What do you do when your hens are past laying??

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by Totes Quackers, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. Totes Quackers

    Totes Quackers Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 17, 2011
    This is a hot topic in my house at the moment! We have 6 hens, this is their first year of lay.. however my husband says we will eat them when they no longer lay eggs... I think that's AWFUL! We also have 3 kids who have named them and treat them as 'pets'.. I understand the circle of life but these are pets, eggs are a bonus! Does anyone keep their chickens after egg laying has stopped? How long does a chicken live for?
  2. epeloquin

    epeloquin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 11, 2011
    Western Massachusetts
    As I understand it chickens can live up to eight years or so. Also, as I understand, after the first three years or so, their laying will diminish by about 20% per year. That's what I've heard.
  3. Cockadoodle Lu

    Cockadoodle Lu New Egg

    Jun 9, 2011
    I think many people have differing feelings on this topic, depending on your mindset and reasons to keep chickens in the first place. So far I've gotten around this one with my husband by convincing him that by the time they're finished laying, they won't taste good. I'm only getting away with that because ours aren't classified as 'dual purpose' birds, so my main argument is that they're not really meant to taste any good. He still thinks they'll make good soup, but I'm still holding out. With kids, it's probably harder to define 'pet' so you might have your work cut out for you there. Better not to think of them as pets, I think, although we all know that's easier said than done once they have names! (and yes, mine do all have names)
  4. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    My oldest aren't even 2 years old yet, but I have every intention of continuing to feed and care for my chickens after they stop laying. They will still catch bugs, provide the best fertilizer in the world, and keep me laughing. Eggs aren't the reason I wanted to get chickens anyway; those are just a great bonus, gifts from the girls.

    My dogs and cats don't have to do anything but love me and they will live out their lives with me too. No different with the chickens (except they aren't going to sleep with me or spend any time in the house other than those sneaky moments when they find an open door and come inside to check things out).
  5. shortstaque

    shortstaque Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 29, 2010
    Bucks County, PA
    This is a sensitive topic, with lots of different opinions. Personally I thank my chickens for giving me eggs by giving them the best life I can as long as I decide to keep them, and then thank them again when we process them quickly in their familiar surroundings. I look at the whole cycle of life as an important lesson that I want my children to understand with all its complexities. The first bird we processed was very difficult on many levels, but it got easier with time. I still don't enjoy it, but find it satisfying to be at least a bit self-sufficient. If I am going to eat meat (which I didn't do for over 5 years of my life) I feel it is my duty to know where it comes from and that it was raised in healthy and humane surroundings. I can't think of a better way, than to do it myself. I grew up on a farm and am sometimes dismayed by how distant many people are in this day and age from their food chain. The whole idea that its ok to eat chicken McNuggets because I didn't know the origins of the chickens (and other byproducts) in the "food", but its not ok to eat a chicken for which you cared and to which you gave a good life goes against my grain. I've always felt this way to an extent, but have given it more careful thought since reading the Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan. Thats my two cents worth.
  6. Nonny

    Nonny Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 16, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    We have our three as pets, but we don't have the room for more and we do like our eggs so will retire them rather than eat them when they're done laying, so that we can replace them with younger ones. The place we buy them from has a "Chicken Retirement Service" where you pay them to take your older hens. I haven't looked into it fully, but I would hope they put them out to pasture and/or rehome them as pets.
  7. jadeybaby70

    jadeybaby70 Out Of The Brooder

    Jul 10, 2009
    Shortstaque...well said. I know many people on this board "process" their chickens after they are past their laying years and I totally get it. I could never because I see my girls as pets. I know they are chickens and don't sleep in my bed but they know me and trust me. My Ameraucana roo coos to me and I know he loves me [​IMG] I don't eat store bought chicken either. I am a veg head and for the reason that I know how most of those chickens live their sad lives. Most people, not only don't know, but don't want to know were their food comes from. It is hard for someone to stop eating meat and when you really know the situation the poor animal that you are eating was living in, it brings on feelings of guilt. I dealt with this guilt for years before deciding to become a vegetarian. I love my chickens too much and to know they will die so I no longer have to support just doesn't work for me. My girls will live out a happy retirement in return for the delicious breakfast they did provide and the hours of daily entertainment. BUT if you are a meat eater, I respect you for the happy environment you provided for the animals you eat as opposed to cramped the wire cage and a quick humane end as opposed to a fearfilled one. [​IMG]
  8. Niss

    Niss Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 29, 2011
    Omnivore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan--that's a great book, very thought provoking.

    We haven't had to face this yet. We were given free 2 yr olds and out of 14 we're getting 6-9 eggs per day. One hen is broody right now, last month we had 16 hens laying and had several 12 egg days. We also have pullets, and when they start to lay we plan to eat the old gals, so they may only live until cool weather since I want to can them. BUT there are four I like and will probably keep a while longer, plus my broody if she does a good job. I would sort of like to start with a bird I WANT to kill, like an agressive roo...both my boys are nice though.
  9. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Some chickens will lay for many years, albeit, at a reduced rate. I have 4 yr old girls who are still laying just fine. My 5 yr olds were laying till recently and may resume when the weather is slightly cooler. I know folks whose 8-12 yr old hens still lay a couple of eggs each week. I don't process my older girls. The only birds who are processed here are mean roosters, but I rarely get one of those.
  10. darkmatter

    darkmatter Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 10, 2009
    The older the hen, the more favorable the chicken noodle soup, ---------- just saying. I'm of the eating mindset.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by