Thanks for all the input! Lots to think about. We have the room on our 3 acres. Currently have 16 layers, or should i say free loaders...i think my lack of eggs this winter has me thinking about other options. Last winter we had so many eggs. I had only 10 birds and gathered 5-7 daily all winter long. This year nothing!! More birds and no eggs. Makes it hard to feed them all winter long without any eggs to show. My husband is ready to butcher them all since no one is producing anything. Lol. I told him that laying should commence again. But the thought of hatching chicks early enough in the year to get a laying season and then butchering once they slow on the laying. But they all have names and are my girls pets so i think we are a ways off from that method.
It's funny how having a name makes a difference. My son has a chicken, my profile picture here actually, Goldie Gurl. I wanted to process her a year ago. Few to no eggs...all year round and eats a tremendous amount of food that I call her Fat Gurl, which my son says I am bullying her lol. But if she didn't have a name would my son be ok with it? He told me yes. So, I will be getting meat birds in the spring and no names allowed...and I mean it.
This is the first molt for our 5 Sweet Girls. We have gotten 1 or 2 eggs daily. The weather has been cold, a few ice storms and snow but I believe in giving them a break in winter. I have 3 RIR's that are great layers and a sex link from TSC. So when spring comes, egg production will go down as they will be 2 years old in March.
I'm ok with our chicken pets. The next flock, however, will be treated just as well but as egg layers or food without names.
Good luck in your endeavors and you will learn new things as the years go on.