Options after hens stop laying


6 Years
Oct 22, 2015
Walla Walla WA
Right now I am planning on keeping my chickens for their entire lives. However, when I say this to people I often get a very negative response. They say I'm wasting time and money keeping the chicken around who's not Lane a lot of eggs. Somebody even said it is not responsible chicken care. I was a little offended by that what I must admit. My chickens are basically pets that happen to give me eggs. I do sell the eggs but it's not like I planned on making enough money to support my chicken habit:)
I could not kill my chickens. I might be able to surrender chickens to some friends if they wanted to butcher them and eat them. I also probably couldn't eat my own chickens. Our old chickens good to eat? Like five-year-old ones?
I have just been surprised by the reaction I have gotten. I never claimed to be a farmer. How do other people handle this? I know many just call their flock at certain ages. But are there many people who plan to do what I do and keep them even past their prime Edlane years?

Ballerina Bird

5 Years
Aug 29, 2014
I'm surprised by that reaction, too. For what it's worth, I, like you, consider my hens to be pets and plan to let them live out a coddled retirement once they stop laying. I think it is totally up to the individual chicken keeper to do what feels right for them.
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8 Years
Aug 29, 2012
I don't think a lot of people realise they have personalities just like other more common pets.

I'm doing the same, they will live as long as they live. I'm staggering adding to my flock, just 1-2 a year so that I should still have younger birds laying as older ones stop so I still have eggs.

Pork Pie

Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Jan 30, 2015
I personally would cull non layers unless they still go broody but that's a personal choice and I also find it strange that anyone would consider your course of action as unreasonable. We all reserve the right to do what we feel best without being judged by others even if they choose to do things differently.



Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
You can feed them until they die from old age (or you humanely euthanize them, hopefully before they suffer too much) like any other pet.

But I certainly wouldn't, can't afford it. They pay for their feed with egg sales or they feed me some meat and broth and make room for new layers.
That doesn't mean I have no emotional attachment to any of them, or that I mistreat them or neglect their needs or revel in the death of an animal.
It means I am realistic about where eggs and meat comes from, and wish to grow my own outside the factory farm paradigm.

It's the age old (well, old like from since the BY chicken movement gained growth) Pets vs Food conundrum.
..and also the 'Romance meets Reality' aspect of chicken keeping.


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
You and I have different goals, I raise mine primarily to eat. The eggs are mainly a pleasant benefit. But that is my personal choice. It doesn’t mean I look down on anyone that has different goals. You are spending money and not getting eggs or meat for that, but you are getting enough back in other ways to make it beneficial to you, at least for now. Some people do change their minds on that later on, but some don’t. That’s a personal decision.

With that in mind and to answer your question, you can eat any chicken of any age of any sex. The flavor and texture will change as they get older so you need to take age and sex into consideration when you cook them. Coq au Vin, stew, and chicken ‘n dumplings are traditional ways to cook an older chicken, even a rooster many years old. Some people use them for broth. Older chickens make excellent broth. The key is to cook them very slowly (gentle simmer, never boil) for a long time. I vary the length of time based on age and sex, but my current way to cook an old rooster (old roosters being toughest and with the most flavor) is to cut him into pieces, rinse those off but don’t dry the pieces, coat them with herbs, and bake that in a tight baking dish at 250 degrees for maybe four hours. Yes 250 degrees not 350. You may need to floss afterwards like you might with a good steak, but he is delicious to me and quite tender. I save the carcass to make broth.


6 Years
Oct 22, 2015
Walla Walla WA
I laughed at the "you may need to floss afterwards" thing. I guess that means it was a tough old bird :) As far as reality versus romance, I know darn well where food comes from. And I know animals are raised specifically to eat, I eat meat and have nothing against it at all. My grandparents and cousins were farmers, they raised animals specifically to eat and if an animal outlived its purpose it was gone.
I think it's right that people have different goals and different ways of thinking and that it is fine. I was just surprised at the negative responses I've been getting. Not on this forum though. I do think that an animal does deserve to live a quality life before it dies however. I do not hesitate to put an animal down if it is suffering and nothing can be done to help it. My neighbor has agreed that he could very quickly kill one of my chickens is if it got sick or injured and could not be helped he grew up raising chickens and he knows how to do it quickly.
And I might change my mind down the road as somebody suggested above. But I will just turn my chickens over to somebody else and let them do it. If that is a cop out or slacking on my and then I guess it just is. A couple of my friends Cole their own chickens and do it right.

Free Feather

5 Years
Aug 1, 2014
Southwestern Pennsylvania
I am keeping my older chickens until they blow away in the wind as dust...

I will be wheeling my old nana chickens about the yard happily. I got them as chicks, and my job was to protect them. I will not ditch them just because they are not "useful" anymore. I would not do that to anyone, and the same goes for my chickens.


I Love Autumn
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
7 Years
Jul 16, 2015
I am a vegetarian, I keep chickens for eggs and for the sheer joy of it. We cull for disease or to end suffering. The others wander around working my compost piles, clearing the land of bugs and provide fertilizer.

What I have found is about half my chickens live to be four, another quarter make it to six, and the last quarter can go up to ten.

I have about 50-60 chickens at any one time, and less than ten are unproductive in the egg department but contribute in other ways as far as flock stability and passing on the culture of my birds, and teaching the young ones the lay of the land.

I like chickens, I like giving them a good long natural life, and I'm happy doing it, so do what you are comfortable with, not what others tell you is the right thing.

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