On Friday we lost our oldest chicken. Carole came to live with us in 2008, part of our first batch of chicks. She was my concession to practicality: a Buff Orpington, which are both prolific egg layers and large, healthy birds.
I have a ton of photos of her like this: sacked out face-down in the little chick habitat where she and her three first flockmates grew up. We raised them indoors to make more handlable chickens, which they definitely were.
She was always kind of a follower-chicken. It wasn't until she was several years old that she took on a top-chicken role in the flock. But she was always the initiator of the group dust-bath. She loved dust bathing and would do it for hours on end on sunny days. Especially when we let them roam the yard.
She went broody a couple of times a year and I tried all kinds of tricks to make her stop sitting on the eggs, but to be honest none of them really worked. She was a stubborn chicken, and she had her ideas about how things were to be.
People often ask me how long chickens live, and the truth is, nobody really knows. Most commercial chickens are allowed to live 2 years before being slaughtered for animal food or other lesser meat purposes (the meat chickens you buy in the store are only weeks old), and most farmers don't let their chickens live out their natural lives.
We are not farmers. Our chickens serve a purpose in the garden, but the cost they incur for us is acceptable even if they are not producing eggs (or just one every week, as Carole was). And so it was that Carole died peacefully, sitting on eggs in the nest box. Eight years old for this chicken.