Help with transitioning layers to the dinner table

Mutha Plucka

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6 Years
Sep 9, 2013
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Hi, my husband and I are fairly new at keeping chickens... we have our first "set" of hens who have aged out and are not laying anymore. We have separated them out from the younger girls and moved them to their "retirement home." The plan is to butcher them, instead of having pets. My question is, should we switch their feed to a finisher feed, or can we continue feeding them layer pellets. I don't intend on keeping them for very long, I just want to make sure they're good and meaty. Thoughts? Experiences? Thank you!
 

ChickenCanoe

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I wouldn't feed any birds not building egg shells layer feed. You can switch to grower or finisher.
How old are they?
You may not want to give up on them yet. We're past winter solstice so they may begin laying again, some quite well.
I have a 7 year old hen that just started laying an egg every other day.
 

Bridebeliever

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Sep 12, 2015
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Finisher feed is really for meat birds. Yours are definitely "finished". LOL The feed they are on is fine. You will want to remove all food 12 hours before butchering. I have read and watched a lot on this subject! I haven't done it yet myself...and I'm not really looking forward to it either though its our plan. I would suggest you read in the processing part of BYC.

Anyhow, yours really won't be very good table birds. More like wonderful stock pot/stew birds.
 

Mutha Plucka

Hatching
6 Years
Sep 9, 2013
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Thank you for the quick replies! The plan for them is to be stew birds, since they are old. We will be getting chicks this spring, so we need to make room for them. This will be our first butchering, so we weren't sure if their current layer pellets are okay.. or finisher feed. If we switch to a finisher feed, do we feed them the whole bag before we "finish" them? If we continue with layer pellets, and can't butcher them right away, will feeding them layer pellets hurt them if they're not laying? They haven't laid for several weeks.

I love hearing about old ladies who lay into their prime...if we had the space I'd let them run around and grow old. We have a lot of predators in our area, so I would rather eat the birds myself instead of letting a coyote or hawk get them first.
 

ChickenCanoe

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That's a good plan.

Layer is 4% calcium for birds building shells. All other feeds are 1% calcium for birds not building egg shells.
As was said, finisher is primarily for meat birds but can be fed to any bird not needing higher protein. Finisher is usually 15% protein. That can be fed to roosters, retirees or birds from about 14-18 weeks.
Grower feed will work too.
At 4 years, I guarantee if they're healthy, they'll start laying like gangbusters in the next month or so. Since you have chicks coming, they won't start laying till fall so I'd keep your hens and milk their egg production till the chicks start laying.

A friend of mine had hens about that age. She fed them all through molt and winter break and decided to give them away and start over. I pleaded with her to wait a bit longer. At the end of February she gave them away. A week later they all started laying. She fed them for 6 months only to give them away to someone that reaped the rewards.
 

donrae

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I don't think feed is going to make any difference at this point. Adding something like corn might help them put on a pad of fat if you want to harvest that. but they're not going to gain any more muscle to speak of. An older laying hen is not a meaty bird. You might want to check out you-tube videos of butchering hens to see what your carcass is going to look like.

Since you've already fed them over the shortest days of the year, were it me I'd wait another month or so and see if they start laying again. You could easily get another season out of them, and butcher or sell them in the late summer, right when your new chicks would start laying. That way you don't have an egg gap. I've never had a bird just up and totally quit laying, even though the amount of eggs does taper off as they age.
 

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