Tips for helping chickens live a long, healthy life?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by KatieAnnFrench, May 7, 2019.

  1. KatieAnnFrench

    KatieAnnFrench In the Brooder

    Apr 5, 2019
    Hi everyone! I'm looking to see what your tips are for raising healthy chickens that live a long, happy life. I have a three year old hen, and 7 five week old chicks who I'm going to move into the outdoor coop soon. My other adult hen died a few weeks ago, from unknown causes. Her breed's lifespan is 2-4 years, so it could've been old age, but I'm still trying to figure it out.

    Anyway, are there any tips that you've found to help your chickens live long happy lives? I've heard of hens living to 10+ years! Thank you :)
  2. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Longevity is related to genetics and husbandry, and luck. We can provide a safe environment, good food and housing, and hope for the best.
    Very few breeders select for longevity, so that's the hardest to mange, IMO. I've heard the Cubalyas tend to live to great age, if you are interested. Sex-links and production reds tend to live short, being bred for maximum egg production for their first year only.
    Heritage breed types may do better, but again, most breeders keep breeding stock for one year only, so longevity isn't figured into selection at all.
    My oldest birds lived to be ten; two small Jersey Giants from MurrayMcMurray, and two home bred Belgian d'Uccles. Most birds don't make it that long, but some will live longer.
  3. Kuntry Klucker

    Kuntry Klucker

    Jun 9, 2010
    Tennesee Smoky Mts.
    Hi, getting a chicken to live a long life I think is a mix of many things. Some things you can control and some things you can't.

    I currently have a flock "according to chicken math" of about 50. Some of my oldest girls are 9 years old. They are Buff Orphingtons and part of my original flock I started almost 10 years ago. I currently have 5 remaining from that original starter order.

    I can say that one of the keys to a chicken living a healthy life is nutrition. I don't feed my girls many treats, doing so dilutes the nutrition that they need to be getting from their feed. A good chicken feed like Purina is a complete balanced scientifically engineered feed for poultry.

    Next, I would have to say a secure free range space. I free range my flock every day unless we are expecting bad weather. I have a large backyard that is fenced in with a 8ft wood privacy fence. I have had chickens for almost 10 years and have never lost a bird to a predator. I usually loose them to old age or illness. Here is a pic of my chicken yard.

    Backyard blooming 2.jpg
    Backyard Blooming 6.jpg

    Something else I do is put vitamins and electrolytes in their water daily. One or twice a week I will add some probiotics that you can find at a local feed store for poultry. This ensures that in addition to the feed they get a complete balanced diet every day.

    I also do not use any chemicals in my backyard, their free ranging space. For example, I have my gardens planted in my backyard but use nothing for the bugs on my plants. I leave that to the girls.

    Keeping on top to worming, mites, and lice is also a must. I don't worm my flock all the time only when they need it or I suspect worms are a problem.

    Make sure that they have a clean and dry place to call home. Keep on top of coop cleaning and make sure that in the winter or rainy seasons that their digs are clean and dry. This little stop goes a long way.

    I hope that this helps some. I consider my self very lucky to have 5 girls that are over 9 year old. From what I hear that is old for a chicken and an indication that I may be doing something right.

    Best of luck to you and your flock.
  4. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    Good for you! I could wish to do as well in the predator department though.
    Sequel likes this.
  5. onvirginiasoil

    onvirginiasoil Chirping

    Apr 11, 2015
  6. onvirginiasoil

    onvirginiasoil Chirping

    Apr 11, 2015
    Ten-plus? Yes, definitely. I had three in my flock who had done so up until today. For that matter, my rooster is ten years old, but he is a baby beside these hens. Two of my three old chickens are still here, but one was dead on the floor when I went out to open the henhouse this morning. And I came to this website because I am grieving hard.

    These three were the survivors from my first flock, and although all the deaths on my farm hit me hard, this one hit me especially hard, and so I was searching online to see how long chickens actually CAN live, and I was shocked by the answers I found. I'd suggest you not set your sights so low. Rosie was a very large, reserved Buff Orpington, and she was either 14 or 15 years old, depending on when her exact birthdate fell.

    A friend gave me her flock when she moved out of state because she knew they would be pets here. Wild predators got some of that flock years ago, but I still had these three. They don't lay anymore usually, though I did get an egg from Phyllis (an Ameraucana) yesterday, which greatly surprised me. But they have put in many years of service, and they're set for life: they certainly have better Social Security than I've got.

    I'm not sure I have much by way of advice to you, however. Do buy heritage breeds as they live longer. And do love them. I don't know that I've done anything fancy at all for my chickens. I feed them, I protect them, and I think they know I love them. I cannot pick up all my chickens and pet them, but the unwilling ones see me picking up those who are willing and pet them, and as a result I think all of them understand that they are in a loving environment. Never underestimate how much an animal is understanding; they are far and away more perceptive than most people think.

    There are no livestock vets who deal with chickens where I live. It's deeply rural, and if you ask a livestock vet in these parts what exactly the vaccination for the goats or sheep or cattle that he administers is guarding against, he'll have to look at the label to check. In rural areas, a lot of people make their living via animals, and people like me are a bit left out. However, I would recommend that anyone truly serious about longevity, and not just productivity (given that some of my girls don't have that anymore), educate themselves as much as possible. Read as much as you can and learn how to do as much as you can for your animals on your own. Consult with the universities that are tied to your local extension office. These people, highly trained academics, WILL talk to you, and believe me, they know a heck of a lot more than your local vet likely knows. Then do whatever you can.

    I am of course speaking from the perspective of a huge animal lover, and so productivity is a bit low on my list of priorities. Every animal on my farm has a function (the goats clean up the land, which anyone in a mountainous area needs; the dogs protect the goats; the guineas eat ticks; and the cats amuse me (a duty they share with all the other animals on this farm, actually). But if at all possible my animals die of natural causes, and they die only after I have done everything I know to do to save them. And if they live to old-old age, hey, they get an easy life indeed.

    If you have stereotypical ideas of farmers, I ask that you think of me. Farmers are as different among themselves as you are from earlier versions of yourself in your own life.

    I'm old myself now, and I'm not real sure that any of us is as different from each other as we are from our own earlier versions.
    ValerieJ, Dmontgomery, CCUK and 11 others like this.
  7. harmonyp

    harmonyp Songster

    May 25, 2013
    N. California
    Had to revive this thread, as I love onvirginsoil's post and wanted to give the opportunity for others to read it!
    ValerieJ, CCUK, MaryJanet and 6 others like this.
  8. texsuze

    texsuze Songster

    Dec 17, 2012
    Texas Hill Country
    Thanks for reviving the post; very sound observations from a caring chicken-lover. BTW, my black australorp, Jolene, turned 9 years young this month. I have two Dominiques who'll be 5 in July, and an OE who will be 6 in September.
  9. Roo5

    Roo5 Songster

    Feb 17, 2019
    Honestly free ranging can be a good and bad thing.Many wild animals flood their yards or wild birds who carry diseases come through and then our birds contract due to contact with disease while being free ranged,
    as well as running into parasites and predator issues.but,they get a better diet when free range,I love free ranging birds but don’t know if I’m doing it this time around.
    Eggscaping likes this.
  10. Shadrach

    Shadrach Roosterist

    Jul 31, 2018
    Catalonia, Spain
    My Coop
    Find a breeder who can show you the parents of the chicks/eggs you buy and has a recorded history of the blood line and documentation of any illnesses/vaccinations.
    An adequate level of care can go a long way in promoting longevity but genetics and the correct care when hatching and the subsequent early days are more important.
    Roo5 and PennysHennys like this.

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