I’ll be honest. Every morning I go out to open up the coop and half hold my breath wondering if she’ll still be there. She looks a little weary around the eyes these days and she’s slower to come down from her sleeping shelf, preferring to doze a bit while the others fuss and cackle come the morning light.
But then, perky as ever, she fluffs her mille-fleur feathers and struts out into the pen with her snowshoe feet and finds a choice spot from which to preside over another day. In all the trauma of recent milestones, we completely forgot to mark Pippa’s SEVENTH birthday. Today I will honor her, not with cake and ice cream, but with her idea of a perfect celebration: shredded cheese and dried mealworms.
“How long do chickens live?” I am frequently asked. The conventional answer is 5-7 years but many flock keepers demur at that, having seen far too many hens perish at just under or just over a year old. I had one die suddenly just after point-of-lay, and a few at eighteen months to two years – these were most likely related to egg-binding/internal laying issues, which are a rampant problem in hens.
Pippa hasn’t laid an egg in years, which may be the key to her longevity. “Matilda”, a hen that lived to be sixteen years of age and was once certified as the World’s Oldest Chicken by Guinness World Records, was thought to owe her ripe old age to the fact that she never produced eggs. The current title for oldest living chicken, according to the Guinness site, is held by “Muffy”, who died in 2011 at age twenty-two. Matilda and Muffy may have been older, but I think Pippa is prettier.
Pippa has had a full life, including motherhood when she went stubbornly broody and we indulged her with three baby chicks. She is a bantam and her babies were standard-size, so things got interesting as they grew. Especially when they were the same size as her and still trying to burrow beneath her to sleep at night!
As the designated old lady of the flock, Pippa is accorded extra treats here there and everywhere and she is allowed the odd peck at June, the youngest hen and the only one Pippa dares to bully. Her advanced age also entitles her to afternoon naps tucked into the CE’s jacket.
Not a bad life! I hope she has many more years ahead of her. Happy birthday, Pippa, and please don’t kick the bucket!