Bloglet: Thinking Outside the Pot About Nonlaying Hens

Chicks and Leaves 015A friend of mine asked me the other day what I would do with my hens when they stopped laying eggs. She had read a newspaper article about a growing problem in towns that allow backyard flocks–the problem of people abandoning their birds when they grew tiresome to care for or ceased laying eggs.

I have decided that when my girls quit laying, I will let them continue as vermin eaters (ticks etc. in the backyard) and manure producers for creating new beds and building soil. (My most established beds produce amazing amounts of food already because of the chicken manured bedding I use to build and mulch the soil and the chicken-enriched compost I add to them each year.) I figure the produce I will grow will be more than worth the cost of feed, oyster shell, scratch grain, and the 16 or so bales of hay I use in a year. I hope to grow more and more of our food supply as the years go by, and it will all be fairly organic, as well as fresh and unadulterated.

Three Is a Crowd!

My older hens are now almost 5 years old and still producing eggs–not every day, but they could still produce as many eggs as we need to cook with. I have two of those 4-year-old hens from my first flock. Three others died of salpsyglosis (sp?), an infection of the ovaries common to laying hens that resulted in secondary bacterial infections of their lungs. (Budge, our original hen, was killed by a dog.) I have 4 two-year-old red sex links that are laying now despite the day length. They really are amazing. They are hybrids and egg-laying machines. I am told that they won’t have the long laying life of my purebred Dominiques. I hope that the very stress free, healthy, and uncrowded living environment I am providing them with will lengthen their laying time. (I could probably add another 4-6 hens to my coop and yard without undue stress to the flock if I really wanted egg production.)IndPizzasandfirsteggs 007

 My husband just finished fencing the back yard, and all that I need to do is finish lining the split rail with wire. In the spring, he will put in gates on each side of the house. (I hope to work the April elections to earn some money to pay for the lumber.) I can let the chicks free range then while I am home or out in the yard gardening. We may end up having to fence the raspberries from them, but otherwise, I don’t have a lot in the back that I am worried about them bothering.

People don’t realize how much work any kind of bird is, and they don’t understand their social dynamics. I always give people who are thinking about getting chickens the full load–especially if they have stars in their eyes and fried eggs on the brain. I am not surprised that people are abandoning their chickens much as they abandon their dogs and cats. It’s a pattern don’t you think? Also, chickens aren’t mammals. I think that people are looking for affection and devotion as well as fresh eggs from their flock, and most of the time are disappointed when they don’t get it. Chickens are reptiles at heart, and I think it wrecks the ride for a lot of people.

I enjoy taking care of the girls on a daily basis and have a number of people who are willing to help with shutting up the coop if I’m not home or we are away for a few days. I’m really looking forward to letting them be free in the yard for a part of each day. My only worry is hawks, but you can’t control everything. There is always a price for freedom. Begonia

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5 Responses to Bloglet: Thinking Outside the Pot About Nonlaying Hens

  1. For us it was a no brainer. Having chickens and having to buy eggs was a waste of money for feed. Off to “Chickie Heaven” they went.

    • Dear Thoughtful Prepper:

      I think that I’ve bought 2 dozen eggs at the store in the last 5 years! If I really needed the food I’d give them the old chop, but I find that I need the manure more. 😉 I could find free manure in the area, but I don’t have the back to shovel it anymore. (The same applies to mulch.) The incremental amounts of chicken manure I take from the coop each morning go on the compost pile. The chicken tilled and enriched hay (they eat a good bit of it) goes on the gardens as mulch and to build new soil in new beds. My little farm in town is a small system (that I can handle even with a bad back), and the chickens are the engines.

      Urban flocks are very small and usually not designed to be a big money generator through egg sales, although I do know people who keep chickens in town who do sell eggs. A farmer with a small profit margin cannot afford to keep birds who are not at peak production at all times. The eggs are the thing and the manure is a problem. I think that a lot of people who kill their one-year-old or slightly older hens just don’t want to take care of them through the winter, or they do it because “that’s the way it has always been done.” Neither is a good enough reason for me to change my way of going. I have a carefully thought out system that meets my needs. You are welcome to do your thing, we can agree to disagree. Good to hear from you. Begonia

  2. tbnranch says:

    I usually just set my retired girls free roam the farm when they are older. Being in the city I have yet to lose one to a predator. Or, sometimes I give them away and let somebody else worry about what to do with them! lol

    • I’m on the edge of town in a neighborhood. Did you know that dogs are the biggest killers of chickens in town? One little designer dog could take out my entire flock before I could hit it with a rock! (We lost our first chicken to a neighbor with visiting dogs. We were lucky our daughter wasn’t hurt. She put herself between the dog and the bird, but he got the hen anyway.) Birds of prey are more of a concern than anything else, though. I regularly have red-tail hawks and Cooper’s hawks in my backyard, perched in the trees, on the roof of the coop, or even sitting in bird netting over the chicken yard! I don’t worry as much about the nocturnal predators that are common on our block: opossums, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, great horned owls, and skunks, because my husband built me what the neighbors laughing call “THE ROBOCOOP.” BTW I enjoyed visiting your page and seeing your coop.

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