The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Old hen dilemma

I've been wavering all week on whether to eat our old hens or not.  They stopped laying in the cold this winter, and I figured since they were over two years old (and a breed of chickens which lays a lot for a couple of years then slows down markedly), it was time to put them in the pot.  We want to expand our flock this spring, and it sure would be easier to put the new birds in a pre-made tractor vacated by the oldsters than to build a new tractor.

Then came the sunny week...and the old hens started to lay.  I figure they're now laying an egg per bird every second or third day.  Right on the edge of what I consider to be worth feeding them.  So....

What do you think should be the fate of our old hens?

View Results
Free poll from Free Web Polls

Anna Hess's books
Want more in-depth information? Browse through our books.

Or explore more posts by date or by subject.

About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

Want to be notified when new comments are posted on this page? Click on the RSS button after you add a comment to subscribe to the comment feed, or simply check the box beside "email replies to me" while writing your comment.

Well.. I couldn't vote in the poll because I had a third option. I would leave the old girls be until the new girls are up and laying... Assuming of course that you are getting chicks. If you are getting adult hens...well....ummm... they would be tasty.

Comment by jen Mon Feb 16 14:12:40 2009
I should have been clearer --- we actually have some great layers right now. We got chicks last spring, and they are now heavy duty layers, giving us as many eggs as we can eat. We're mostly expanding because we want to branch out into meat birds, and because we know our great layers are going to slow down eventually. Which probably pushes you over into the eat-the-old-girls camp, huh? :-)
Comment by anna Mon Feb 16 14:47:19 2009
The old hens you gave me started laying again a couple of weeks ago, and their eggs are twice as large as many of my pullets. Have you thought of caging one of them up in a dark place and putting some fertile eggs under her?
Comment by Errol Mon Feb 16 16:35:53 2009
The eggs ARE huge. Unfortunately, we ate our rooster this fall --- he was mating with the hens too much and tearing them up. We're looking for a good rooster right now so that we'll end up with fertile eggs --- that's how we plan to expand the flock. Can't quite decide what we're going to do with the rooster then, though --- put him in a separate pen until we're ready for him again, or eat him and just get another one when we need it. From what I've read, having a rooster with only a few hens in an enclosed place is trouble.
Comment by anna Mon Feb 16 18:23:04 2009
My rooster is a sweetie pie with his harem of fifteen hens. He protects them when they eat their flaxseed meal and doesn't eat a bit of it himself. He does join in when I throw them a handful of cracked corn.
Comment by Errol Mon Feb 16 21:07:49 2009
Fifteen hens per rooster is about right --- at that ratio, roosters are good for the flock. Unfortunately, I think a tractor big enough to hold 15 hens would just be too big for me to drag!
Comment by anna Tue Feb 17 08:13:58 2009
The older they get, the tougher the meat. That's what I've heard anyway. I voted to put them in the freezer because you said you already have more good layers doing the job. Personally, I don't look forward to the day when I have to kill laying hens that have done so good by us. But it's something I can and will get used to - my wife, on the other hand, may be a different story.
Comment by Everett Tue Feb 17 11:26:59 2009
Well, they're already old enough to be in the tough old bird stage (aka potsticker filling!) But I agree --- it's no good putting off the chopping block any longer than necessary. (Most people who voted seem to be more kind hearted than you and me, though.)
Comment by anna Tue Feb 17 16:28:24 2009

profile counter myspace

Powered by Branchable Wiki Hosting.