Tillys-nest-tilly-sleeping-standing
Chickens Health Issues Stories from Our Nest

Life with Aging Hens

Sleeping standing up

When we first purchased the chicks I knew they would not live forever. As their average life expectancy is five to seven years, I knew that meant that some hens might die sooner and others later. This was merely an average. Unfortunately lately, Tilly has been showing her age and my mind can’t help but fill with questions.

When Tilly was ten weeks old, she suffered a bout with gape worms. From across the yard, I could hear her “honking” and rasping. We took a trip to the vet. Of course, it was early in my chicken keeping days and it took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on. Her recovery was difficult. The illness was very hard on her body. Yet, here we are four years later. Overall, we’ve had to make some accommodations for our aging girls, you see our entire flock is now considered “old”.

Eggs production definitely declines and becomes sporadic. Sometimes we go for days on end without eggs and then all of sudden five lay eggs on one day.

They move slower.

They take more naps.

Some prefer the lower roosts now and don’t feel like going all the way up at night.

They sometimes need a bit of help keeping their fluffy bottoms clean.

But…

They still have a lust for life.

They still are curious as ever.

They will move quickly for a freshly found bug!

They love their treats and goodies from the kitchen and gardens.

They will never pass up a good dust bath, especially with friends.

They still have disagreements.

Sunshine is still the head of predator patrol.

The pecking order remains unchanged.

They still go broody.

I’m not sure what the future will hold for Tilly. Nowadays, I mostly find her napping during the afternoons and resting in a large dirt hole. She hasn’t laid an egg in weeks, yet she still enjoys hanging out in the boxes now and then. She is still quick when I toss treats into the run and her curiosity to explore her surroundings is voracious each morning. Sometimes, her tail is down as she stands in the run-just there daydreaming. I know we’ve given her a wonderful life. She is lucky to still have her original flock with her from her first day on this earth. I think her survival has a lot to do with being part of this family of hens. I loved them as chicks, but I love them more as old ladies! We couldn’t ask for a sweeter group of girls, of course with Tilly at the helm.

Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

  • I have 2 girls, who just turned 1 in April. I hope we have a long life like your Tilly. :-)

  • I love your blog and we have hens too, we lost our last of the original girls on Easter. Stella was 4 and she was such a sweetie. I made sure when we got new chicks last year to get another Rhode Island because Stella was one of the nicest girls and got along with everyone. Tilly is beautiful and enjoy your time with her as I am sure you will do. Big hugs, Di

  • Deb

    It's not easy seeing any of our beloved pets age. I have never raised hens but I would feel the same way about them as I do our cats. I hope Tilly still has lots of time to enjoy her life with you. Deb

  • How old is Tilly? I dread ours getting older :(

  • Then I guess I must be part chicken with this aging thing lol . I hated to see our hens aging when I was on the farm like all animals you get so attached to them . I hope Tilly has a few more years in her . Thanks for sharing , Have a good weekend !

  • I love reading your blog. I am saddened when the inevitable sad times come but you can smile knowing you have given your Tilly such a lovely life with you and your flock. I hope she will be with you for a long time yet.

  • Very sweet article. I hope you have healthy years left with her and the crew, I find it difficult to lose them young not always knowing if you did something wrong or they got into something that might have been prevented or even that they were just not able to thrive. The ones that beat the odds are strong and just keep truckin' then they age and you're faced with a new set of problems like egg binding and the such. I hope my girls are able to stay healthy into old age, the heat here in NC will probably play a big factor as they age. more fans!!

  • Oh yes I am familiar with this. I have a chicken retirement home. They are put in a special place to scratch to their hearts content and they love it..Feed them treats they are treated like royalty and if we ever get an egg it is quite an event…I don't have the grandparent ways of putting them in a pot when they no longer lay. Nope they have a name and live out their lives hopefully happy….My retirement yard is getting pretty full now though…

  • So sweet! Your chickens are some of the few that get to live their life out to the end and do not end in a pot just because they don't lay anymore eggs!! You're a very special person!!

  • This is exactly how I feel about a few of our aging hens. They become a part of your family, and one of mine has even followed me in the house on occasion. They have provided us countless eggs over the years and have earned the right to stay on the farm as long as the need.

  • I know how you feel! My initial, three year-old flock is moving a bit slower, laying a bit less. But they're just as sweet and funny as the day they arrived! They will live out their lives in the barnyard, doing whatever they want to :-)

    I've added a few hens each subsequent year to keep the eggs coming. This year I have three olive eggers that should be arriving today and a broody hen sitting on four fertile eggs due to hatch in two days. I'm going to slip the new chicks under her late tonight with the hope she will accept them as her own!