Do you slaughter your laying hens after 2-3 years, or are they pets for you?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by danceswithronin, Jun 14, 2018.

  1. danceswithronin

    danceswithronin Crowing

    May 24, 2018
    I'm still debating on whether or not to process my layers after their peak egg production years are over. I feel like after two years I would be quite attached to each individual hen and they would be more like pets than livestock, but on the other hand, the idea of processing the flock out every few years and starting with fresh chicks also sounds appealing, as it would allow me to experiment with various setups and breeds. My birds are already very friendly at just over a week old though, so the idea of killing them for food doesn't sit quite right with me yet.

    My dad doesn't have a problem stewing chickens that are not useful (non-productive layers or cockerels) or chickens that cause problems in the flock, but my mom finds the idea of processing our own meat distasteful and doesn't want them killed on the property and basically refuses to eat them. I used to have to dispatch animals for animal control (humane euthanasia), so I am not against doing it myself. My brother has offered to let me process any chickens in his yard so she won't be exposed to it (and also so the other chickens won't have to see it) but I'm not sure if I want to or not.

    Do you kill your chickens for meat as well as collect eggs from them? Why or why not? When do you make the determination to do it? What is your process for going about it? Or if you refuse to eat your chickens, what do you do when they stop giving you eggs or otherwise being productive in the flock, especially if you have limited space?
  2. Harmony Fowl

    Harmony Fowl Songster

    Jul 17, 2017
    I'm beyond where you're at but still at least a year from making that decision; my oldest bird is 16 months old. Still, I have 55 now, with plans to have 100 laying hens eventually, so keeping that many around for their natural lifespan isn't a realistic option. It's not a desirable option, either. So yes, my plan is to eat them. After two years or three years, I haven't really decided. All the reading in the world can't replace personal experience. I'm going to have to see for myself just how big of a drop off in production there is and when it happens. I have birds banded by their year of hatch, so it would be easy to round up all 2017's chicks, place them in a space on their own and see how they're producing in general compared to everyone else, then put them back or process them, however it panned out. We already eat the boys, so why not the girls?

    We do have a few favorites with "amnesty," as my family calls it. Only a couple are mine, my favorite friendly hen and my very first hen I hatched, but there are nine in total now. I've put a cap on those or we'd have a lot more in just a couple years! Not all of them will mean as much to you. Some are timid, some are mean, some just go on about their chicken lives without doing a lot to register in your consciousness. You can always have a few you do allow to live out their lives. I'm always wary of "rules" in life. I tend to create them and enforce them on myself, but there is no one size fits all rule for this and you can make as many or as few exceptions as you like.
  3. TheTwoRoos

    TheTwoRoos Crowing

    Sep 25, 2015
    I don’t kill,escpecially named animals,once you name an animal it’s no longer livestock that’s a pet and it comes by hard to kill any pet.

    A few of my hens are over four and five years and still going harder then the younger ones,so that’s also a one up on the old gals side.
    If you don’t want them anymore there are several people out there who just want chickens for pets and/or eye candy,escpecially if you think your not wanna going to do the deed,cause you neevr know a month from now how you will feel about them.

    I hatched out two crazy bantams who I swore weren’t gonna be friendly and their now six weeks and I’m unattachable from them,so there you go.
  4. MargaretAnneHK

    MargaretAnneHK Songster

    Mar 14, 2012
    I have decided mine will be pets and live out the duration of their life here but then I only have a few.
  5. lomine

    lomine Crowing

    Aug 7, 2015
    Peyton, CO
    My flock is a mix of pets and livestock (though the ducks are much higher on the pet scale than any chicken). So far I have only done extra males and CX but I have 2 hens set to go on the next butcher date. They are both a little over 2 years. One has never laid an egg; I kept her till now because I had a bad male to female ratio and needed as many girls as possible. That's not the case anymore. The other hen is still a decent layer but because of all the problems she is causing I have decided to butcher her. The other 2 hens from that same batch have earned a place for life. They are sweet, but more importantly they are wonderful broodies. Since I like raising chicks with broodies they will be an important part of the flock, even if they don't lay many eggs. I plan to butcher older hens as they near the end of their prime laying time in the future. Some will earn lifetime membership in the flock but it will be limited.

    As far as your mom finding processing your own meat distasteful, I think that's sad. I've only been doing this for a few years but I can say with absolute certainty that I have gained a much deeper respect for the animals who gave their lives for my meat. (This is coming from a person who went vegetarian for a while in High School.) I no longer buy chicken from the store because I know how they were treated compared to how my birds lived. I also eat a lot less meat in general. You may decide that you just can't butcher your chickens because they became pets and that's fine. But it's also fine if after a good 2-3 years of bug chasing and sun bathing they end up in a crock pot. They will have had a great life and a purposeful death.
  6. Brahma Chicken5000

    Brahma Chicken5000 Araucana Addict

    Sep 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    My chickens are pets, but I would like to process cockerels and possibly older or troublesome hens once I have my own property.
  7. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

    Nov 18, 2007
    My Coop
    I don't process the females. Every year I sell some of the females and most of the males. I have some of the males in my freezer. I hatch out around 300 chicks a year and selling some of the birds helps to recoup some of the feed cost.
  8. Chelseeb

    Chelseeb Hatching

    Jun 14, 2018
    Hi. I've had chickens on and off for a few years now, and I let them grow old here. I'm not into killing animals at all, though I have alot of friends who are farmers and they do that with no problem. Each to his own I guess?? I figure they gave me their eggs faithfully each day, so I let them 'retire' gracefully.
  9. Rachel Taylor

    Rachel Taylor Crowing

    Aug 17, 2017
    My husband says stewpot and I say no way. Our girls sill lay every day it’s been over 3 years
  10. Sneebsey

    Sneebsey Songster

    Apr 7, 2017
    Shropshire, UK
    I butcher extra (young) cockerels for the safety and well-being of the flock, but never the hens or mature cockerels. I feel as though after they have given so much in terms of egg production they have earned the right to live out the rest of their days here. Most of my birds earn a name at POL, those that don't are usually sold to offset feed-costs, or processed if they are cockerels.

    I also find that older birds are very good at keeping the rest of the flock in line; younger birds can be cruel to their peers, but the older ones seem to be able to ensure good behaviour with just a growl. I also trust them more when they are broody, more because they have done it all before and I don't have to worry as much about them trashing the nest.

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