Thoughts and best practices .. older hens

ChasesChickens

In the Brooder
Feb 2, 2020
33
64
40
Sydney
Hi everyone,
I'm relatively new to chicken keeping. When I was younger I had a flock of Rhode islands for about 6 years but never really was concerned about culling. When I had roos, I would end up selling them at the local markets stall.
I got back to chicken keeping because I wanted to give my chickens the best life .. I am concerned about the mass produced egg farming industry and also pf broiler chickens
I've now got a flock of 12 heritage hens of dufferent breeds at the moment.
Initally looking to just get eggs .. I'm also thinking of raising and extras for meat.
But I've got a few concerns:
1. What do I do with older hens ( will I end up with 60 hens that don't lay over the next 5 years if I retain them). I suppose it's naive of me to hope there could be some sort of happy medium win win.
2. Anyone have experience in rearing meat chickens and processing them? I don't know if I can stomach doing the slaughtering myself. But I rationalise that a chickens life growing up in my honestead would by likely vetter than that of a farmed broiler one.
3. Should I be more thick skinned and not be so emotional and not look at the chickens as quasi pets

Any thoughts or experiences would be most appreciated
20200202_174006.jpg
 

CindyinSD

Free Ranging
Aug 3, 2018
2,586
9,984
742
Black Hills, South Dakota, USA
1. You can’t keep all your old hens once their egg production dropped off (unless you can and want to continue feeding them with little return). You can advertise them free to anyone who’ll come and get them (I’m told people actually do answer such ads 🤷‍♀️) or you can slaughter them and cook low & slow & moist.
2. I feel the same about raising meat chickens. Killing them is tough, but it’s part of the deal.
3. You can either have pets or livestock, or some of each. The livestock can’t be pets, though, and it seldom works out for pets to be livestock. We don’t eat our pets, at least in ordinary circumstances. I enjoy my birds but I have no need for them to jump into my arms or onto my lap. That’s for pets. If I make them pets, I can’t eat them. But yes, you will give them a better life than they would have in a chicken factory, and probably a better death as well.
 

ChasesChickens

In the Brooder
Feb 2, 2020
33
64
40
Sydney
1. You can’t keep all your old hens once their egg production dropped off (unless you can and want to continue feeding them with little return). You can advertise them free to anyone who’ll come and get them (I’m told people actually do answer such ads 🤷‍♀️) or you can slaughter them and cook low & slow & moist.
2. I feel the same about raising meat chickens. Killing them is tough, but it’s part of the deal.
3. You can either have pets or livestock, or some of each. The livestock can’t be pets, though, and it seldom works out for pets to be livestock. We don’t eat our pets, at least in ordinary circumstances. I enjoy my birds but I have no need for them to jump into my arms or onto my lap. That’s for pets. If I make them pets, I can’t eat them. But yes, you will give them a better life than they would have in a chicken factory, and probably a better death as well.
Hi @CindyinSD,
I was thinking the offer to give them away was an idea - but I was thinking that they would likely end up culled unless it went to a family who really just wanted a pet.
Oh, don't get me wrong - if I think they are my pet, then theres no way there are ending up on someones table! LOL. The harsh reality is that I must have to keep them as livestock, and not get too attached. I might just keep a few select ones as pets.
I have seen what goes on the chicken factory, and personally doesn't sit welll with me by any means of the imagination. So Im trying to find a balance I guess :)

Thanks so much for your thoughts :)
 

Acre4Me

Free Ranging
Nov 12, 2017
3,380
7,189
517
Western Ohio
Well, you’ll either decide they are pets and spend a lot of mental energy worried about them being eaten, or if they are “happy” (a human emotion), etc or you can take more of a livestock perspective where you provide for them to live comfortable lives until you no longer need that one. We look at them as livestock, but there are three, in particular, from our first flock that have attained “keep till they die” status, and it is not uncommon for livestock chicken keepers to have one or two special ones -they get named, etc.

Meat chickens: they are meant to be culled young (usually in the 7-9 week old range), provide lots of meat within that short time. But, you can do a few things that help knowing they only had one bad moment. For example, we separate out a few meat chickens and place them in a darker area of the barn so they are calm before processing (remove food about 12-24 hours ahead of processing and provide fresh clean water only), then calmly proceed with the butcher step -with confidence-so it is done quickly and right the first time. Cervical dislocation is generally bloodless and many use a broomstick or similar. Others use a killing cone where the bird is placed upside down in a cone (they are calm when upside down in the cone), and use a VERY sharp knife to cut neck and release the blood. Both methods are very quick. Watch some videos if needed or find a local mentor to take you through the process once. Sometimes local farms will offer classes or “homesteader” classes to teach others about things like this. Often farms will have fb pages to advertise their farm and will post things like this there, or find a local fb group for homesteaders or similar etc.

the only other recommendation around butchering I can offer is to know what you will do with the remains (feathers, guts). Some people bury them (large enough space), others (like me) put in garbage. From experience, I can say that you should do your butchering with a couple of days ahead of garbage pick up....NOT the day after. :sick
 

igorsMistress

In the middle
Premium member
6 Years
Apr 9, 2013
13,509
63,865
1,322
My Coop
My Coop
Hi there, welcome to BYC!

I started keeping chickens for eggs, but never thought I'd be able to eat a bird from my flock. It took time but eventually that changed. Your feelings now could change too.

Look around in the meat bird section, you'll be able to read a lot about people's experiences raising various types including hybrids. I have a batch of Red Ranger/Dorking mixes outside and the biggest roo weighs 8 lbs on the hoof at 15 weeks. Not a lot of time to get attached. I realize this is longer than the 8 weeks for cornish x or others, but I've read a lot about raising them and they're not for me.

The actual kill is the hardest part for me, but once that's done and the carcass bleeds out there's not much gross factor while plucking and butchering. Also, a lot of folks will use older birds for soup or stew because the meat can be a bit tough.

Good luck in your future endeavors!
 

Wee Farmer Sarah

Free Ranging
Oct 8, 2018
2,220
11,171
692
North Central Massachusetts
Totally agree with @Acre4Me and @igorsMistress. My hens are basically for laying eggs, however I have dual purpose breeds. The long-term plan is to have some off spring to become meat birds. I don't plan on doing the butchering myself, there is a USDA certified facility not too far away. The area I live in is pretty restrictive as to what you can throw in the trash so having a butcher do the work and clean up is worth the fee for me. That said, older birds can be used for stewing.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium member
7 Years
Nov 27, 2012
72,287
75,252
1,557
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
I am concerned about the mass produced egg farming industry and also pf broiler chickens
Keeping chickens won't change the egg and chicken meat industry...but it can change where your eggs and chicken meat comes from.

I hatch replacement layers every year, and slaughter cockerels and older hens every year too. That's how I keep myself eating eggs and chicken meat grown in nicer environments that the factory farms. It wasn't 'fun' or easy to learn how and continue to slaughter, but it's part of the deal. I don't grow meat birds because I don't need them.


When I had roos, I would end up selling them at the local markets stall.
Curious what kind of market.

So Welcome to BYC! @ChasesChickens
Where in this world are you located?
Climate, and time of year, is almost always a factor.
Please add your general geographical location to your profile.
It's easy to do, (laptop version shown), then it's always there!
1580738202914.png
 

MysteryChicken

Crowing
May 31, 2018
4,574
8,072
471
East, Tawas Michigan
I keep my birds as both for pets, eggs, & meat. I only slaughter my birds if they get to old to lay, & aggressive roosters. I already slaughtered all my 4yr old hens in 2019, cuz they begun to slow down, & stop producing. I fatten up the old hens, so they have a good amount of meat for the table.
 
Top Bottom