How long to keep laying Hens???

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by JNB, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. JNB

    JNB Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 1, 2011
    Graham, WA.
    Was told today that I shouldn't keep my hens for Laying Eggs any longer than 18 months?? Ive never heard this before and was kinda shocked because it came from someone that raises leghorns and has for awhile... She said that there not any good after that age.. eggs loose nutrition value???

    So Im wondering what you folks here have to say about this idea.. Since now that my husband has heard this he is intent on "filling the freezers " with my girls.

    Thing is if I did this I d honestly have to start my whole flock over again... My youngest hen is 15 months old and they go up from there.... I still get an egg a day from about everyone but the bantys and the Roo :) LOL
  2. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    There are many ways to keep a laying flock. One person's methodology doesn't always "fit" another.

    The commercial hen houses often flip their flocks to avoid a down time of major moulting which occurs at the 14-18 month point, depending on when a bird was hatched. They've crunched the numbers and that is their decision. Other commercial enterprises choose to allow one moult, and keep their hens yet another season, because, actually, the next season's eggs can often be of better quality, though slightly less of them.

    The backyarder does not have follow the lead of the commercial poultry industry, but do be aware that feed costs continue even if laying drops off. Only you can decide how you are going to manage your flock. The whole pets vs livestock perspectives come into play here as well.
  3. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    I start chicks every year, thus, having young pullets every year. As we go into winter, it is those first year pullets who will carry the laying load. A first year pullet has more inclination to lay well during the dark days of winter than a two year old or three year old hen. Older birds often take the winter off.

    To avoid having a period when all your birds have aged, contemplate when you will raise their replacements. Have a plan. You'll find your own pace and your own program that works the best for you.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  4. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2009
    Ft Collins, CO
    With the variety of breeds you have, it would be silly to get rid of them at 18 months. They lay less frequently than the Leghorns but will continue to lay decently for several years or more. When you feel their production has decreased too much, you can always make decisions about keeping them as pets or not.

    Our chickens are pets with benefits so they will stay. I have adopted the strategy of getting (as in adding to our flock not replacing) chicks every couple of years so I always have a few younger, more productive hens. If you keep your roo you can always let a broody hatch replacements for you as needed. :)
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  5. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    In a hen's pullet year (her first lay cycle) you will get 100% of whatever she is capable of laying in a year assuming proper feed and management. She should start to lay at about five to six months and will lay typically for a year which will take you up to the eighteen month mark.

    At that point she needs to molt and refresh her egg laying internals. Once she's grown out her new set of feathers she should begin laying again. All other conditions being equal (disease, injuries, feed, management) she should then lay roughly 80% of the eggs she laid in her pullet year in her second lay cycle, but those eggs will be somewhat larger. So if she were laying large eggs in her first year you should get extra-large in her second.

    At the end of another twelve month cycle she will then molt again then restart laying, but about 20% fewer than the previous year or roughly about 60% of what she laid in her pullet year.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    If you're keeping the birds as livestock that have to show economic practicality (as in pay for themselves) then chances are by the end of their second lay cycle they will no longer lay enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed so it will be time for them to ship out.

    If you're keeping your birds as pets as in they don't have to lay enough eggs to pay for what it costs to keep them then you may keep them as long as you please.

    Historically the poultry keeping model worked like this:

    All through the year a poultryman would give his birds the visual once over to remove any obviously sick and otherwise non-productive birds. When the birds reached the end of their first lay cycle and were ready to molt the entire flock would be given a closer inspection. The non-thrifty birds would be culled and the remainder kept for a second year. Typically about half the flock would be culled and new birds brought in so you'd end up with about two-thirds first year layers and one-third second year. At the end of their second year the older birds would be culled unless the farmer was doing his own breeding. Then the best of the older birds would be retained for that purpose.

    This is where the "get rid of them at the end of eighteen months" advice comes from. Whether it applies to you only you can decide. Some folks don't care, others must weigh the cost of feeding non-productive birds.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  6. Mattemma

    Mattemma Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    If I only GOT eggs from my one RSL hen! She stopped laying last fall,and I would say she was about 2 and a half years old. I don't eat meat,but I would totally cook her up for the family. I don't think egg nutrition goes bad,but I bet there are studies on it. They say OUR eggs get less viable as we age,so I guess anything is possible.

    If it were up to me I would be cooking up a few chickens every week.It was how it was done in my mom's village,and we didn't cry over the hens.No, we enjoyed the awesome meals we made from them!

    Great info A.T. Hagan.

    Some people seperate by breeding,meat,layers.Some decide a certain bird is a pet and is off limits for eating.Staggering the ages so you have a decent egg supply seems good.In a few years I am going to be stuck with hens that give no eggs and cost me in feed/bedding.According to my kids they are ALL off limits to my hatchet,lol. Best wishes whatever you decide!
  7. Contrary

    Contrary Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 17, 2012
    This is our current practice, and it seems most of the hens make it to the second cycle. Along with economic viability, we employ this method for humanitarian reasons.

    One of my friends has two flocks. He purchases new chicks in February and keeps them until November the following year. Each flock is easily identifiable; one year they may be production reds and the next they may be red stars.
  8. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I know that there are posts on here about chickens lasting years. However, in my own experience they seldom live much longer than 3 years.

    If you don't add new chicks to your flock in the spring, you will probably be buying eggs come winter. Poullets lay pretty well once they get started. I usually have a drought of eggs in Nov, cause I do not get chicks until I get a broody hen, and with no artificial light, they don't go broody til May or later. but by December, the pullets are laying.

  9. dretd

    dretd Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2009
    Ft Collins, CO
    I have a friend that has a chicken that is 8 but she stopped laying awhile ago. She has a variety of breeds (the older ones are a Production Red and a Black Australorp), not sure the oldest. I was wondering what breeds you have that have stopped laying early and which ones seem to last longest. I have gone for the Heritage breeds hoping that since they lay a little less frequently, they will lay for a longer period of time. My best layer is my 3+ year old Barred Rock. She is still doing 3-4 extra large eggs a week, which is plenty ok for me
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2012
  10. bantamofopera

    bantamofopera Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 6, 2012
    Southern Vermont
    FWIW, our flock of 8 (7 4 years old and 1 9 years old) was still giving us 6 eggs a day in the height of summer this year. They took a break for molting in December and then the eggs returned starting in January, right though a cold VT winter. We could start selling extras again by mid February. We found a home for the 7 4-year-olds (we weren't going to have time to slaughter them this year) and kept the 9-year-old Henny Penny as a pet, assuming she didn't lay any more. Boy were we surprised to discover that she still lays an egg every other day!!! like clockwork. Not the hugest eggs, but she goes into her favorite nesting box every other morning and gets the job done. She's a big Buff Rock, still looking good at 9!! So it all depends on the breed, how much range and food they have available (our birds have a big netting fence that is moved weekly and lots of kitchen scraps in addition to their feed, plus corn in winter since there's no heat in our barn and it gets COLD).

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