Time to cull

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by orrpeople, Oct 16, 2019.

  1. orrpeople

    orrpeople Grading essays - be back soon!

    Jun 15, 2016
    State of Jefferson
    Ugh. I have too many older hens who don't lay but still eat... and eat. I'm curious to find out some of the common practices for those of you who cull before winter on a regular basis. What is your standard for culling? I regularly process extra cockerels, so I know the "how", I'm just trying to decide which hens should go. (Or looking for the moral support to do it at all!)
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Crossing the Road

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    We process our older hens, usually going into their 3rd winter if I have pullets or younger hens at the time. I can't financially justify keeping a bunch of freeloaders all winter. (With that being said, I only have one pullet from this year. I plan on putting lights in the coop this winter to keep the older girls laying a bit.) I always hate hen processing day, but realize that if I want to keep getting younger ones, I need to make room.
  3. BGcoop

    BGcoop Songster

    Aug 5, 2018
    I don’t really have any experience other than culling a bird prior to going on vacation once since she was requiring extra “medical” care for a bad foot and I didn’t want my pet sitters to have to worry about that or worry what to do if she deteriorated while we were gone. So I’m thinking the order I would decide to go would be:
    1)anyone that is needing extra care
    2)anyone that is starting to look frail (one that has been sickly previously)
    3)any poor attitudes
    4)finally any that I just don’t like the looks of/never had a “bond” with.
    Good luck deciding what will work for you!
    Morrigan, blackandtan, lomine and 5 others like this.
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    I take out the oldest ones, or ones who have 'issues'.
    One thing about slaughtering older hens this tie of year is plucking pin feathers of birds who are molting...course same went for cockerel slaughter earlier this year, ending up skinning most the part as I butchered.

    Like @bobbi-j I only have 2 pullets this year so didn't slaughter any hens.

    I rotate my stock kind of based on winter space.
    Neither I nor the birds like a crowded coop in winter.
    I hatch chicks every year in late winter.
    Cull (selling or gifting or slaughtering) all males by 14-16 weeks.
    Older hens(~18-30mo) are culled before hard winter hits.
    I do use lights for winter laying, not always effective,
    it's not like flipping a switch-haha!
    In 5 years I still don't have a 'pat' system,
    gotta be flexible as the situation dictates and as I continue to learn.
    Morrigan, muddy75, Sequel and 2 others like this.
  5. orrpeople

    orrpeople Grading essays - be back soon!

    Jun 15, 2016
    State of Jefferson
    These are such great, thoughtful responses! Thank you @bobbi-j , @aart , and @BGcoop .
    Yeah - I think the biggest issue is that cockerel processing isn't so difficult because I always do it before they've lived here very long (they're also so stinking noisy!). .. but the hens ... that's a different story.

    But, there is an awful lot of free loading going on out there. I have a couple that maybe laid 2 eggs all year.
    None of them are mean, and they all range together well... and I'm in the valley in California, where "winter" must be kept in quotation marks.
    But as flock management goes, I don't feel very responsible having as many birds as I do; paying as much for feed as I do; and having nothing to show for it.
    Morrigan, Sequel, blackandtan and 2 others like this.
  6. Folly's place

    Folly's place Crossing the Road

    Sep 13, 2011
    southern Michigan
    This is one of the more difficult parts of having a home flock of layers and 'sorta' pets.
    I sell some still laying hens, keep some for life, and actually put few in the freezer. I do have favorites, including any broody hens!
    There have been two years when predators killed many (this year was one of them!) so any survivors get to stay, along with the new pullets, making up the right number for winter here. I can feed a few older birds; they produced many eggs in previous years, and are 'retired' now, and are flock leaders, teaching the younglings things they need to know.
    You could post signs, network a bit, and advertise on craigslist, and move them on that way, rather than processing them yourself.
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Free Ranging

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    Think about getting chicks. As my granddaughter says, if we find a wreck. "Well, that sucks, but now we can get chicks!"

    You will feel better when it is done. Focus on that. It is a hard part of chicken keeping. Note: this advice is coming from the lady that IS keeping Stripes... she is more than likely not going to lay well or at all, but she is a survivor.... and ....well you know.

    MRs K
    Sequel, orrpeople, ConnieA and 2 others like this.
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    It is harder, just gotta get thru it, but they make awesome stock! And if you like schmaltz you may have some 'gold' mines there.
    Like this old girl:

    Then why even post here?:idunno
    I don't post on 'pet' threads, because that's not my thing and I have nothing to contribute to the discussion.
    It's Basic Forum Etiquette...not to mention common sense and courtesy. ;)
  9. Mybackyardpeepers

    Mybackyardpeepers Crowing

    Mar 22, 2019
    My bad, sorry!
  10. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    We each have our own reasons to have chickens, our own goals and preferences. We also have our own limitations and conditions. Those could be legal, how much space we have, economic, climate, and even personal moral or ethical issues. I'm not going to try to put my goals or ethics off on you, they are different.

    I think where you should start is to determine what are your goals and driving forces. How strong are your economic motivations. Do you consider those hens pets, you obviously don't the cockerels but I can see where there can be a difference. These are the type of personal things you have to decide for yourself.

    Cull does not mean kill. If you decide you need to get rid of some you can sell them. It can be challenging to sell older hens but you should be able to find an auction near you where someone will at least take them for a very little amount or money. They will probably be eaten but you won't be the one killing and eating them.

    I eat about 45 chickens a year so I hatch or buy about 45 chicks a year. Out of these I keep a few replacements but eat the rest, including pullets, cockerels, old hens, and sometimes an old rooster. The way I go about it is to first determine which ones don't meet my goals. I have more goals than just meat so some just don't measure up. Those are easy. I also mark my chickens so I know how old they are. Like some others I rotate out my three year old hens each fall. But the fewer I have left the harder those decisions become. Sometimes those final decisions are pretty tough. But by having a set number that I am willing to take through the winter I get down to my number.

    I don't know what he right answers are for you. Good luck in figuring it out.

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