When is it time to thin the flock

Motherclucker3

In the Brooder
May 21, 2016
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So I acquired some chickens almost 4 years ago and they were already 2 at the time. I have since then added new birds. I am almost positive the older gals are no longer laying but how do you know for sure? We live in the city so we are limited to the number of chickens we can have and don't want to keep girls we aren't laying. How much longer do they live? Is it inhumane to thin a flock if you know what I mean? Thanks
 

ngennetta

Songster
5 Years
Apr 26, 2016
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Colorado
Chickens can, in theory, live into the teen years. You could isolate a hen for a few days to see if she lays. In my area there is someone that will take "mature" hens to live out their life. You may be able to find a humane farm in your area that would consider taking them.
 

AudieWarren

Songster
May 17, 2018
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Free ranging in Ga
This is a personal decision. If it was me and my farm, extra roosters and hens that no longer lay get eaten. If you aren't comfortable with that, I suggest finding someone to take her.
 

Perris

Still learning
Jan 28, 2018
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Gower, Wales
there are a lot of articles and threads here on how to find out who is laying and who is not (without separating them from the rest of the flock) but all of those I've read are directed to when birds start to lay, rather than finish. Following to find out the answer to your question :caf
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
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So I acquired some chickens almost 4 years ago and they were already 2 at the time. I have since then added new birds. I am almost positive the older gals are no longer laying but how do you know for sure? We live in the city so we are limited to the number of chickens we can have and don't want to keep girls we aren't laying. How much longer do they live? Is it inhumane to thin a flock if you know what I mean? Thanks

For many people the option of keeping non laying hens as well as adding younger laying hens to their flocks isn’t possible.
It’s something that often doesn’t get thought about much in the excitement of getting chickens.
I keep all the non laying hens that survive here because they teach the younger hens how to survive and I've eaten their eggs for all their laying lives. All the chickens here are free range. In chickens, ime wisdom comes with age.
It seems to be to be a very harsh world for chickens when because of natural decline as old age approaches we kill them, rather than give them a pension and care in their old age. Care for the elderly is in my view a prerequisite of civilized behavior even for chickens.
 

chuckachucka

Crowing
Mar 22, 2016
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I'm no expert but isn't there something about the width of the pelvic bones, narrower opening being a non layer. Also the vent area looks pale and dry in non layers and pink and moist in layers. Plus when laying the birds tend to have larger redder combs and wattles and they shrink a bit and pale when not in lay. If you want to be a hundred percent sure then the only way I suppose would be to isolate each hen for a few days. If no egg appears you can decide what to do with the hen. Process if you want the meat or else look for retirement homes.
 

Sneebsey

Songster
Apr 7, 2017
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Shropshire, UK
I'd be wary of thinning the flock at this time of year as, in my climate at least, everyone is moulting and therefore taking a break from laying. I'd wait until spring or summer, when it is unusual for anyone to take a break.
 

sumi

Rest in Peace 1980-2020
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Jun 28, 2011
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To find out which of your hens are laying, take a small syringe and squirt a bit of food colouring into their vents (different colour per hen). The food colouring will come off on the shell as the eggs come and identify each layer. You'll have to do this over a few days to get accurate results and as the above poster said, keep in mind this time of the year egg production is low across the board.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Nov 27, 2012
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Is it inhumane to thin a flock if you know what I mean?
Matter of opinion. I slaughter older hens(oldest of 3 age groups) every year for stewing, but I keep chickens for food not pets. I also hatch replacement layers every year, there's not enough space for everyone over the winter.

I'd be wary of thinning the flock at this time of year as, in my climate at least, everyone is moulting and therefore taking a break from laying.
That's very true, and a molting bird is PITA to pluck.
Birds that are not laying and molting now may lay again in the spring. Older birds often lay larger but fewer eggs as they age, tho many high production hybrids(sexlinks, etc.) often burn out after 2-3 years.

Here's the scoop on the pelvic bones, it does apply to older birds in molt or just out of lay.
 

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