Lifespan of hens

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
11 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,276
12,522
707
Southeast Louisiana
For laying hens there are two kinds of hybrids we typically get from hatcheries in the USA. One is the commercial hybrids, those specifically bred to produce a lot of Grade A Large eggs with a good feed to egg conversion ratio. These hens are generally small bodied so they don't need to use as much food to maintain a larger body. These are not bred for longevity. They typically lay very well for two seasons but after the second laying season their egg production drops off enough that it is more economical to get a new batch of pullets than feed them through another molt.

These commercial hybrids are fine tuned to lay a lot of fairly large eggs if fed and managed a certain way. They are typically fed around a 16% protein feed, any more and the eggs get even bigger. They are prone to health problems anyway since they are so fine tuned but the larger than normal eggs can lead to even more health problems like prolapse, egg bound, and internal laying. It's sort of like the Cornish X meat birds that are so fine tuned to put on weight that they often develop health problems as they age. The hybrid layers are also specialists.

The other type of hybrid are crosses of dual purpose birds. To make a black sex link they often use a RIR or New Hampshire rooster over a Barred Rock hen. To make a red sex link they often use the same roosters over White Rock, Delaware, Rhode Island White, or Silver Laced Wyandotte hens. I'm sure there are other combinations used. These hybrids inherit the traits of their parents, will lay like their parents, and are just not as fine tuned as the commercial hybrids. These dual purpose hybrids are not as susceptible to prolapse, egg bound, or internal laying as their commercial cousin and tend to live longer.

Some of the names used to market these hybrids are marketing names, they don't tell me which type of hybrid they are. If you know which hatchery they came from and tell us we can probably figure it out. They might actually tell you if you go to their website but the expected weight of the adults is a huge clue.
 

adstowe

Songster
Aug 8, 2016
346
385
141
Colorado
A hybrid is essentially a mix of two (or more breeds). There are farms all across the country with "hybrid" chickens who have never even seen a coop. As ridgerunner said though, there are some birds bred to be disposable. They lay like crazy for a couple of years and then are expected to be replaced. A far different animal. I think in general hatcheries push towards hens that lay more. "People want eggs. If ours lay more...". I would expect your eggs to start declining as they are 3. That's not a hybrid thing. That's just the way it goes. It's also winter. That's not going to help any with egg production. As far as the random death? I've had it happen. My Buff orpington roo was found dead on the floor one morning. No apparent reason why. No trauma. Young and appeared healthy. I'd say get some more chicks this spring. If hybrids scare you then pick something else. Honestly I would anyway. There are so many awesome chicken breeds out there. I can't picture not wanting to try out some new ones.
 

adstowe

Songster
Aug 8, 2016
346
385
141
Colorado
I've never looked into their likelihood of prolapse or binding, but my sole white leghorn lays like crazy and the white eggs really add some contrast to the brown in my cartons. Actually, since my older girls decided to stop laying and molt, with the 4 brown egg laying pullets I have I get too much white from her. It's throwing off my appearance! I plan on losing a few of my less desirable birds next summer and replacing them with spring chicks. One of which will be another white leghorn.
 

Chullicken

Crowing
Premium member
Apr 10, 2016
771
2,446
282
Dorchester, NH
When I got back into keeping chickens I was so excited I just took home a bunch of Red Sex Links. At 2.5 years of age now, I have four left and I feel it will sadly be three soon. Nothing but issues with them. My heritage breed, however, is a trooper, she doesn't lay as well anymore but never has any laying or health issues.
 

chicknmania

Crowing
13 Years
Jan 26, 2007
5,598
819
382
central Ohio
Hybrids sometimes dont live as long but on the other hand we had a golden comet 6 years old and still going strong..she was killed by a predator
I would suggest to the OP that if you havent dewormed your flock it would be a good idea to do that. Average life span of our birds regardless of breed as been 6 or 7 years with some living to 8 to 10 years.
 

Biddybot

Chirping
Aug 4, 2018
151
302
94
HRM, Nova Scotia, Canada
Laying hens intended for commercial egg farms for the most part are not 'designed' to last past eighteen months in my area. They're meant to start laying at 15 weeks of age, towards fall, and then lay continuously throughout the following winter and summer, at which point their egg production starts to finally fall (anything less than 5 eggs a week is non-profitable) and they're typically culled and slaughtered en masse for meat and replaced with a fresh flock of ready-to-lay pullets. Some small commercial farms will first list the 'spent' hens as available for sale for a few weeks before they cull them and this is when you can pick up some decent proven layers for a very modest price...I paid a dollar for the one I bought years ago and you can still get them for as low as a buck fifty even now. Birds like this will PROBABLY not last much beyond three years or so--I'm not expecting my own seven 'brown-egg layers' to do so--but sometimes they surprise you. They're never supposed to go broody either, but one of mine did. So if your commercially bred hens are suddenly dropping dead at what seems like an early age, please don't blame yourself because it very likely has nothing to do with the way you're caring for them. It's just the way they're made...a short life spent pumping out phenomenal numbers of eggs or the chicken equivalent of living fast and leaving behind a beautiful (tasty) corpse.

The heritage breeds on the other hand...well-bred standards usually manage to live a good 8 to 12 years and the odd one can live on into its teens...one of my white-crested black Polish hens made it to 16 and still laid a dozen or so eggs her last spring. Bantams I never had as much luck with--5 to 7 years seemed to be their average life span in my experience--but I suspect that there are lines that could live longer.

Basically, any chicken that makes it to the age of 8 is an old chicken IMO and any time it has after that is a bonus. Enjoy them however long you have them! It's very hard to determine beforehand how long any chicken you ever obtain will or should live because it's a rare fancier who'll let their own birds live on until they drop of old age and that's really the only way to determine the average lifespans of the various breeds and strains...you just let them carry on until they're gone or ready to go and note how old they were when they did so.
 

SAMnELLA

Songster
11 Years
Oct 19, 2008
211
98
202
North Florida
I have an old Dominique hen I've had now for about 5 years and she never did lay hardly any eggs. I think the guy that sold her to me lied about her age. Live and Learn. But I love that hen, she is adorable and I hope she lives a long time. She's like the "mother-hen" to all the others. My other favorite is a Comet hen that I bought at a feed store last spring. She lays beautiful dark brown eggs every day and is so funny. She's more like dog the way she follows us around and gets into everything LOL.
 

Henrik Petersson

Crowing
11 Years
Jan 9, 2009
646
1,050
312
Karlskrona, Sweden
They get as old as dogs.

The ones with shitty genes die at 2-5 years of age. A normal one get's 10-isch. And then we have the Methuselahs who live well into their late teens.

This hen is called Mrs. Brown and is owned by Gunilla Karlsson in Sweden. As of early this year, she is 18 years old.

Edit: I got curious and asked Gunilla just now; apparantly Mrs. Brown passed away att the vet's office this July.
 
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