Does it matter where I get my chickens from as far as life expectency?

alicia-TX

Chirping
Jun 1, 2020
53
57
66
SE Texas
I am not sure if this is the best section for this thread so let me know if I should move it.

Does it matter where I get my chicks from if I want them to live longer? Seems like it should but where is the best place to get chicks from so they around much longer than what I seem to have.

Let me explain. I have 8 chickens I purchased from a local, reputable breeder. I have a Welsummer who is 2.5 years old and apparently has liver cancer. She won't be around much longer. I have a Black Star hybrid who is also 2.5 years old and stopped laying at the end of last year but does not appear to have health issues. Maybe they are not showing up yet. I keep my chickens in a secure coop at night, they have a secure run when I'm not home and an electric fence when I am home. They are pets. I am pretty diligent about watching them when they free range because we have fox and hawks. I see posts about people with chickens that died at 9 years old. I am not sure mine will live that long just due to the health issues that have started in those two at 2.5 years old.

Do I need to get my chicks somewhere else? Or is this just luck of the draw?
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,243
15,877
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
The answer is "maybe". But probably not as much as breed does.

Black Sex Links, like Red Sex Links, are hybrid birds produced for one reason - early and often egg production. It is expected/anticipated that they will be "rotated out" (read "CULLED") of the flock on a fairly regular basis. Good thing, because the various sex link prolific egg layers are famed for reproductive problems - usually beginning around year three, sometimes earlier, rarely later. "Comets" are among the worst, by reputation, and RSL variety. In theory, BSL should be slightly more hardy, because they tend to be bigger birds and not quite as freqquent layers - but not a lot more hearty.

Anytime there are liver issues, I'd mentally review past infections and consider feed practices. A number of parasites are hard on the liver (bright green fecals being particularly symptomatic of some), while fatty liver disease and related maladies usually have a substantial feed component. Same with kidney issues.

As a rule of thumb, probably safe to assume that the typical hatchery stock has no significant focus on longevity - that's not where the money is - so I'd not expect much there. OTOH, they tend to have large flocks of popular birds, so at least there's a (theoretically) diverse gene pool - for good or ill. Breeders run the gamut - the birds they sell may come from a very restricted genetic line (again, for good or ill), they may be preeding with no focus at all. They might be breeding for a particular color and crisp pattern, for increased egg size or frequency, to put meat back onto the bones, or (and less likely) for vigor. You are rolling your dice.

There aren't any guarantees. Best you can do is eliminate the breeds which are famously short lived (CX, RSL, BSL, etc), then research breeders with birds well suited to your situation.
 

alicia-TX

Chirping
Jun 1, 2020
53
57
66
SE Texas
I appreciate the responses.

I was going to try Meyer for my next birds to see how that goes. Unless there is another suggestion here.

I have a neighbor who has lots of chickens and gets them from Tractor Supply or feed stores. I asked her about her history with illness. She said she was lucky she hadn't had issues. Later I found out that it was more like her flocks are wiped out by stray dogs, hawks etc so they aren't living long enough to have health issues. It is a completely different situation than mine.

@U-stormcrow is there a relationship between lver cancer and feed practices? I took her to an avian vet and they ruled out everything except hepatitis and liver cancer. She has been on meds with no change so hepatitis was ruled out. The vet is 90% sure it is liver cancer now. I am sure it is because nothing else is helping.

I appreciate the responses.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,243
15,877
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
I appreciate the responses.

I was going to try Meyer for my next birds to see how that goes. Unless there is another suggestion here.

I have a neighbor who has lots of chickens and gets them from Tractor Supply or feed stores. I asked her about her history with illness. She said she was lucky she hadn't had issues. Later I found out that it was more like her flocks are wiped out by stray dogs, hawks etc so they aren't living long enough to have health issues. It is a completely different situation than mine.

@U-stormcrow is there a relationship between lver cancer and feed practices? I took her to an avian vet and they ruled out everything except hepatitis and liver cancer. She has been on meds with no change so hepatitis was ruled out. The vet is 90% sure it is liver cancer now. I am sure it is because nothing else is helping.

I appreciate the responses.
Off the top of my head, I can't recall reading anything on liver cancer and avians. MOST of the studies are done with commercial breeding practices in mind, so most of the studies are not focused on longevity, they only touch on it incidentally, such as the way that studying calcium needs for layers revealed calcium toxicity in hatchlings, pre-adolescents, and fast growth meaties of both genders. I'll look, but I don't expect to quickly find.
 

U_Stormcrow

Free Ranging
Jun 7, 2020
5,243
15,877
626
North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
Follow up - closest I've found is the use of selenium to counteract arsenic in the diets of chickens (which can induce liver lesions), and a study which found that people who work closely with poultry - particularly those working with slaughtered poultry - have higher incidences of liver cancer, but the "why" is not specifically tested. Sorry. Oh and a bunch of studies on the use of selenium to counteract the effects of Aflatoxins.
 
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Coolbreeze89

Songster
Apr 7, 2018
99
128
113
Central Texas
When I started with chickens, I bought some from Craigslist, some from tractor supply. I had several just “drop dead” the first year -all were craigslist birds (though different sources). This summer I bought chicks from Ideal Poultry (based in central Texas). I am very pleased with how healthy they all seem - really vigorous and growing well. No deaths/Illnesses. I can’t speak to longevity, but they’re starting off far more vigorous.

I do agree with the earlier post: I’d avoid the crosses designed for eggs. More the “heritage” route is likely better.
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
24,378
42,897
1,156
southern Michigan
Very few breeders, hatcheries included, select for longevity. it's most economical to breed chickens at one year of age, rarely up to eighteen months, or two years. So, this practice does nothing to select for birds who can do well past three! And this is irrelevant to having birds with poor diets, Marek's disease, or parasites.
I talked to a Cubalaya breeder a few years ago who had birds living into their teens, and don't remember if they were standards or bantams.
Our oldest birds have been two very small Jersey Giant hens who died at age ten, and a Belgian d'Uccle hen also aged ten.
Mary
 

Folly's place

Enabler
10 Years
Sep 13, 2011
24,378
42,897
1,156
southern Michigan
I value broody hens, and birds who can continue laying eggs as they get older. Every bird here doesn't live to get old, some move elsewhere, most cockerels of course don't stay, and we've had a couple of bad episodes of predation.
Favorites do stay as long as possible though!
And I necropsy every bird who dies of something other than predation, so I usually know what the cause of death actually was.
Mary
 
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