How do you "retire" your old layers?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Lady of McCamley, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I am interested in what you do when your hens are getting too old or feeble to lay well.

    If you choose to dispose, how do you do it?

    If you re-home, likewise (and how do you get people to take a defunct layer?)

    If you butcher, how do you go about it, how much meat to you get (is it worth the effort), or if you have someone do it (butcher) what cost do you incur?

    Please, no ruffled feathers over whether someone is callous or silly if they choose to eat them for dinner or cull them to the garbage or re-home to the Happy Hen Home.

    I have 21 birds on a semi-suburban property and am just about at my property limit, so when my oldest become too old, too senile, no longer reasonably productive for the feed costs I pay out of pocket, I am going to have to make a wise choice of "retirement."

    Thank you for your honest, and tactful, responses.
    Lady of McCamley
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2013
  2. angel8035

    angel8035 Songster

    Apr 1, 2012
    Applegate, California
    My ladies bless me and my family with food and entertainment, and for that I treat them to a happy retirement where they can live out their days peacefully as any other pet. Just my 2 cents.
  3. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    My birds are livestock, not pets.
    Last time I culled my flock I just advertised on Craigslist. I was up front about the ages of the birds and got rid of them that first night. Some lady had just moved to an acreage and "had always wanted a yard full of chickens" and didn't care about egg production. Even got her to take my recently de-throned Easter egger rooster! I was glad of that, I really liked that rooster and it was hard watching him mope around.

    I'm not opposed to eating my hens, it's just that butchering is a pain in the butt and we don't like doing it. The flavor is supposed to be remarkable from an older hen.

    When we butcher, we use a homemade cone of thick pond liner plastic and a very sharp knife. Honey grasps the head and just takes it right off, the cone contains the flapping while it bleeds out. From there, we skin and gut, then bag and freeze.
    1 person likes this.
  4. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    Same here. They will also always eat bugs and provide great fertilizer in their dotage, so they can be Senior Volunteers ;) as long as they live.
  5. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    I've wondered about Craisglist, and have thought of that. Good to hear you had success with that.

    I am not opposed to responsible culling, but unfortunately I have a bad rotator cuff right now, and my daughter who was my partner in crime has married and moved to a farm out of state (how thoughtless of her ) [​IMG] My hubby and other children are NOT the farm type (insert unwilling to be part of any dastardly deed), and butchering is too much for me to do I am thinking of other options.

    I've thought of taking them to a local butcher, but I'm not sure I'd get enough meat to make it worth my while. My grandma had a chicken farm (which I have fond memories of), and she always said those old hens were only worth stewing.

    Thanks for your input.

    Please others, I'm willing to consider all options.
    Lady of McCamley
  6. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    Thank you for your kind response.

    I wish I had the property (and feed dollars) to allow me to do that AND keep productively laying hens. My family needs the eggs due to dietary restrictions wherein eggs are one thing a number of them can eat.

    Lady of McCamley
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2013
  7. Bullitt

    Bullitt Songster

    Jan 16, 2012
    It's much easier to rotate out older hens when they are a few years old and still laying eggs. People will buy them from you.

    Bring in some chicks each spring and sell off the oldest hens after the pullets start laying, if you don't want to butcher the hens. The money from the sale of the hens pays for the spring chicks and the feed to get them to laying age.

    This also keeps your flock very productive.

    Family farmers would always butcher the young roosters when they got big enough and butcher the older hens in the fall to take out the least productive hens and to reduce the number of chickens that would need to be fed through the winter. Older hens are often used for chicken soup or chicken and dumplings.
    1 person likes this.
  8. appps

    appps Crowing

    Aug 29, 2012
    Its a hard one isn't it. We could probably at a pinch fit 2 or 3 more birds and I'd love some light Sussex :) but my plan is to wait a few years so that as these girls start getting older and egg production drops I can add the three new ones to the flock to pick up the slack in production. Then as we loose a few to old age ill again wait till I've got room for about three more and and get some new ones again.

    I really should have left another year between our first three and second four but chickens are hard to say no to lol

    Hopefully this rotation in and naturally out will give a good enough mix of old retired layers and new layers that we can have both all our girls till they pass on and also keep getting enough eggs to feed our family.

    Should add the alternatives are not an option as we don't have a pet dog or cat due to allergies so the chickens fill that pet void for the kids :)
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2013
  9. Wednesday

    Wednesday Songster

    Aug 3, 2013
    Oviedo, FL
    Can't speak to what I will do with my own flock since we just the got them but did take 10 non layers about 2 years old a friend gave me to the butcher for 4 dollars a bird last week. There was a lot of fat internally and not a ton of meat on the first hen we stewed. The meat we had for chicken and dumplings was delicious. I re homed one of my 1 year old hens that was not laying to a friend that said she wanted to take her. Could not bring myself to take her to the butcher with the others. Don't know that I will be able to eat my own birds that I have tended to everyday. Plan to rehome or have them eaten at 2 or 3 years old.
  10. ChickensRDinos

    ChickensRDinos Songster

    Aug 19, 2012
    Los Angeles
    I also have a small space and can only keep a limited number of birds so this is an issue for me as well. I have a few birds that are more "pets" like my frizzled bantams and I promised my very first leghorn hen that she got to stick with me as long as she wanted because she is OG (She is about 3 and half now or 4 now and stopped laying completely a few months ago). But, the rest I process when they age out of production.

    I am not sure the extent of your injury but I do butcher alone. I usually only do 1 bird at a time. (I have done 2 total so far but plan on continue as my currently flock ages) My hens are very tame and I just wrap them in a towel and hold them in my lap with my thighs.

    This is the method I use: (warning: video is graphic and shows someone kill and process a hen) I like this video because it shows the whole process through the completely butchering. There are two parts so scroll all the way down is you are interested.

    If you have never eaten an older hen before it is different than buying a nice young commercial bird but you can use just about everything and make amazing soup stock. I would go with something slow cooked and make sure you let the meat rest about 3 days in the frig between butchering and cooking. (I made this mistake the first time and cooked the bird the same day a butcher. Yikes! It was like eating squid it was so chewy. The second hen rested and had much better results)
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2013
    1 person likes this.

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