Originally Posted by MrZip
I am a newbie at all this and have been reading about how most people cull or butcher their chickens after one or two years due to declining egg volume. Then I read where chickens can lay eggs for up to 10 to 20 years. So I have a few questions.
Do most folks start over with a new flock after 2 years?
On this board, probably not. We probably have as many, likely more, who keep their birds as pets as they do economically productive livestock. For the folks who need their animals to pay for themselves they'll probably replace them at the end of their second lay cycle. If they are really on top of things they'll replace about half their flock at the end of their first cycle because those birds will have hit the break-even point and not be worth their feed. The remaining half will be kept for the second cycle and the very best of those for breeding later if they are doing such.
How bad does the egg volume drop off after those first 2 years?
All other considerations (feed, disease, so on) being equal a well bred bird will lay about twenty percent fewer eggs in their second lay cycle than their first, twenty percent fewer still in their third and so on and on. This is generally speaking. Specific individuals can be all over the map in that some won't be worth their feed from day one and the rare individual may be good to go into their third cycle.
Just curious to know how some of you are managing your flocks and what you are doing with them after their peak egg production.
Ideally at my place we'd be eating the spent hens and cull roosters (most will be culls), but I hate plucking chickens so they get taken to market. If ever I can get enough time to put it all together I have all the hard-t0-find parts to build my own poultry plucker. Maybe then we'd start eating them ourselves.
What to do with hens that are no longer productive is a common discussion topic here. Some folks keep their birds as pets and don't care (much) if they lay or not. Others will eat them or as I do at least take them to market; still others don't want their "senior birds" eaten, but neither do they want to keep them if they are in an area where they are sharply limited as to how many birds they are allowed to have. We recently had a New York Times article come through about a chicken retirement farm out on the upper left coast where folks could send their non-productive birds to live out their days so they could get younger stock.
We have every conceivable kind of poultry keeper here. You'll find someone who is in similar circumstances no matter what.