What to do when the flock's too old??

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by macylee36, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. macylee36

    macylee36 Out Of The Brooder

    Oct 31, 2011
    Hello all,

    I hope I have this post in the right place. I am on my second winter with my hens and this one is much more severe in temps than last year. They've spent a great deal of time cooped up and are getting mean to each other. I'm pretty sure if I don't get them to stop - one of them will be pecked to death soon.

    In any case, all of this has led to me to thinking about whether I can actually kill my own chickens. I've been reading through many of the posts on the site and it seems there are many of you who keep chickens purely for the eggs. It is my understanding that after about 5 years, hens pretty much just stop laying. My question then is, if you keep chickens for the eggs and don't want to butcher them, what do you do with them when they stop laying?
  2. CluckAcres

    CluckAcres Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 20, 2012
    Silver Lake, Indiana
    Some people like me just keep the chickens even if they are not laying. They are like pets to me as well as livestock. If you dont want to keep them then Im sure you can rehome them to some one.
  3. chicknnugget

    chicknnugget Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 18, 2012
    Mooresville NC
    I was wondering the same thing. As much as I love them and would like to keep the if they stop laying, I could not. I only have a small coop that holds 5 hens, so She is going to be taking up some valuable real estate. So far so good but I do have an older hen who I hope will start laying again when it gets warmer or I'll have to start making some tough calls soon.
  4. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    You could give or sell cheaply on Craigslist 2 year old hens. At three years your just giving them away and not stipulating what can be done with them, If you would eat them but just don't want to do the butchering you may find a neighbor willing to do it for a fair price.

    We butchered off our unwanted cockerels this past year and will do so again this year along with two 3 year old hens. Chicken gumbo is excellent and the stock you can make with necks and backs is incredible (we only eat breasts ans legs). A mothers sauce is more like it and nothing close to the flavored water you buy at a store labeled stock.
  5. WalkingOnSunshine

    WalkingOnSunshine Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 8, 2008
    Hens slow down their laying after two years or so. Since our hens are livestock, we have a replacement plan for hens. We only keep hens 2-3 years, depending on the breed and how they're laying. Then that entire cohort is replaced. We buy or hatch eggs in early spring, then get rid of the older hens when the pullets start to lay. We also buy started pullets from a hatchery.

    I've butchered hens before, so we're OK with eating them. HOWEVER, I truly, truly hate doing it. Not because of the killing part, but because I just hate plucking chickens. I can't get over the smell, and I don't like handling raw chicken at the best of times. And every cohort is about 30 birds--way too much raw chicken and feathers for me. So, we put them on Craigslist. I've never had trouble getting rid of our aged hens for $5-$7 each. I always sell them while they're still laying, and people who are too impatient to wait for chicks or pullets to grow up love getting eggs right away. Also, I know some of them get eaten. Selling the older hens (they're not really spent yet) works really well for us.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  6. jdywntr

    jdywntr Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 31, 2009
    Somerville, AL
    If you are willing to eat them, look into finding someone to process them. If you think you may be able to butcher them yourself, see if you can find a mentor that will teach you. A lot of this depends on you though. I process our birds. My husband has offered "moral support" once and I had to stop him from putting down chickens and telling them to run away. :) I learned from the meat forum here on BYC.

    If they are still laying, you could try selling them on craigslist but I would be honest and let people know that they are older so won't have a long laying time left.

    I raise my own birds and they all need to be breeds that will produce and raise their own offspring, they are treated well, have comfy housing and get to range when they want unless the hawk is nearby. They have a better life and death than the chicken I can buy at the store. This is what makes processing them easier for me.
  7. From the North

    From the North Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 22, 2013
    Aside from whether or not you could kill a chicken (I don't know if I could - I've been watching youtube videos to desensitize myself a little bit), maybe you can allow your hens more access to the outside, even in poor weather, to keep them from getting so anxious and pecking at each other?
  8. 1muttsfan

    1muttsfan Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 26, 2011
    Upper Peninsula Michigan
    We have a local processer that does the job on the cockers for $2.50 per bird - cleaned and plucked, then we vacuum-pack them ourselves.

    I rehome almost my entire layer flock every year at 1-2 years of age. But I have a hatching habit (addiction?) and always have lots of replacements.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  9. SewingDiva

    SewingDiva Chillin' With My Peeps

    We have ours processed at 3 years and I'm lucky there is a custom butcher about 30 minutes form my house who will do it for $5 a bird. I give away the dressed birds to friends and family, they are perfectly edible and really tasty just a bit chewy because they're 3 years old and not 8 weeks old like the average meat chicken. The folks who take them make chicken stock and use the meat for their pets.

    I do think people need to decide *before* they get chickens what they plan to do when the the lay rate declines. I also think it's ok to put them on Craigslist for free however I've noticed that most of the time (in my area at least) people don't disclose that the hens are older and not producing much which is not fair to the newbies who often take these birds. I had a friend do that because she wanted to try chickens as a newbie and basically *she* had the problem of what to do because the original owner didn't want to deal with that, the person who gave her the birds never disclosed how old they were, which was over three years old based on what she told me about their lay rate. The original owner just kicked the problem down the road which is not really right.

    It's very much a personal decision as to whether you let them live out their lives or not after the lay rate declines, which is natural part of their life cycle and there is nothing we can do to change it. One decision is not morally superior over the other.

  10. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

    May 11, 2010
    Since in don't depend on my chickens for a source of food or income, I will keep them until they are too old to live a decent life and euthanize them. However, I've been known to raise meat birds and hire the man down the road to process them. We split half the carcasses. He does a good job and with his children involved he can do a fair number of birds in one day.

    But if you are in a position where space is limited, and your birds are your source of eggs, you can't keep non-productive birds. So how do you get rid of them? Give them away. Advertise in your local freebie paper (IWanna and so forth) to get rid of them. There is no way to guarantee the chicken's future.

    Letting them go is not easy after raising them as pets. We all understand that. But we also understand you gotta eat. Best of luck in your decision.


    Who will soon be making a senior living center for my aging hens. They'll be two this March! I plan to turn them into master gardeners.


    And scrap food recycling


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