I have small flock of hens purely for eggs in my backyard with a nicely constructed coop and an ample sized run. They get a heat lamp during cold snaps, shade in the summer and fresh water every day, layer pellets and occasional black sunflower seeds and kitchen scrap treats. I started out with five leghorns 8 years ago. By the time they were around 4 years old, two had died of internal laying and the other three died suddenly and mysteriously. As they died, I replaced them with two aracaunas, then a year later a wyondotte and a buff orpington. I also added two Polish cresteds (one died suddenly.. I suspect killed by another chicken since I have had to keep the living Polish separate due to pecking). Today I lost yet another hen to internal laying. This Aracauna was almost 4 years old. I suspect my 3 year old wyondotte is also laying internally. I feel like my flock has dealt with an abnormally high rate of internal laying, and I wonder what I should do differently. I am wondering if changing from layer pellets to a cracked corn/seed mix would help. I've read abstaining from layer food helps hens with internal laying and since being overweight may contribute, we have stopped free feeding regardless of what we feed. I am also determined to never get chicks from our local feed store again and hope to find a local heritage breeder. At this point, I feel like I am grasping at straws. I understand death is part of the natural cycle, blah blah blah, but internal laying really sucks. We are considering abandoning our "chicken retirement" approach and culling them as soon as they stop laying because this has, in the past, been the first sign of health issues and we wonder if it is better to get it over with at the first sign of trouble. I've given antibiotic shots, done bumble foot surgery, drained abdomens, given salt soaks, done rectal exams, daily bandage changes, etc. as their health begins to fail, and I am always sad to see them go, but do not want them to die slowly, or be forced to cull them as they are suffering. Does anyone have any advice to give about making the transition from an "egg-to-retirement" flock to an "egg-to-cull" flock?