you'll know for sure and since you've lost more then one to apparently the same thing that will prevent losing more birds to something unknown.

    Quick death at that age could (I repeat could) be gout.
    If you feed layer feed to all your birds year after year, the excess calcium could do that and normally there are no symptoms till the last day or two. That's just one of the many things it could be but since they don't all die at once and it's quick, that's my thought.
     
    1 person likes this.
  3. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I would think that they did die of old age at 5 to 6 years old. That is exactly how my girls die when they die of old age. How long did you think that they would live?
    Mrs K
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2014
  4. zeiset777

    zeiset777 Out Of The Brooder

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    Chickens are to live till 10 or older correct? I would think 5 or 6 is like 40 in human years. I don't know how long I expected them to live. I just didn't think it would only be till 6.
     
  5. Ol Grey Mare

    Ol Grey Mare One egg shy of a full carton. ..... Premium Member

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    They can live that long, yes, but it depends on many factors. As noted above, things like diets that have excessive calcium even during times a bird is not actively laying (too young, too old, molting, winter lay-off, etc) can result in underlying health issues that can shorten a birds life expectancy - similar to how certain lifestyle choices can cause underlying health conditions that shorten a human's life expectancy.
     
  6. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Agrees with CC, only an autopsy will tell the true tale.
    Sometimes you can do it yourself and it's obvious, or you might need a lab.

    What breed of birds are they and where did you get them?
    Some production birds do not have a decade long life expectancy like a heritage breed might.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    I have never had a chicken live to 10 years old..... not even close. I do know that there are people on here that do, but really I think they have a bird or a flock that is the exception. Anything that lives more than 3 years is getting elderly, and 4 or 5 are old.

    Maybe it's our winters, our predators or our patience, but people out here don't get that long of lived birds, no where near 10 years.

    Mrs K
     
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Overrun With Chickens

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    Very few chickens are bred with longevity in mind; Hatcheries and many breeders use one year old birds as breeders, and don't even try to keep birds for more than one or two years as breeding stock. MANY hens die by the time they are three or four years of age, because selection is for maximum egg production for a short time, or show quality looks, not the ability to be healthy for the long haul. This is separate from environmental/ nutritional factors. I have had three hens live to be ten years old; two died this spring, and one bantam is still bouncing around now. I have also had a pullet die of massive uterine infection at five months of age; she never produced a single egg. I necropsy every bird here. Mary
     
  9. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    If they are hatchery RIR hens, count yourself lucky they lived that long. In my personal experience, most high production types from hatcheries like RIRs die of reproductive malfunctions and/or reproductive cancers. None of my RIR hatchery hens lived that long; well, one did live to be 5 yrs old but died of cancer (opened her up).

    My oldest living hen is currently almost 8 years old, but she is a Brahma, a hatchery Brahma, yes, but not a production type breed. Maybe those are not as "worn down" in their genetics as the most common feedstore finds. One breeder stock mixed breed hen, my RIR/Buff Orp cross, Meg, hatched same time as the Brahma died recently, didn't quite make her 8th hatch-day. She was not ill, it was obviously just her time. I have another who is 1/2 BR and 1/2 blue Ameraucana who is now starting her decline-she is not ill, she is just nearing her end at slightly less than 7 years old.

    All my originals are long gone, all hatchery hens-the longest living one lived to be 6 1/2, an Orp. They began dying from egg yolk peritonitis and/or internal laying just after they passed two years old, Wyandottes, Orps, Barred Rocks and RIRs.

    I now have some hens who are 6, 7 and 8 years old, however, only one of those came from a hatchery. The rest are made of stronger genetic stuff, most from breeders of quality stock, a couple of daughters of hatchery hens or other breeder quality hens. I found that in general, my hatchery stock is not as long lived as my good breeder stock, which includes blue and buff Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, Delawares and true Ameraucanas (not EEs, though one of my EEs is almost 7 yrs old and currently laying).

    I think it's very common to lose hens at 5-7 years old. Yes, they can live longer, depending on their genetics and their care and them dodging the disease bullet, but they rarely live to those super old ages we sometimes hear about. There was a hen on BYC who lived to be 17 years old, though, I remember, and I know I've heard of a few others, but not too many.
     
  10. Traphill

    Traphill Out Of The Brooder

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    All my Red Stars literally dropped dead all within 3 weeks of each other, they were just over 2 years old....I think that they are just worn out, not interested in that type of breed any longer ( high production) they were my first flock and I am into other dual purpose breeds since then. The oldest chickens I have right now is 4 years so I guess I will see how long they live.
     

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