Of all commercially raised chicken, Rhode Island Reds are documented as some of the longest living breeds. In some farm records, reports indicate that the birds can live twice as long as other breeds. On average, most chicken breeds live for five to eight years.
Nonetheless, various factors impact the lifespan, like genes, diet, and environment. Thankfully, with good management, your Rhode chicken can keep you company for 8 to 12 years. What’s even more remarkable is that they reach optimal egg production while still in their teens.
Upon reaching maturity at about 15–16 weeks old, they’re considered mature enough to produce eggs and in size for meat. Join us as we delve deeper on the average lifespan of these beautiful birds and how to lengthen it to the benefit of the farmers.
Rooster vs Hen Lifespan – Which Live Longer?
The female birds (hens) live longer than male birds. Scientists have attributed this to the fact that male chickens are more susceptible to diseases. However, chickens won’t live long if they’re improperly taken care of by their owners.
That’s why you have to be extra careful when showing them love and affection since it could prolong their lives by making them healthier.
Rhode Island Red chickens require much attention in the first weeks since they’re very fragile. During this period, they need a lot of protein-rich foods for them to grow at a faster rate and build immunity. Also, make sure not to overfeed or starve them because it can reduce their lifespan.
How to Tell the Age of a Rhode Island Red?
You can tell the age of an RI chicken by looking at its comb. Young chickens will have wavy combs while mature ones develop more erect ones. Furthermore, if you see a splash of yellow on their combs, then it might be time for them to retire.
If you have a male or two, then they will start to crow as they grow older. The crowing sound gets louder at three months, but the pitch may increase as the chicken ages. Another impressive way of finding out your bird’s age is through measuring its length and weight.
It is common for novice poultry keepers to buy very old chicken from breeders or other farmers. While you can keep these birds as pets, it is not the wisest decision in egg production. You can find out if the chicken is too old by confirming if it has swollen joints, rough scales, loose skin, and excessive dropping of the tail.
What’s more, the chicken may appear weaker, with dull feathers and fraying edges. In some cases, old chicken produces malformed eggs.
Factors That Impact Life Expectancy of Chicken
Your bird will live much longer if you keep it in suitable conditions. So how can you maintain the health of your bird and increase its lifespan?
– Housing and Environment
The health of your bird depends on the kind of cage or coop that you put them in. Inadequate ventilation can suffocate your chickens, so always provide them with fresh air from time to time. Also, weather plays a significant role in determining how healthy your birds become.
When the weather becomes extremely cold, it is advisable to place a heat lamp in the co-op. In the dry season or drought, give them plenty of water to dehydrate. Altogether, the ideal temperature should be about 50 degrees F in the coop.
RI chickens also require adequate space to move around. Ensure to install an insulated floor to support their weight since they can weigh up to 13 pounds.
– Diet and Nutrition
A proper diet keeps your birds healthy and prolongs their lives. RI chickens are excellent feeders and only require a balanced diet to thrive. If you don’t provide them enough nutrition, expect feather loss and other problems such as stunted growth.
The best way to ensure that Rhode Island Reds achieve average weight gain is to offer them a well-balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins. You can throw in some fresh vegetables and fruits as a treat.
Water is also essential to keep your birds hydrated. If RI birds feed well, you will notice that the feathers will look healthy and shiny. However, ensure that they don’t consume too much protein because it can cause excess weight or osteoporosis (thinning bones).
Protecting your birds from attackers is vital because foxes and other predators can kill an entire flock in a short span. RI chickens are famous for being agile and quick-footed birds but not immune to attacks.
So if you care about your chicken’s longevity, provide it with adequate protection and a high wall against predators. If need be, you can install an electric fence to keep predators away at night.
It is prudent to give vaccines to your birds regularly. That way, you can prevent diseases from spreading within the flock. Some diseases cause your chicken to cough, feathers falling, general weakness, and diarrhea.
If you notice plenty of feathers falling off, that’s a sign of malnutrition. On the other hand, regular diarrhea can be an indication of worms. Remember that RI chickens are more susceptible to diseases if they come from undernourished parents. Below are quick ways to handle common ailments and reduce deaths.
– Chicken Pox
If your bird is affected by this disease, then expect smaller feathers and discoloration of their skin. Treat this by surrounding the whole cage with a net wire to keep out other birds. This way, only one bird will be infected, preventing the virus from spreading to the rest of the flock.
This is a common disease that affects RI chickens. Usually, the affected chicken may lose excessive weight and start diarrhea. You can treat the ailment with a drug known as Chinosol.
– Scaly Legs
The condition makes legs and neck scales dry and flaky. Note that nutritional deficiencies cause the infection. Thus, ensure that you give your birds enough vitamins.
– Dry Skin
Deworming is one effective way to treat this problem because worms make the skin dry and rough. Worms are paras that can live inside the stomach or intestine of your bird, causing damage to internal organs, blood vessels, muscles, and joints. If you see green stools, most likely, your birds have worms.
Mainly, chickens get this disease from overeating. Later, they may not be able to digest the food properly, leading to vomiting. You can treat this by giving a laxative (like Klorin) or adding some tabasco to their food.
– Heart Conditions
Rhode Island Red chickens are more vulnerable to heart conditions and a weakened immune system if not fed well. Breeders will usually cull these birds from their flock or farm if they have any of the conditions.
Usually, you can tell if an RI chicken is sick by observing their behavior. For instance, having labored breathing when resting or even struggling to walk indicates that there is something wrong with its respiratory system.
Thus should be removed from the flock immediately or consult a veterinarian on the best way forward. If you want to harvest your Rhode Island Red chicken at an older age, take note of these things so as not to lose them prematurely.
Just like humans, RI chickens have a genetic makeup. If you want your flock to live longer, make sure that the birds are from long-laid eggs and healthy parents. The eggs bring forth healthy offspring resistant to diseases and with a pleasant temperament in such a case.
You don’t have to worry about the male parent’s genes since these won’t be passed on but if possible, find one that is healthy and strong.
Most importantly, choose the kind of parents who produce eggs more often than others. The parents must be healthy and well-fed so you can choose them from the first batch you have bought. Birds that are long in laying time also produce eggs with a higher chance of longevity.
Can You Eat the Meat of an Old Rhode Island Red Chicken?
The meat from an older Rhode Island Red chicken is said to be more tasty and nutritious. Their flesh gets tender with age so that you can expect a rich-tasting broth from their meat.
The good thing is that older chickens are slightly larger, which translates to a tastier bigger chicken on the table. Furthermore, if you sell bigger chicken, chances are, you’ll get a higher price.
At What Age Is Best to Harvest Rhode Island Reds?
If you are keeping Rhode Island red chickens purely for meat, you can harvest them at the age of 15-20 weeks, when they reach maturity and also start laying eggs.
If you are an experienced poultry keeper, stakes are high that you are more conversant on signs of an aging chicken. You can reward them for years of excellent service by offering proper shelter, a nutritious diet, and early disease treatment.
Other than that, make sure that your aging friend remains active by allowing them to roam around the compound. You can also observe activity levels inside their coop and contact a qualified vet if you notice a decline. Now that you know how to take care of this breed, all the best!Chickens