Keeping chickens... what about when they finish laying?

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  • I would like to move towards a lifestyle of living with less money, and as part of this I would like to get some chickens for eggs to eat and to trade with a few other people down my road who grow a lot of veggies.


    My dilemma is what to do with the chickens once they have finished laying. I would love to keep them as pets afterwards, but I have read that this can cause some problems/ I wouldn't have the space to keep the 'pets' separate/ as well. I'm also not sure that the finances of keeping them as pets really add up (I know that sounds heartless but unfortunately it's the reality and at least I could be 100% sure that they have a brilliant life, well fed and with lots of outdoor space). I eat meat very occasionally (if it's going to get thrown out otherwise). I'm not sure however, that I could bring myself to actually do the deed when the time came... if I couldn't, then letting someone else do it and then eating them would seem totally wrong! Maybe I would get used to it after a while? I don't know?


    Does anybody else keep chickens for eggs? What do you do with them when they no longer lay?

  • I have chooks, because I love having them around. I got my first lot of hens in 2011 and only have one of those left now - and she's still laying :). They all have their own personalities and are very tame and clever. After they've provided me with eggs for the whole duration of their lives, the last thing I could ever do is kill and eat them when they can't do it anymore.


    I have some new chooks now, rescue ex-free rangers, who were due for the chop at 9 months old because they weren't productive enough anymore (now it's spring I get an egg from each of them pretty much every day!). I've completely fallen for these chooks - they are unbelievably friendly :). I love them!


    I have fenced off the whole garden now and they are all free to roam together. Consequently I find they are foraging so much of their own food they hardly eat any layers pellets at all. I've literally gone through less than half a 20kg bag since I got them at the end of December. I sell the surplus eggs at £1 a box and that more than pays for their food and bedding. There's no need to separate out the layers from the non-layers. They mingle happily and I collect whatever they lay, and I don't worry about who's laid it.


    I'm a veggie though, and I would keep these chooks whether they laid eggs or not, because I love them. The eggs are a bonus. When they finish laying I look after them till the end of their days :)

  • We keep chickens for meat, and the eggs are a by product, so stopping laying is not an issue as they never get that old , but if you get a traditional breed rather than a hybrid, ie a warren , then they will lay pretty much till they die of old age.

  • Our Two are rescue's probably a bit 'tough' for actual eating, more use with their personalities as entertainment
    plus they typically produce an egg a day with minimal money for feed,
    bag of pellets a month, maybe some seed, grapes, breakfast cereal, hot dogs, lettuce etc if its spare!

  • I love ours, they are really funny. They have weeded and dug over my (small) veggie patch already. Keeping them off it will be more interesting when stuff is planted in there. They are bantams that a friend gave us about 2 years ago. They lay small ish and really tasty eggs. At the moment they are laying every day but they have a habit of going broody when it gets a bit warmer.


    At the moment I think the wild birds are eating more of the feed than them. We will keep them after they stop laying as we have room at the moment and my wife won't let my do anything else to them!

  • Okay. So I'd like chicken's that lay as regularly as possible, but more importantly keep on laying as they get older. What breeds would you recommend?


    Rhode Island Red , Sussex or Auastrolope,all hardy good layers. We keep Indian Game, and Welsh Blacks , not so such great layers , but very tasty, and very hardy/good foragers :)

  • You could do what the commercial guys do - buy them in as point-of-lay, keep for 1 year, then sell off cheap (£2.50 each?) as ex free range layers. It must be the most financially viable way to do it as it's common practice....

    ' When you feel like giving up, remember why you held on for so long in the first place '

  • You could do what the commercial guys do - buy them in as point-of-lay, keep for 1 year, then sell off cheap (£2.50 each?) as ex free range layers. It must be the most financially viable way to do it as it's common practice....


    That seem to me a bit like passing the buck. Keeping an animal for the best bit of its life and then passing it on to someone else when it's not as productive any more? That's a bit like buying a puppy so you can enjoy it when it's cute and then re-homing it when you're bored with it. I know people see chickens as 'livestock', but I find it difficult to make that distinction. To me chickens warrant the same level of commitment as cats or dogs.


    Loads of people keep chooks and get many years of enjoyment from them, as well as hundreds of delicious eggs. You'll probably find you end up with a flock of varying ages and degrees of productivity as some hens get old or die and are replaced. You'll almost certainly be inundated with eggs with plenty left over to sell, and the price of paying for the odd elderly hen is completely negligible when you're feeding the rest of your flock.


    It's very, very easy to get tons of eggs and not have to worry at all about what to do with your chooks when they stop laying. It's a question that's never even crossed my mind!

  • once they have stopped laying you kill an eat them if you have given them a happy life till then no problem


    Maybe no problem for you Convoy but slight problem for the hen who has just died years before she was mean`t to. Giving them a `happy home` shouldn`t carry the reward of being able to do whatever you want with them once they`re no longer of use to you..

  • Post by MandalaGaze ().

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  • It's weird to think of eating a pet chicken. Almost like eating the dog. Assuming the chicken was a pet of course. But to most chicken is delicious. So if you eat meat, you could eat it. Sad for that chicken, however it will stop you from eating a 'factory-bread' chicken, and supporting their methods, so I'd rather you eat your own. If you can't kill it humanely, find someone who can.


    Alternative suggestion - sell on Gumtree.

  • Post by emmer ().

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  • no breaking a chickens neck does not make you a killer flying a plane with a 100 plus people including kids on board into a mountain makes you a killer


    I don't want to get too philosophical on R3ubs's thread, but if you kill something - you're a killer! Obviously not in the same context as killing a plane load of people, that's an insane comparison to make. But you can't eat meat without killing (or having someone else do the killing). Ending something else's life is killing, that's the definition of the word. Some people call killing for meat murder, and see it in the same way as killing other people. I don't go that far, but as I can live healthily and happily without meat, I prefer not to eat it.

  • Every time we garden, we become killers, crushing and burying many smaller forms of life underfoot and under tools.
    Every time we kill pests we become killers, fighting to obtain 'our' plants instead of sharing them with insects and other forms of life.
    Every time we breathe we become killers, annihilating thousands of minute forms of life that we cannot even see.
    So there is no hope whatsoever of not being a killer of some kind. It is the way the planetary life here has evolved.


    From a humane philosophical point of view, it is all a question of degree.
    For sentient humans, it is a question of whether it - killing something - is considered necessary for our continued existence.

  • Every time we garden, we become killers, crushing and burying many smaller forms of life underfoot and under tools.
    Every time we kill pests we become killers, fighting to obtain 'our' plants instead of sharing them with insects and other forms of life.
    Every time we breathe we become killers, annihilating thousands of minute forms of life that we cannot even see.
    So there is no hope whatsoever of not being a killer of some kind. It is the way the planetary life here has evolved.


    From a humane philosophical point of view, it is all a question of degree.
    For sentient humans, it is a question of whether it - killing something - is considered necessary for our continued existence.

    The "cycle of life" argument is often used by people who'd rather make no effort at all - but there's a difference between killing for survival and health, unavoidable or accidentaly killing, or killing unnecessarily or for profit.


    So, in my opinion (and experience) because people don't need to eat animal products to be healthy, then it is purely killing for the sake of a snack - and beyond that, it's also commodifying life itself, and is it really our right (as evolved beings) to do that?


    Of course flying a plane full of people into a mountain is a tragedy, but so are 150 billion living creatures being unnecessarily killed for food every year - one tragedy doesn't negate the validity of the other.

  • I don't think anyone is trying to negate the validity of the humane argument. As summed up in the two lines of the last paragraph:
    'From a humane philosophical point of view, it is all a question of degree.
    For sentient humans, it is a question of whether it - killing something - is considered necessary for our continued existence.'


    A question of degree means that some of us may not be bothered by killing a bucketful of harmful snails, for example, but might draw the line at killing a wounded pigeon we found, even though both are regarded as pests in the garden. Others of us might find it easy to destroy the pigeon, but draw the line at wringing the neck of a hen which has given eggs for years, and has perhaps become a sort of pet, as mentioned earlier in this thread.
    Others, perhaps with a background in smallholding or farming, will regard all stock as commodities, and, while careful of their humane rearing and management, treat them as such, without sentimentality.


    Different people are at different levels of the sentient scale, and while they can ascend or even descend that scale throughout their lifetime, they should not be denigrated for being where they are. All beings are in the process of becoming.


    So far as the second line of the summing-up goes, the necessity of whether or not we do something is again locked into where we see and feel ourselves to be on the sentient scale. If you are a farmer or smallholder, then you see the necessity of killing or selling some of your livestock, because that will enable you to continue in business, in feeding your family, and in rotating stock.


    But if you are of a more sensitive nature, and keep a few pet hens as providers of eggs, you may not want to kill your hens at the end of their laying period, and you do not see any necessity to destroy them. So you feed them along with the layers and let them live naturally into old age. That is perfectly okay, because that feels right for you and the sentient level at which you exist.


    So what is seen as a necessity by some people, may be seen quite differently by others, depending on their degree of sentience, and personal background, experience, and circumstances. But there are still generalities that are observed by most.


    We are all familiar with the argument that it may be necessary to kill a snake to save a child, and most of us would do this without thinking much about the morality involved. But it is quite a different thing to find a snake basking in the sun, and even consider harming it. The necessity is not there, and most of us would just see another form of life enjoying the sunlight, and pass peacefully on our way.


    To answer the question posed at the beginning of this thread, that of 'what do you do with your hens when they have finished laying', the answer is to do what feels right for you at that time. If you cannot afford to keep them, or you are prepared to make a series of dinners of them, or sell them off, that is where you are at. If over the years you have made almost pets of them, and could not bear to lose them, and can afford to keep them awhile, that is okay too.