Keeping Chickens for Their Entire Lifespan

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Juise, Feb 21, 2012.

  1. Juise

    Juise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello guys,

    I was hoping to hear from others that do not kill their chickens... how does it work out? How many have you ended up with total if you keep all your chickens, and periodically get more so that you still have eggs?

    We are on our first chickens, we have 5, and will not be killing them. We are going to be picking up 5 more 8 - 10 week olds in March here.

    But we also want to still be getting eggs when these stop after a couple years. I have been trying to figure this out. If you keep 10 laying chickens at a time, then you'll be getting 10 new chicks every couple years, right?

    It seems like it all quickly adds up! In reality, how many chickens do you end up with after a handful of years, and how many are providing eggs?

    Thanks!
     
  2. StarLover21

    StarLover21 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi,
    For me, I have simply some backyardchickens, and they are pets. However, my RSL is six and is still laying five eggs a week! Big ones too! When chickens get older they will slow down, but not stop completally for awhile! Some chickens can lay all their lives! For me, when a layer stops, it's just a chance to get another chicken [​IMG]
     
  3. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

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    Chickens lay fairly well up to about 3 years of age, then pretty much just occasionally. However they can live many years beyond that. You are going to end up with a lot of retirees after a few years.
     
  4. Juise

    Juise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    StarLover21 - Oh! That's terrific to here. I thought the simply laid for a couple years or so and stopped.

    I have read that their natural lifespan is 10 - 15 years, but I wonder if most of them end up living that long?

    We free range ours, which is something I go back and forth on in my mind all the time. On the one hand, I believe it is the right thing to do, and on the other, it terrifies me. Ours are about a year old now, and we have not lost any yet, but I know that it is pretty darned optimistic to think that we might get by without losing any. I dread the day. Oh, so much. :(
     
  5. Chubby Chicken

    Chubby Chicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    When I was a kid we had RIRs that layed well for at least 5 years.

    The only gals I know that keep spent hens, keep bantams, because they don't eat much.
     
  6. Juise

    Juise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    1muttsfan - I know, that's what I have been dwelling on lately, and occasionally become dizzied by. :) That's why I was hoping to hear from experience from someone that can tell me where they have actually ended up at.

    Maybe we can really just get 5 chickens every 3 years or so and still do well.

    We mostly just want them for our family, with some to share with other family and friends. We have neighbors that have been asking since we got our chickens when they can buy eggs from us, and I keep telling them that our family of 4 has no problem keeping up with the eggs from 5 chickens, that we won't really have enough to share on a regular basis until we have more chickens. A little income from them would be nice.

    Of course, our chickens only started laying late last Summer and then Winter hit, so perhaps come this Summer, we may not be keeping up quite so well. This Winter has been pretty crazy mild, though, so I am not sure how much they are slowed down from what they lay in Summer.
     
  7. Juise

    Juise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Chubby Chicken - We have been vegan for many years, (around 9 or so now,) and adding eggs via our own chickens was quite the adventure for us. I am totally comfortable eating our own chickens' (unfertilized) eggs because I know they are well cared for, there are so many loopholes, even when certified free range and organic, that it really doesn't mean much unless you know for yourself how they are actually kept. Well, completely comfortable morally, anyway, truthfully I thought I would get used to eating eggs, but it still really weirds me out, and often grosses me out enough that I have trouble getting them down, lol.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that there is no way I am killing any of our chickens, hehe. If it means that in the end we have so many chickens we can't possibly get more, but aren't getting any eggs, then we will be keeping chickens and not getting any eggs. :)
     
  8. StarLover21

    StarLover21 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just one more thing, although this is kinda obvious. If you can only have 20 chickens or so (just making that number up), then only start with five, then when they retire get some more, on and on. Add in small amounts. Good luck![​IMG]
     
  9. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

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    It would be good to have a general understanding of the laying life of a hen. A pullet is born with as many eggs as she'll ever lay. To make the numbers "even", let's say she is born with 1000 eggs in her. She can't make more, so once those 1000 eggs have been laid, she is done. Finito.

    Now.....hens have two main purposes - eggs and meat. Not so long ago, there were far fewer "breeds" of chicken than there are today and most of what was available was "dual purpose". In other words they provided both eggs AND meat. When their laying slowed down, they were eaten. Somewhere along the line though, humans started to breed for specific traits and thus was born the Cornish Cross - a cross bred chicken that grows to a slaughtering age in 8-10 weeks, so is great for the meat industry but doesn't do well as a layer. And on the other end of the spectrum, production layers were similarly bred for. These chickens are "laying machines" and will crank out an egg almost every day, but won't stack on a lot of meat so will be kind of scrawny if you try to eat one.

    You will hear the term "heritage chickens". These are the original DP birds that continue to do both eggs and meat quite well but don't do either one as well as those dedicated to their purpose.

    So back to our 1000 eggs.....if you get production egg layers, cranking out that egg-a-day, in 3 years they'll be done. On the other hand, if you got a Cornish Cross and were able to keep it alive until it was egg-laying age, you might get 10 years of eggs out of her, at a rate of only a couple a week. In the middle of the road, if you have DP birds, you might get 3-4 eggs a week the first year, with about a 10% reduction each year following the first molt. She'll probably take 8-10 weeks off in the winter to molt, and when the winter days are short, she probably won't lay too many. So, because she isn't laying at the rate of a production layer, she will lay a LOT longer.

    So - if you don't want to kill/cull your hens, and you don't want to end up with more birds than your property can handle after a few years, heritage dual purpose birds are going to be your best bet.
     
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  10. Juise

    Juise Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Yeah, I am thinking that's what we'll be doing., maybe 5 every 2 or 3 years, depending on how many are laying at the time. I am not sure how many chickens is our limit, we have plenty of space and can build more coops and such if we need to, financially speaking is really where the limit will come in, I'm sure. There are just only so many "pets" we can keep when they are not adding anything to the household aside from companionship, kwim?
     

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