So what happens when your old chickens stop laying eggs? Is it time for the pot, or do you let them retire gracefully and let them continue to be of service in the garden?
Well my girls just retire gracefully, and I add in new point of lay chickens to the flock. The older ones have been such good service to our family, we have let the four of them become matriarchs, and guide a new generations.
This is exactly what I did today on my day off!
Ben and I drove up to the Macedon Emu Farm to pick up four point-of-lay hens. Yes, they sell chickens at the Emu Farm.
Luckily we didn’t take home one of these birds! Big bloody chooks those ones.
Anyway, we paid Penny for the chickens, boxed them up, and put them in the boot for the drive home. Ben poked in lots of air holes before we left home, so there was plenty of air for them.
We safely arrived, but when we did, we were greeted by this look from Teddy, our pound rescue West Highland Terrier!
I’m not sure but I would probably say that Teddy is wondering what is in the box. Well Mr Ted, there are four ISA Brown hens that are about 20 weeks old. Here they are, have a good sniff.
Good looking girls, aren’t they. From the look of their combs, they are only about three weeks from laying, maybe four. Kim can then enjoy our Saturday morning Omelette again. Yum.
As a matter of keeping the peace at the moment, I have kept them separate from the old girls by shutting the hatch between the two chicken runs. Both flocks can see each other through the wire that separates the pens and once they discovered each other late this afternoon, they all squawked up a huge commotion! I had to go outside to make sure one of neighbourhood cats hadn’t gotten into the run.
They will stay separate for a day or two, then I will open up the hatch one evening and let them figure it all out in the morning. I dare say the my oldest girl Bunty will rule the roost with an iron wing.
Anyway, they seem to be settling in now. Two of them were a bit confused at dusk because they couldn’t figure out the sleeping arrangements in the little house. I had to put an extra perch up high in the pen so they could roost. I will check on them before I go to bed to make sure everything is okay for the night.
So what do you do when your old chickens stop laying? Do you let them retire in your very own Cluckingham Palace like I do, or do you take other measures?
My lot get to live a life of leisure, providing entertainment in return for food and shelter. They are a part of my family, and i would never dream of killing them because they were no longer ‘useful’. My cats are pretty bloody useless, but I wouldn’t put them in a pot, and I think my chooks deserve the same care!
Our hens are slowing down here too, being 2-3 years old. I am planning to send them to the pot and I’m looking to Australorps to replace them. As we raise our birds for meat and eggs, it’s the natural conclusion for us.
I have 4 chickens and, being vegetarian, have no intention of eating them once they stop laying. i do eat the eggs as my girls are living happy free range lives and lay eggs naturally. They will be well cared for until the day they die.
Mark Kuhn says
We have divided opinions on the fate of our chooks, I was raised with dual purpose birds. My partner however had never had chickens before, was wary of them and has a softer heart.
Getting around her wariness was easy, an incubator and eggs, fluffy chicks and their rise to adulthood overcame any concerns, this however was a double edged sword for me, yes I got my chooks but no way was I allowed to send the boys to freezer camp.
The roosters were the friendliest, sat on Debbie’s knee, shoulder and slept in her arms, when she noticed I wasn’t spending anytime with the boys my explanation of distancing myself before dispatching and processing for meat was not an acceptable answer, we were very lucky with finding homes with breeders or potential breeders wanting purebred / heritage strains.
So our flock dwindled from nine to four, Lavender Araucana, Golden & Silver Wyandotte’s with the addition of two Silkie’s this week.
The Silkie’s added for friendliness, they are great with some crops, eating the bugs rather than the plant and of course for their entertainment value.
The choice of breeds were for a longer life rather than going for the greatest output with a modified breed and shorter lifespan.
Have you considered rescuing ex commercial hens?
Once a commercial operation has kept the chickens for 1 year their yield is no longer at its optimum 1 egg per day so they get rid of them (for obvious financial reasons) mostly they have arrangements with places like Steggles and Inghams (egg layers obviously don’t have enough meat for a chicken breast or thigh but it’s where chicken nuggets come from). Then the carcasses go on to fertiliser companies. Now obviously this is a great no waste situation for a commercial company, but naturally not that nice for the poor old chooks. Some companies will let us softer hearted folk rescue the birds to bring them home to live out a more peaceful life, and of course given that the egg breeders use Hylines and Isa Browns, these girls will continue laying sporadically for many more years ( I’m still getting 2 to 5 eggs a day from my girlies two years on from rescue).
Chickens that began their life in harsh situations (cage birds) will not live nearly as long as those born and bred free, so for those concerned about the length of time feeding a bird for no eggs it’ll be much quicker before you can rescue more!
My 2 old matriarchs will be retiring in peace since they have settled down and don’t bully the others like they used to. But in the early days it was going to be chook heaven for them. They eat more than the others and deny the newer ones treats by scaring them away. Luckily for them though, the matriarchs have become more accepting
Our oldest 2 were allowed to retire. They’ve earned it. We did have them in with some young pullets but they bullied one of the young ones mercilessly. Our solution was to go the granny flat option. We separated them and put the older 2 in a smaller space. The 2 golden girls & the magnificent 7 are all happy now.
claire coutts says
Over the years my hens have died of old age.i had Cochins, a black fluffy heritage breed and the oldest one lived to around 8 years old. Her daughter is heading to that age also. The girls get recycled via the compost bin
I have had roosters so was able to hatch replacements. Of course more roosters came along. Coq au vin was the order of the day. I have no qualms with eating the boys as I too believe they had a good life
Claire in Mooroolbark.
Ours were given away before they stopped laying but we probably have put them in the pot.
I LOVE CHOOKS but Please can everyone stop breeding /buying/raising those lovely little busy chooks called Isa Browns … they have been invented to be egg laying machines that cannot even stop laying to save their own lives …. they are hormonally screwed up and mostly end their lives in a bad way … I was a soft hearted town chick that couldn’t Not help a chook in distress or in need of a new home and they broke my heart and my bank account … some of my rescue Isa Browns were worth over $1000 each before they passed away …. They only lay for a couple of years and then they get alot of problems in the reproductive body areas…. cancers that are not nice to watch them suffer from … PLEASE if you are going to have chickens then get some Hardy Heritage Breeds that will give you less eggs a week but for many many years so they are less egg-hausted and retire much later in life so less darlings bludging off you if you cant put them in the cooking pot … Think before you buy any new age chicken breeds ….. greedy for eggs or for years of harmony in the chook run ?