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I’m totally fine eating meat, but readily admit that I could never actually butcher an animal (and I don’t think that’s inconsistent). Anyway, how long do hens live? Could you let them wander around as pets?

I have a hen that has lived at least 6 years. At least where I live, the issue is them being killed off, not dying naturally. Also, if you have a large enough yard, they can walk around freely, just remember that they will take a dump anywhere they like, and I don't believe there is any way to stop that.

My father used to keep one (as a pet), she lived 13 years which is I believe rather exceptional, the average being around 8 year (range 6-10 years).

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