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How Long Do Roosters Live?

How Long Do Roosters Live

Most backyard roosters live to be five to ten years old if they are allowed to live until the end of their natural lives.

Roosters that are commercially raised only live to be around six to ten weeks old; this is because about 4.61 billion roosters are butchered in the US annually by commercial growers.

So if you’re curious how long a rooster can live in your coop if you don’t butcher him, the answer is five to ten years. If you’re asking how long the average rooster in the US lives to be, the answer is around eight weeks old.

Broiler production by state

Source: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Charts_and_Maps/Poultry/brlmap.php

An estimated 518.3 million chickens live in the US as of 2020. This means that there are approximately 259.15 million roosters in the US, at the very most. Commercial growers raise a relatively equal split of hens and roosters. Backyard keepers tend to run a ratio of five hens to every one rooster.

Did you notice that there are more chickens butchered annually than what lives in the US at any given point? Remember that all of the chickens are raised for harvesting over the span of one year. Many batches of chickens will be hatched, raised, and harvested in short stints all year round, not just once.

Domestic vs. Wild

There is a significant difference in lifespan when you compare domestic roosters to wild roosters.

Birds in the wild have to rely fully on themselves for survival. The result? Not great.

They have to survive the elements, disease, and predators, all while fighting off other territorial roosters and foraging for 100% of their food.

Wild roosters only live for two to four years at maximum.

In the backyard, though, where humans carefully curate safe living environments, provide feed, medication, and predator protection, and do their best to combat diseases and illnesses, roosters can live to be ten years old or even older in some cases.

Heritage vs. Hybrid

The difference between heritage and a hybrid bird leaves quite a gap in terms of life expectancy.

Heritage breeds are chicken breeds that have been bred amongst themselves, sort of like a pure breed.

Hybrid breeds are the result of heritage breeds crossing, creating a bird that makes a lot of meat or a lot of eggs at the expense of the birds’ lifespans.

Heritage breeds have to follow the following guidelines by the American Poultry Association (APA) to be classified as heritage:

  • Come from pure stock
  • Slow growth
  • Naturally breed (no artificial insemination (AI))
  • Has to meet the APA’s breed standard
  • Have a long outdoor life that is productive

Hybrid breeds on the other hand:

  • Are a cross of other breeds
  • Grow fast
  • May need AI to breed
  • Don’t have to meet breed standards by the APA (or anywhere else)
  • Do not need to live a long outdoor life, but are typically highly productive with meat or eggs

Do Hens or Roosters Live Longer?

Hens usually live longer than roosters. There are many reasons for this, many of them overlapping:

  • Roosters are constantly stressed. They have to protect their harem of hens from other invading roosters and keep the predators at bay. Good roosters will sacrifice themselves to save their hens.
  • Roosters are usually the ones eaten by predators. Roosters are flashier than hens, and many will do everything they can to protect their hens from danger.
  • Hens are more docile than roosters. Since hens rarely flog or attack people, their owners are much happier letting them live long lives. Many backyard chicken keepers will butcher problematic roosters, especially those who have small pets or children, to protect them from the rooster. Roosters aren’t just intimidating; they have spurs that hurt.
  • Roosters are more of a nuisance in general. Hens don’t crow, so in more suburban settings, it makes sense to butcher noisy roosters who may upset the neighbors.
  • Hens can be kept together; roosters usually cannot. Yes, there are instances of aggressive hens attacking weaker girls in the flock, but this is not a constant. Roosters will always fight one another, especially if there isn’t an ample population of hens to keep them happy and preoccupied. Roosters will fight to the point of serious injury or death, so most owners choose to butcher or sell excess roosters to prevent these horrible fights.

Should you eat your rooster? What you should know.

The World’s Oldest Rooster

It’s rumored that the oldest rooster in the world was Bob Ross, a white-crested Polish show rooster who was also blind. Bob Ross was owned by Butch Anthony of Alabama. Bob Ross was said to be twenty years old when he finally passed away.

The world’s oldest chicken, however, is a hen named Muffy. Muffy was owned by Todd McWilliams in Maryland, and she died at age twenty-two in 2011.

The World’s Oldest… Headless Rooster?

In related but totally bizarre news, the longest a rooster ever lived without his head was Mike.

Mike the Headless Chicken lived in Colorado in 1945. In September of that year, his owner, Lloyd Olsen picked up five and half-month-old Mike and attempted to cut his head off with an axe. Mike’s head was lopped off, but the jugular vein, an ear, and most of the brain stem were left intact.

Mike hopped up and clumsily walked away. He cleaned his feathers, attempted to peck for food, and even crowed. His crow was gurgling noises, but still a crow nonetheless. Farmer Olson decided to keep his rooster alive and fed him a mixture of milk, ground grains, ground corn, and a bit of milk in an eyedropper.

Farmer Olsen then took Mike the Headless Chicken on a tour around the country. Mike was featured in Life and Time Magazine.

Admission to see Mike was twenty-five cents, and he earned about $4,500 per month for his owner. In 2022, that’s equal to $75,340.11 per month.

Mike finally passed away eighteen months after being beheaded at the age of two years old. It is rumored that he choked to death, either from a lack of air or a piece of corn lodged in his throat. Olsen says he sold the bird, but many speculate Mike the Headless Chicken died in a motel in Phoenix.

how long do roosters live

What Determines Life Expectancy

Several factors contribute to life expectancy in roosters. Here are the most important factors that have the most control over the lifespan.

Disease

Chickens are susceptible to various diseases, some of which can be fatal if not treated in time.

Common diseases include coccidiosis, infectious bronchitis, fowl pox, bumblefoot, and avian influenza.

You can prevent disease by selectively breeding chickens that show immunity to these illnesses, by vaccinating and deworming the flock as needed, and by keeping a healthy environment where these diseases and illnesses are easier to avoid or at least mitigate.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease caused by the protozoan parasite Eimeria spp. It is common in chickens and affects their digestive system, causing diarrhea and weight loss. Symptoms can include stunted growth or death due to severe dehydration or malnutrition.

Treatment typically involves antibiotics and anti-parasitic medications given orally or through injection.

Bronchitis

Infectious Bronchitis is an upper respiratory infection caused by an avian coronavirus that affects roosters and chickens of all ages.

Clinical signs include coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, snicking (rapid breathing), depression, and increased thirstiness. Preventative measures include regular cleaning of chicken coops and runs and keeping birds away from other birds with the same infected respiratory problem.

Fowl Pox

Fowl Pox is a viral infection found in chickens that causes lesions on skin or mucous membranes like those found on the comb or wattles of a bird’s head or wings that could cause the bird to lose feathers around these areas over time if not treated properly with antibiotics right away.

As fowl pox isn’t contagious between birds but rather through mosquitos that bite an infected bird and then proceed to bite another one, preventive measures such as mosquito control may help reduce transmission rates within a flock. Ironically enough, chickens and guineas are fantastic for mosquito control.

Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot is a bacterial infection that occurs when a chicken’s foot pad becomes inflamed due to environmental conditions like wet bedding or dirty environments where bacteria may be present. It causes foot pads to become irritated and eventually form scabs, leading to lameness.

Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza (AI) is considered one of the most serious diseases affecting poultry today due to its highly contagious nature. It’s difficult to control amongst flocks because it spreads so quickly; making it almost impossible for management.

AI causes respiratory issues such as nasal discharge and sneezing, leading to lethargy, then followed by eventual death if not treated quickly. Vaccines are available for AI, though nothing beats good sanitation and a clean environment.

Always quarantine new birds for at least thirty days before introducing them to the flock to prevent several illnesses, not just Avian Influenza.

Predator Protection

Protecting chickens from predators can be a tricky business. Let’s talk about the specifics of it so you can be better prepared.

Dog Proof Fencing

Dogs are likely the biggest threat to your flock because they dominate every part of the country, and there is no shortage of irresponsible dog owners.

When friends or family members visit with their dogs, make sure their dog stays on a short leash at all times. Unfortunately, stray dogs and neighboring dogs are more likely to be the problem, which is why good fencing is necessary.

A dog-proof fence around the perimeter of your coop is one of the best ways to deter any canine intruder. At a minimum, protect the coop and run. If possible, put up a dog-proof fence around the entire perimeter of your property so your chickens can safely free-range. This isn’t feasible for all, but a great solution if you can do it.

Electric poultry fencing works great to keep chickens in and several smaller predators out.

While chicken wire will keep chickens in, it will not prevent break-ins from foxes or coyotes. This is because they can chew through thinner wires. Use hardware cloth or something stronger to be effective.

Use Electric Fencing

If you live in an area with wolves, bears, or mountain lions, adding a tall 5-7 strand electric fence may be necessary. This will give them a painful shock if they come too close, discouraging them from coming back or attempting to find alternate routes inside.

Bury Part of the Fence Underground

If dogs, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, or opossums cannot dig under your fence, then they won’t be able to access your flock. Either dig a few deep and bury the fence underground, or extend the fence out and make the animals dig a long way to reach the chickens. This will discourage them or make it too long of a process for them to access your chickens.

Add Motion-Activated Lights

A big part of discouraging predators is psychological.

While lights won’t do anything to stop an attack, it will make wild animals uneasy if they feel that a human is present and watching, which is what a motion-activated light will do. They’re an especially great way to deter nocturnal predators like raccoons, coyotes, and skunks.

Put Away Attactants

Limit access to food sources and cover up any holes in your coop or run that might enable predators to get inside. If predators can’t smell food, they may not come sniffing around your property at all.

Possums are usually not interested in chickens but will steal eggs. Collect eggs daily to ensure they don’t attract possums or other predators.

Train Guard Animals

If you’re serious about keeping your creatures safe, consider investing in a guard animal.

If you have larger predators such as coyotes, bobcats, cougars, or wolves in your area, guard animals might be worth considering.

Trained dogs in larger breeds such as German shepherds, Great Pyrenees, or Akitas have been known to successfully ward off predators – just make sure you fully train them properly before letting them loose with your chickens!

It’s common to lose one or two chickens during the guardian dog training process; most guard dogs won’t understand that they are supposed to protect the chickens at first. Be patient and get help from a professional trainer if you haven’t done this before.

Donkeys are also effective guard animals as they have strong instincts when it comes to spotting potential danger and will often attempt to chase off any intruders themselves.

This is less so out of love for chickens and more so because they are territorial animals. Still, if it works, it works!

Llamas are another good choice for areas with smaller predators, like foxes or coyotes. Like the donkey, they are territorial and will chase intruders away with fierce anger.

Enclose the Chicken Run

Hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons love to attack from the air, so adding a roof to your chicken run can stop 100% of those attacks.

Make the Coop Solid

  • If your coop doesn’t have a solid floor, bury fencing to protect it from dig-in break-ins.
  • If there is a gap between the walls and ceiling or walls and floor, add sturdy wire fencing (not chicken wire) to these areas, or cover them with solid wood boards.
  • Use locks or difficult latches that raccoons can’t figure out to unlock the coop door, the entrance to the egg box, and the man door (if you have one).

Stress

Stressed animals have higher levels of cortisone, and this lowers their ability to heal from illness or injury in a significant way.

Limit stressors as much as possible. Keep predator interactions to a minimum, feed your roosters (and other chickens) an ample amount, avoid illness and injury when possible, and make sure you have an appropriate ratio of hens to roosters.

Nutrition

Good nutrition lowers stress, provides strength, and keeps roosters healthy so they can battle illness, injury, or unfavorable weather conditions.

Good chicken feed primarily consists of proteins, grains, seeds, and minerals. If you’re interested in making your own chicken feed, read our guide to making your own chicken feed, it even includes a step-by-step recipe.

Never let your chickens run out of fresh, clean water.

Either use an automatic chicken waterer for your own convenience or rinse and refill your open-top chicken tubs or buckets every day.

Housing Conditions

A happy chicken coop is a must!

You can use a coop from the store, a chicken tractor, or even build your own chicken coop.

Clean your coop on a regular basis, or use the deep litter method.

Winterize your coop and your chicken run, so your chickens stay warm throughout the coldest months of the year. Prepare your coop for those hot summer days too, so none of your roosters overheat.

Make sure your coop has good ventilation, no draft, and a clean, safe place for them to roost in the evenings.

Genetics

If two parents live a long healthy life, then the odds are good that their offspring will also go on to live a long and healthy life.

Some breeds are hardier than others. Here are some of the longest-living chicken breeds:

  • Plymouth Rock
  • Rhode Island Red
  • New Hampshire Red
  • Bantam Breeds
  • Orpington
  • Old English Game Fowl

Access to Professional Help (Veterinarians, Reading Materials)

Today we have a plethora of incredible resources to help us learn so much about chickens, well before we ever bring them home. We don’t have to rely on experience to learn, instead, we have books, courses, podcasts, videos, and of course, amazing blogs to learn from.

We also have powerful medications, professional chicken experts, and veterinarians. Today’s veterinarians are beginning to lean into the poultry side of farm life too. In the past, chickens used to be a “they make it, or they don’t” part of the farm. But now, people are seeing more value in their health, and we can do more to protect and prolong their lives.

Purpose

The intended purpose of the chicken serves a large part in how long they live, too.

Roosters that are added to the flock for predator protection will likely not live as long as sheltered show roosters.

Roosters that are kept to reproduce with hens should live a lot longer than those raised to put meat on the table.

Which Breeds of Roosters Live the Longest?

These breeds consistently live longer than others:

  • Plymouth Rock Rooster
  • Old English Game Fowl Rooster
  • Orpington Rooster (all types)
  • Bantam Rooster (all types)
  • Rhode Island Red Rooster
  • New Hampshire Red Rooster

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Long Do Most Roosters in the US Live?

Most roosters are grown by commercial farms for their meat, and because of this, most male chickens die between eight weeks and ten weeks of age.

What is The Oldest Rooster?

The oldest rooster lived to be twenty years old. His name was Bob Ross and he lived in Alabama.

How Long Can A Rooster Live?

Most roosters can live to be four to eight years old, though some make it to be ten to twelve years old, and only a handful of the rooster population ever makes it to any age above that.

Rooster Life Expectancy: Final Thoughts

Several contributing factors play a role in deciding how long a rooster lives. Some of the strongest inputs are:

  • Genetics and Breed Type
  • Intended Purpose of the Rooster
  • Exposure to the Elements
  • Predator Protection
  • Exposure to Diseases, Parasites, and Illnesses
  • Overall Stress Levels
  • Nutrition
  • Housing Conditions, and Environment
  • Owner Access to Education and Professional Help

What are your thoughts? How long has your oldest rooster lived? We would love to hear about it.

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