What do you do with your older chickens?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SlipsWife, Jan 22, 2014.

  1. SlipsWife

    SlipsWife Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 10, 2013
    Odessa, Texas
    Our small flock of 8 will be a year old soon. (2 red sex-links, 2 partridge, 2 turkens, 1 bantam EE, 1 red frizzled cochin bantam) We are going to try adding to them this year. I know we still have some time but I'm not sure what to do with the older ones once they aren't laying anymore. The red frizzle has yet to lay an egg (she was injured by dogs we use to have but has long since healed) and we've agreed she'll always have a place here. I would love to keep them all long enough to live out their natural lives but we don't have the room. I'm not sure I want to process them for meat birds (we will be trying meat birds this year but we are going to keep them in a separate area and spend less time with them...). We made the mistake of viewing our first group as pets and not livestock or possible food.

    How do you rotate out your flock? How do you decide who's ready to go and where they are going? What age is the best age to rotate? How does the meat from older birds compare to younger birds? Is there 'guilt' for not keeping older birds or does it become part of the process?
  2. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Flock Master Premium Member

    Mar 15, 2010
    On the MN prairie.
    This is a personal decision that each chicken-keeper has to make. Some people rotate them out every year or two, always having new pullets each spring to replace the older ones that are being culled. ("Cull" does not equal "Kill". To cull a bird simply means to remove it from the flock one way or another.) So, those flocks generally have 1-year olds that have been laying since the previous summer, and pullets that will begin laying that year. That way you always should have a supply of fresh eggs. Some people process these birds, some try to sell them or give them away.

    There are people who have the room and money to feed non-productive chickens and keep them around until they die.

    We keep them for a couple of years, then process them. Older laying hens to have a different taste and texture than what you buy at the grocery store. Some consider them stringy. The best way to cook a spent hen is low and slow. A crockpot is your friend. They're not like the young fryers you can buy. Personally, I like to bone them out and pressure-can the meat. I love having canned chicken on hand. It's so versatile and makes a quick, easy meal.

    I don't know if I can say I have "guilt" for processing older birds. It kind of makes me a little sad, but I know that these chickens lived a good life until the very end. They have a nice big coop, get to free range 9 months or so out of the year (they have the option in the winter, but generally choose not to), and are well-cared for. Even their last moments aren't so bad. We catch them, lop off the head and it's over in less than a minute from the catching to the killing. I don't like turning a live bird into a dead one (DH takes care of that, but I do help by holding the chicken), but once it's dead it's no problem. I think it's because I've just made up my mind that this is how it's going to be.

    Most people have a hard time "rehoming" spent hens, unless they are willing to give (or sell them for very little) them to someone else for a meal. My thinking is, "I've put all this time and money into these chickens, why would I give them away to someone else?"
  3. The Farm

    The Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2013
    Luther, OK
    Ok I can't answer all your ???s. But I keep mine till they mold the second time. I use my cochins to hatch out chicks ducklings and pheasants. I have some that right 3 and 4 yrs old. If you don't want to process them put them on CL see if any one will get them. And I can't really answer the other ???s sorry.
  4. Choco Maran

    Choco Maran Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 25, 2009
    Ribera New Mexico
    I will try to rehome them or they will stay with me until they die naturally. Unfortunately the last couple of years we have had some really bad luck. Two year ago a bear got in the coop and last year new years eve a neighborhood dog or a pack got in the coop and killed all but five so we are starting over again this year. We moved them into our barn where they are safe now.
  5. SlipsWife

    SlipsWife Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 10, 2013
    Odessa, Texas
    Thank you everyone for your feedback!

    I think if my husband handles the processing I could handle eating them. There was one rooster I would have been able to process with out a problem but he was lucky enough to be sold with one of the pullets as a breeding pair. We had a couple of injuries for different reasons (dogs mainly...) and it broke my heart to stop their pain. Maybe my emotions were more for their injuries than the process...

    I like the idea of 2 molts but I've only seen one of our girls go through a full molt (which I find weird because they are all right around the same age and the other girl that's the same breed didn't molt with her...) so I'm not sure if I will be able to use that method or not!

    The plan right now will be to get more chicks in a couple of months and once they start laying we might start culling the older group...slowly...I guess it will depend on how chicken math works out and how many we end up with, there might be room for everyone with the odds of last year! It seemed like every time we sold any we lost twice as many to predators.

    I'm also wondering if it would be best to get new chicks closer to fall (there's no way I can hold out that long so we will get spring chicks too!) to help stager their ages/stages a little more? Ugh, chicken math is starting again and I haven't even ordered yet...
  6. Cloudseeker

    Cloudseeker Out Of The Brooder

    Nov 24, 2013
    Skagit County, WA
    I sell my older hens... as well as the extra roosters!
  7. Nutcase

    Nutcase Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 2, 2012
    My Coop
    Cloudseeker, who buys your old hens? I'm wondering what to do with mine now that egg production is minimal. They're still in good health but I don't see who would want them. Kids maybe?
  8. Chicknlady

    Chicknlady New Egg

    Mar 27, 2008
    I have 20 birds, a mix of ages, from 1 to 9. I have five older hens who are pets, and have names and everything, and live off the chicken "social security" program.... I sell the eggs, which pays for the feed for ALL the chickens, laying or not.

    I'm not too attached to a group of red "mix" hens that will be two this year. I will cull out all but one or two.... one was injured by a dog, and still has a limp, and because she has a name ("Limpy") she gets to stay! It's always fun to get new birds, but I do need to reduce the flock some.

    And it is sad to do the dirty deed. No getting by that.
  9. The Farm

    The Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 16, 2013
    Luther, OK
    I am sure if you put them on CL some one would buy them. Thats what I do.
    GOOD LUCK!!!!
  10. KatsChicks

    KatsChicks Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 15, 2014
    Silly me got old Hens from People that wanted to get rid of them cause they hardly layed anymore. All our Animals get to live with us until they are old and die. We have plenty of Space for them and we enjoy watching them and taking care of them. 21 Chickens and we get 1-3 Eggs a Day. Every once in a while the Old Ladies will surprise us with an Egg:) If they lay I'm happy if not me and the Kids enjoy them anyways ;) This Spring we are planning on Building a larger Coop and getting a few Chicks. Maybe you can keep them and let them live or I'm sure if you would put them on CL someone would take them.
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2014

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