ONE of the most common questions I’m asked as a chook enthusiast is: How long do chooks live for?
There are different answers to this and I will briefly present the facts.
Unfortunately, most chickens in this world only have a very short lifespan. Most are ‘factory’ chooks produced for meat, and they are on this earth for just 6-8 weeks. They endure a dreadful life in cages and other crammed conditions, and most never feel a ray of sunshine on their feathers. In some ways, it’s merciful that their life is cut short.
Female chickens that produce eggs in cages, barns and limited free range environments fare a little better, but only for as long as they can viably lay eggs for a commercial enterprise. Pullets (female chickens less than 12 months old) are most productive as egg layers from about 22 weeks old to about 18 months old. These “battery hens” can lay up to an egg a day during this period of their life. After this they are “turned over” because egg producers cannot keep older hens that only spasmodically lay eggs. The high intensity of factory farming leaves these hens totally spent. Most are then culled while others die of exhaustion before they turn 3 years old.
Backyard or farmyard chooks are indeed the lucky ones and can live up to 10 years old. I’ve even heard of chooks living for as long as 14 years.
If a chook is raised in a stress-free environment in well-built housing, are fed a balanced diet and have a reasonable space to exercise, it should reach 4 to 5 years of age no problems. Tough, durable breeds like Rhode Island Reds, Australorps and Leghorns that can tolerate extremes in heat and cold will most certainly reach this milestone.
The most common chook in Aussie backwards is the Isa Brown: this is a hybrid breed which is also “bomb proof” to our changing climate. They can live up to 7-8 years old.