End Of Life Issues -

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by RaskyKat, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. RaskyKat

    RaskyKat In the Brooder

    Jan 24, 2015
    So after reading, listening, and watching everything regarding keeping backyard chickens in prep for my own flock, a number of times I've come across the topic of end of life issues regarding chickens. There seems to be a bandwagon of critics anxious to indict "hipsters" for starting a flock of backyard chickens, and then dropping them off at animal shelters in a few years when their laying slows.

    While I don't think I fall into the category of "hipster," I will soon be a new chicken owner and am wondering how you all tend to those issues. The topic is less pertinent for those of you who raise meat chickens. But if your motive is pets or eggs, what are you going to do when the cost of keeping a chicken is more than the return on investment? Are you prepared to harvest your chickens, even if that wasn't your original intent? Yikes! The horror!

    We already have a list of possible names for our not-yet-here chickens. I tell myself I can harvest the chickens when it's time, but then I ask myself, really?! We'll see. Maybe I should tear up the list and not get emotionally involved!

    So this thread is mostly for those of you who keep chickens for eggs or as pets, not keepers of meat chickens or professional poultry keepers. If you have plans, please state what you plan to do and by what means. Thank you.
  2. Puddin Fluff

    Puddin Fluff Crowing

    Mar 30, 2012
    River Valley, AR
    We have a hobby flock and have already lost all our originals to "old age" and some to predators. Most of our birds have names and we keep them for entertainment and eggs. My husband asks why I keep any roos and I tell him because I enjoy watching them. All of our birds that have died of old age we have simply kept as comfortable as possible and let them pass on their own. Some have died unexpectedly, others it was over time. I have put down baby chicks who had issues via ether or a neck snap but haven't been able to do so with my ladies.

    End of life is never easy when they are pets. A good rule of thumb is if you are going to eat it, don't name it.

    We aren't tallying cost vs. production so if they don't lay they are just eye candy.

    Tough question but at the end of the day it comes down to what your priorities are. Good luck and have fun with them.
  3. tcstoehr

    tcstoehr Chirping

    Mar 25, 2014
    Canby, Oregon
    I have a tentative 5-year plan for my 5 hens. They get 5 years unconditionally. If after that their egg-laying is too low, then I will look into finding someone who will take them off my hands. Presumably to the stew pot. But if I'm still getting 10 eggs a week that's good enough for me. At this point it is just a plan, and those never change, right?
  4. pdirt

    pdirt Songster

    May 11, 2013
    Eastern WA
    I realize I'm not exactly the type of person you're hoping to hear from, but perhaps this will be useful for you nonetheless. A couple of our chickens are more or less, pets. We don't intend to eat them when they slow down on egg laying. I will probably bury or compost them when they die. If they really are no longer useful to us and the flock, then perhaps we might change our minds about eating them or might be able to find someone who would want a tough stew hen. But the others will go into the soup pot when they are no longer productive. It's a decision we made when we first got chickens. We do have names for most of the chickens, but it's made it so much easier that both my wife and I decided that (most) of them would not be pets. I remind myself of that often so I don't allow myself to get too emotionally involved with them and it seems to make a difference. I rather focus my emotional involvement toward my wife, my family, friends and our dog. I do care for and love the chickens...just not in the same way that I love our dog. I wouldn't say I have zilch emotional attachment to the chickens, but it's tempered or perhaps simply more superficial than say with our dog. I certainly feel a bit of pull on my heart strings when I send one to freezer camp, which I think is normal and even desired, but it certainly doesn't overwhelm me. It probably would if I had to put our dog down.

    A friend of mine with young kids and chickens gave me his sage advice about raising chickens (intended to be eaten at some point) with kids...name the chickens "Soup", "Salad" or "Sandwich". He wasn't joking...he said it really helped his kids grasp the decision their parents had made...that even though the chickens are cute and fluffy, they will be their food someday.
  5. RaskyKat

    RaskyKat In the Brooder

    Jan 24, 2015
    To Tcstoehr & Pdirt, sounds like you both had this thought out ahead of time. A 5-year plan?! Ha! Sounds funny to put it that way. Let me jot some notes and submit it to the committee for approval! I get your point though.
  6. ChickenLegs13

    ChickenLegs13 Songster

    Sep 4, 2013
    Lower Alabama
    As a responsible animal owner it's my obligation to be responsible through all life stages, regardless if it's a chicken, dog, cat, or horse. Enjoying the good times then bailing when the good time are over and paying somebody else to kill your animal because you're afraid to face death is irresponsible and selfish, IMO.
    I have no problem swinging the hatchet on a chicken, even when it's a special chicken. My chicken, my responsibility.
  7. song of joy

    song of joy Crowing

    Apr 22, 2012
    Central Pennsylvania
    We name all of our hens, and they are kept as egg layers and pets. However, when egg production goes down, the hens are culled. For example, we culled a 3 1/2 year old buff orpington hen whose production was very low her third year. As they are "working pets", we couldn't justify keeping her, especially when coop space was limited. Our culled hens are not wasted. That would be an insult to the life of the hen. They go into the stew pot for chicken soup. In the interest of full disclosure, my husband takes care of the culling. I suppose I could do this if I had to, but I'm blessed to have a husband who will handle things like this.

    Some of our hens were culled as early as 22 to 30 months, as they exhibited signs of being internal layers. One of these hens was miserable, so dispatching her was necessary to stop her from further suffering. This type of culling (for internal layers) was not something I had anticipated having to do. I was hoping for several years of good to fair egg production from dual purpose hens. However, that doesn't always happen, so be prepared for this possibility.

    The hardest part was having to cull two baby chicks that we had tried to foster to a broody hen. She turned on them and injured them so badly they had to be put down. But that's another story I won't go into here.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2015
  8. TalkALittle

    TalkALittle Songster

    Dec 15, 2014
    How would it be irresponsible and selfish if I hire someone to butcher and process my birds? I don't have the skill or facility to do so myself. If I hire someone to humanely butcher and process my spent birds, I am still the one responsible for how, when, and under what conditions they die. It might be by a different method than you employ, and might not be directly by my hand, but I am still the one deciding to kill the animal.
    2 people like this.
  9. Honey B

    Honey B Chirping

    Feb 1, 2015
    I like the label of working pet @song of joy It describes my intentions for our ladies. They will have the best lives I can provide for them until egg production slows down. With limited room in the coop, we will not be able to keep the girls as they age. When we put them down we do plan on honoring them by utilizing their meat and giving their death purpose.
    1 person likes this.
  10. RaskyKat

    RaskyKat In the Brooder

    Jan 24, 2015
    Yeow! All of your posts are very helpful. Keep them coming.

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