Lifespan of hens

Morrigan

Free Ranging
6 Years
Apr 9, 2014
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N. California
This has been an interesting discussion.

One of the biggest limitations on a chicken lifespan for me as been predator losses, as I've got a huge predator load where I live. But, I have a speckled sussex who is 5 1/2 years old, and going strong. She gave me 4-5 eggs/week from January to September and pretty much rules the roost. Although her shells get a bit thin late in the season, her yolks are gorgeous. She is one of my most active foragers, and she doesn't seem elderly at all to me. Even her feet look young. I'm hoping my new cockerel can get the job done with her this spring, as I'd love to hatch out more of her eggs and keep her genetics going.
 

micstrachan

Free Ranging
Premium member
Apr 10, 2016
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Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Great thread! I am excited and hopeful my young flock might live a long time. I did have one hatchery New Hampshire Red come down with EYP very rapidly at just one tender year old. My oldest girls will be three in February. Of the three, the Black Australorp is a laying machine! She’s having her first molt and is laying right through it. I do worry she’ll burn herself out. My high production girl (Brown Leghorn) thankfully molts in two stages each year, so she gets a nice long break from laying. I hope that helps her live longer. My Barred Plymouth Rock (heritage breed, I think?) seems like a robust hen, but is not a super strong layer. I’m fine with that, as my birds are pets and I’m hoping for longevity.
 
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centrarchid

Free Ranging
10 Years
Sep 19, 2009
24,286
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Holts Summit, Missouri
Concerns about hen longevity can go beyond table egg and meat production. Some hens I raise are valued based in quality of offspring they produce. The offspring need to be 2 to 3 years of age to be assessed. The hens are at least one year old before placed into breeding pens to produce those offspring. That means the select hens are close to 5 years old by the time they are evaluated. Then you try to squeeze as many quality offspring as you can from the best hens. The usual practice is to have the select hens produce one to two clutches as early as possible each year with latest hatch by end of May. The hens incubate and rear each batch. Those dates should allow sufficient time for hens to recoup from stresses of breeding and get in a quality molt. It is easy for the average age at retirement to approach 10 years with a good portion going beyond that. What is evident is a decline in eggs production / clutch size and with the really old hens you will start to see a decline in hatch rate as well. These two factors mean the chick number in broods also drops. We have been known to keep old hens to the point where they give only one chick per year which was more for personal interest than the original purpose of keeping older hens. Sex ratio may be impacted in chicks produced by the really old gals.


Seasonally, feed quantity and quality is varied. Very seldom is free-choice / all you can eat approach used except as each clutch is produced. When producing clutches to be incubated, I am not certain the hens even need supplemental calcium as they can store most of what is needed in their bones. Likely exception of that is with younger hens / pullets that produce markedly larger clutches before setting. To be safe, supplemental calcium is supplied on the side.


My American Dominiques which produce far more eggs that are largely run through an incubator are managed in a more typical manner were a complete diet is supplemented with calcium actually in the formulation. I am struggling to get exceptional American Dominique hens to live past six years as they develop weight issues and generally loose physical abilities. Genetics plays a role to be sure.
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
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There is a view that a human life can be measured by the number of breathes taken during a lifetime.

Hens might be governed by the number of eggs they lay in a lifetime if one is philosophically inclined.

Both human and hen are biological machines and like all machines, wear out.
The breeding of high egg production hens has considerably shortened their lifespan. You can have all the eggs a hen is capable of laying in three or four years, or you can have fewer eggs over a longer period of time. Egg laying capacity is quite well researched and my choice would be to have fewer eggs and longer living hens.
The eldest here is I think 10 now. She’s a bantam, a mother 3 times over and the leader of her flock. It is apparent she is getting older but she laid about 60 eggs this year. I hope to watch her get old, as I do with all the chickens here. She’s done her bit. Laid more than enough eggs to pay for her keep if that’s important and kept her flock together despite losing her rooster a year ago. She’s hatched and integrated 5 daughters and 4 sons.
The next eldest is 9; she’s a French Maran. She laid 16 eggs this year and is also the leader of her flock. She has a much younger rooster who is still learning the ropes from her half sister who is 7 years old.

My hope is I shall see them all die of old age.
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
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And what about Roosters I've Two Pet Rooster me and family love them like hell ..they are leghorn but one looks cross due to his rare type of comb

What is maximum leghorn lifespan (Rooster)


View attachment 1593192
I don’t see why your roosters shouldn’t live a long life @Saaniya.
You keep yours in a protected environment and as long as the stress levels are low and the diet suitable I can’t see why they shouldn’t live as long as a hen of the same species.
I’ve had problems getting roosters into old age; the eldest was 7 when he died of what looked like a heart attack last year.
Of course, when free ranging where there are predators, proportionally here at least more roosters die than hens. This is because they are often the last to seek cover in the event of a predator attack.
Another factor that I believe is shortening the roosters life here has been diet. I’m trying to sort this out, but I’m working on very little evidence.
It’s not only what the roosters eat, it’s how they eat. They don’t eat the same way as the hens when free ranging. The hens tend to snack most of the day circumstances permitting, while the roosters, while the hens are laying, give what they find to their hens and feed load morning and night.
If there are problems with the feed, the rooster gets overdosed and this is what I believe is causing them to die early.
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
18,141
24,437
906
southern Michigan
Every aspect mentioned plays a role in longevity, and when looking at just three of the factors, it's easy to see where issues could originate;
Historical selection based on predation, not just in the USA, but back in SE Asia and their jungle fowl ancestors. How many individuals actually can live to old age under wild conditions???
Breeding practices here, mostly using birds for only one or maybe two years as breeding stock. Very few breeders select for longevity!
Selecting for high production, either of eggs or meat, again, disregarding the possible contributions of older birds who prosper with these genetics.
Mary
 

Saaniya

Crowing
Aug 31, 2017
2,178
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New Delhi India
I don’t see why your roosters shouldn’t live a long life @Saaniya.
You keep yours in a protected environment and as long as the stress levels are low and the diet suitable I can’t see why they shouldn’t live as long as a hen of the same species.
I’ve had problems getting roosters into old age; the eldest was 7 when he died of what looked like a heart attack last year.
Of course, when free ranging where there are predators, proportionally here at least more roosters die than hens. This is because they are often the last to seek cover in the event of a predator attack.
Another factor that I believe is shortening the roosters life here has been diet. I’m trying to sort this out, but I’m working on very little evidence.
It’s not only what the roosters eat, it’s how they eat. They don’t eat the same way as the hens when free ranging. The hens tend to snack most of the day circumstances permitting, while the roosters, while the hens are laying, give what they find to their hens and feed load morning and night.
If there are problems with the feed, the rooster gets overdosed and this is what I believe is causing them to die early.




Oh that's so informative seriously agree with your points
 

Folly's place

Crossing the Road
8 Years
Sep 13, 2011
18,141
24,437
906
southern Michigan
Looking at rooster longevity; in 'natural' flocks, the old guy gets supplanted by a young upstart, as the older bird looses strength and stamina, for whatever reason. Or he dies by predation. It pays to be both smart and lucky!
Mary
 
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