How long do chickens live? Chickens are intelligent and compassionate birds. They like spending their days foraging for insects and seeds in the grass, taking dust baths to keep clean, and building and protecting nests when they become parents. However, the majority of chickens do not have the opportunity to live a normal and happy existence. Injury, disease, and killing cut short the natural lifespans of the majority of these beautiful animals.
Only a few types of chickens are widely seen in ads, on supermarket packaging, or at petting farms. White birds with red combs and wattles, brown-feathered birds with white speckles, or brown roosters with long, iridescent green tails are all possibilities. The truth is that there are hundreds of different chicken breeds around the world—so many that no one knows how many there are!
It’s tough to say how long hens live on average because of their enormous variation. Most wild chicken breeds have a lifespan of three to seven years, and occasionally even longer. Despite the difficulties of surviving in the wild, like as the threat of predators, these creatures live longer than the majority of hens around the world. Furthermore, these fortunate folks are able to travel freely in nature, spend time with their relatives and friends, and raise their own children.
This life of liberty is in stark contrast to that of the majority of chickens.
how long do chickens live for
Some individuals raise small flocks of hens in their backyards to consume the eggs they produce. Typically, these flocks are made up solely of layer hens—the female birds that lay the eggs—along with a rooster or two to keep the number in check. Chickens are maintained in coops or cages that prevent them from ever leaving their confinement in the backyard. This is a long way from freedom, but it’s still a lot better than the lives of many other chickens, as we’ll see shortly.
Humans protect chickens in backyard flocks from predators, ensure they have enough food, and shelter them from inclement weather. Chickens’ lives can be extended as a result of this, with many living for a decade or more.
It may surprise you to learn that every year, billions of chickens live and die in the United States alone. Almost none of them are free-range, and only a small number of them are kept in backyard flocks. The great majority are kept on factory farms, which are intense agriculture operations where they are produced and butchered for eggs or meat.
Humans are, without a doubt, the top one cause of death for hens in the United States.
how long do chickens live in captivity
How long do chickens live? Let’s look at the life of these unfortunate birds who suffer at the hands of corporate power and profit-driven aspirations, since most hens in the United States live on large-scale factory farms.
Chickens are either reared for meat or for eggs. The purpose for which they are raised has an impact on how long they live, yet both egg-laying hens and broiler chickens reared for meat have unnaturally short lifespans. Before being slaughtered, layer hens (those bred and driven to lay enormous volumes of eggs) live for roughly 18 to 24 months. Broiler chickens, or hens reared for meat, live for around 47 days before being slaughtered.
A factory-farmed chicken starts its life in a sterile hatchery, where thousands of other chicks emerge from their eggs. Many of these chicks will go on to have a short, unhappy life—but for others of them, life is going to come to an abrupt, terrifying conclusion even sooner.
Because both sexes of broiler chicks are used to manufacture breasts, nuggets, and a variety of other chicken products consumed by Americans, both genders will live to be the same age.
When it comes to egg production, however, there is a significant disparity in the longevity of male and female chicks. Males are regarded completely useless by this ruthless enterprise since they are unable to produce eggs.
Male chicks are pushed down a conveyor belt to a macerating machine shortly after they hatch, frequently when they are just a few hours old. These women have been ground to a pulp. Some facilities would gas the chicks to death, while others will force them into big plastic bags where they will be crushed or choked to death.
Male chicks on egg factory farms have only a few brief, terrible hours of existence.
Those chicks who make it past the hatchery will have a miserable life ahead of them. Layer hens are crammed into battery cages so small on many commercial egg farms that they are unable to fully stretch out their wings for the duration of their lives. These chickens are unable to follow any of their normal impulses, which means they will never be able to dig, peck at the ground, perch, or build nests.
The situation isn’t much better in broiler barns. These congested confines hinder birds from obtaining enough exercise, which can lead to catastrophic muscle and bone disorders. Chickens are also made to dwell on the ground, which is coated in their own waste. The risks of bacteria development as well as ammonia from feces, which can cause respiratory disorders, can be lethal to birds in these unclean conditions.
On both egg and meat factory farms, breed plays a significant impact in reducing the longevity of chickens.
Broiler chicks have been bred to grow much faster than they would otherwise. To create more meat to sell, their bodies have been driven to grow far more muscle than nature intended. These hens, known as “fast growth” breeds, are so prone to skeletal and other health problems that even if they weren’t butchered at around six weeks of age, they would die soon.
Layer hens, on the other hand, are bred to lay unusually large numbers of eggs—about one per day—as opposed to the twelve or so per year that wild chickens may lay. This strain on hens’ bodies can result in excruciatingly painful illnesses such as prolapsed organs, calcium deficiency, which can lead to broken bones, and ovarian cancer.
Chickens in the wild come into contact with diseases that can make them sick on a daily basis. However, the conditions on factory farms are so bad that disease is almost inevitable. As a result, chicken farms frequently administer antibiotics to hens as a prophylactic strategy (and this winds up causing many problems, too).
Cancer, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, and Blackhead and Marek’s illnesses are only a few of the diseases that can cause major health problems in hens and shorten their lives. But why is sickness so prevalent in chickens grown for human consumption?
Factory farms limit chickens access to the vast outdoors and fresh air, and these cramped indoor sheds prevent them from perching, flying, or socializing as they would in the wild. Chickens can become persistently stressed as a result, which weakens their immune systems’ ability to fight disease. This is particularly concerning when we consider that factory farm conditions are littered with feces, making them a great breeding ground for viruses and germs.
Any farmed animal that is in pain should be treated by a veterinarian. However, there are simply not enough veterinarians to go around on poultry factory farms, where hundreds of thousands of animals are penned together.
Factory farms have so many animals that it’s difficult, if not impossible, for farmworkers to notice disease in the first place. As a result, medical care is frequently delayed, leaving chickens to perish in their cages or barns.
Slaughter is the single most important element affecting chicken lifespans, whether on egg or meat industrial farms.
Almost all chickens end up in the same slaughterhouses and are subjected to the same cruel treatment. Live-shackle slaughter, which is the industry standard, frequently fails to fully stun chickens before slashing their throats and throwing them into a cauldron of boiling water, bringing horrific anguish to hens who have been tormented their whole lives.
The world’s oldest chicken, as you might expect, did not originate from an industrial farm. Matilda was an Old English Game breed that was kept as a pet and lived to be 16 years old. She never gave birth to any children, which may have contributed to her long life.
When you compare Matilda’s lengthy life to a layer hen’s two-year lifespan or a broiler chicken’s under two-month lifespan, you can see how cruel these businesses are.
Chickens, like our dogs and cats, need to live better lives regardless of how long do chickens live.
Join us in telling some of the world’s largest firms that it’s time for them to treat hens better.