New and considering getting a few laying hens

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by LMS, Jun 18, 2010.

  1. LMS

    LMS In the Brooder

    Jun 16, 2010
    Sorry if this is a stupid hen question (or, rather, a stupid hen-owner-to-be question...) -- I can't seem to find any super-basic info online....

    We have a decent-sized yard with plenty of room for a small coop and a run for 2-3 chickens. We really just want them for eggs, although the answer to this question may change that... So we're considering buying 2-3 laying hens (we're not allowed roosters in our area b/c of noise ordinances, and I don't want a whole flock, just a few for eggs). I keep reading about hens who go broody and stop laying, and it go me wondering how long the average hen lays eggs before she stops for good? And what do you do with the hens when they stop laying? Just keep them as pets? How long do they live? (I'm trying to figure out how many hens we'll end up with at any given time if they don't lay for very long and still be able to have fresh eggs...)
  2. vstoltzfus

    vstoltzfus Songster

    Aug 10, 2009
    Lancaster County, PA
    Welcome! How long a hen lays and how reliably she lays depends upon the breed. You will probably get 2 "good" years out of a hen, but she will lay less reliably after that. You can keep an older hen as a pet, sell or give her away, or send her to freezer camp (but again, depending on the breed, she may not be good eats). Have fun!
  3. cerridwenn

    cerridwenn In the Brooder

    Apr 24, 2010
    Farmington, NM
    not a stupid question because you're new, so how could it be?

    no need for roosters, so just wanting hens is just fine. broodiness is actually fairly rare in most hatchery (also feed store) bought chickens, although each breed has a different likelihood. around here, it appears that a lot of people want to get broodies, so they talk about them a lot, but i would bet that most people's flocks have few to no broodies. you will however have a dormant period every year when your chickens molt, and they will stop laying during that time, maybe 2 months or even longer. i believe the duration also depends on which breed you get. if i remember right, most people get 2 chickens per member of the family IF you plan each person to eat an egg every day. if you don't need to make sure you have eggs every day, you can get fewer chickens. i could be wrong on the 2 birds per person, but it is intended to compensate for breeds who don't lay an egg every day so i think that's right. a broody hen will stop for 6 weeks. you can shorten the time by isolating her and/or making her nest cold and drafty. sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

    how many years you get also depends on the breed. i grew up with rhode island reds (RIR on here) and they are only reliable for about 2 years. i doubt we had any we kept longer than 4 years. we ate them when they were too old to keep laying, or when they became cannibalistic (usually not a problem if you only have a handful of chickens) or when they started breaking eggs that other hens had laid before we could collect them. if you're vegetarian, you'll probably keep them as pets but they get expensive if they aren't pulling their own weight. if you can't kill them yourself there is probably a local butcher who would do it for you and give you the meat.

    hens can live 15 or 20 years from what i've heard, but the longest most of them ever are still laying is about 7, and any eggs after about 4 years will be sporadic. be aware if you do eat them, that hens older than about 6 months are very tough. after growing up on an egg farm, my mom refused to eat chicken AT ALL for the first 10 years she was married to my dad because she thought all chicken meat was tough and stringy. she had never eaten store bought chicken, they only ate roosters and hens who had stopped laying at my grandfather's farm, so she didn't know any better.

    we bought a new round of chicks every year to make up for the ones who had gotten old the previous year. so if you start with 3, the next year or maybe the 2nd year for your family you'll want to get 3 more. if the original 3 are still laying you'll have 6. in 2 more years you'll get 3 more, but the original ones will have stopped laying for good by then so you either keep them and have 9 or you eat them or whatever and have 6. if you keep the oldies, you'll keep ending up with more but if you don't keep them 6 is probably your number.

    there is a cool tool on this website to find the right breed for you, and you can specify "rarely broody" as well as high/med/low egg frequency, etc. i bet it would help you out some!
  4. LMS

    LMS In the Brooder

    Jun 16, 2010
    Thank you both! We're trying to figure out logistics and whether it makes financial sense to do this. I'd love to do it for a number of reasons, regardless of whether we'll come out ahead financially (as long as we don't end up too far in the hole), but anything that involves live animals is a big commitment (to me) and I want to make sure it's right for us and for the chickens first.
  5. yes2matt

    yes2matt In the Brooder

    May 8, 2010
    Well, my first dozen eggs cost a whopping $125, and that's using mostly scavenged materials on a coop... I started with 6, went down to two (neighbor dog), and a year and a half later am up to four laying hens, a rooster, and eight more pullets and a cockerel coming up... I figure to break even financially... "maybe next year."
  6. DDRanch

    DDRanch Songster

    Feb 15, 2008
    Good for you !! One out or you will become addicted as many of us on this site have become [​IMG]

    I would recommend getting 3 hens for eggs and companionship. I would stay away from the small bantam types and the breeds that tend to go broody. Check out the breed section of BYC so you can select the right breed for your situation. My orphingtons tend to go broody so as lovely as that breed is, I would probably stay away from it. The leghorns are fabulous for eggs but I have read quite flighty and nervous.

    I have an 5+ year old australorpe who is still laying eggs. I keep my hens forever and have 2 currently that haven't laid for years but are a part of my life so they live rent free. My girls are spoiled rotten pets, but I know some people keep hens for a couple of years and turn them back to the feed store or butcher them and start again with younger hens. The best and more productive time for a hen are about 7 months through 2 years. That will give you enough time to either move so you can have more, or you can build more coops. [​IMG]
  7. DDRanch

    DDRanch Songster

    Feb 15, 2008
    Quote:It probably makes no financial sense at all. 3 hens will never produce enough to break even. When I had 19 chickens, I was selling eggs and paying for the feed but the coop and run cost me thousands........But I think you can be sensible and practical with pen and coop. If you can build your own coop and run or have family or friends to help, that will save a great deal of money. I am stunned at the price at my feed store for small chicken coops and pens. Yikes. Check out the cooop building section of this site, you can get lots of good ideas.
  8. prancie

    prancie Songster

    May 29, 2009
    there is no financial win unless you want to have 400 chickens and have a market for all of those eggs! BUT, they will prolly be they best tasting and healthiest eggs you have ever had, especially if they mostly forage for their food. and chickens are addictive. i love having chickens and in general i love my chickens, but they are not pets to me. i think it's easier that way as they are very easy-come, easy-go. if you cry over each one you lose you may be crying a lot depending on your situation.

    btw, i have 2 hens raising chicks they hatched themselves and it's just about the cutest and best things in the whole world! so broodiness is a plus in my book.
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    You can spend a lot or a little. And a lot depends are where you are. If it is bitter cold, or if there a tremendous amount of predators. The start up costs do kind of add up, but if you are handy, or check craigslist, for a shed that you can remodel, those are things that can save you. If you have racoons, you need to fence with something stronger than chicken wire. I have a fort knox run, due to coons in the winter time.

    I have a pretty small coop, and a fair size run. I think about 1 for each person, + 2 will give you plenty of eggs. Really if you have less than 10, it does not cost alot to feed them, and it is incredibly fun to get your own eggs. I had 5 all summer, with 3 adult people to feed, and often times had a stray dozen build up to give to friends and coworkers. You can not believe the favors you can pay back with a doz fresh eggs!

    Last edited: Jun 19, 2010
  10. CalebtheChicken

    CalebtheChicken Songster

    Jun 5, 2010
    Jeremiah, Ky.
    Hens never stop laying completely

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