What do people do when chickens no longer laying?

(54 Posts)
NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 21:41:28

Mine haven't laid for some time and are about 3 years old. Who dispatches theirs? I'm considering it but I don't know if I can bear it. I know someone who can do it for me. I'm too much of a coward to actually do it myself.

My life has significantly changed since I got them and I am finding them a real burden now. I doubt I could rehome non laying hens.

I know this sounds really mean but they have had a completely free range life. Anyone who keeps hens or eats supermarket eggs is contributing to culling. (A male has been culled for every female and laying hens get culled at 18 months)

Am I being awful?

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 21:45:20

are you saying that I am contributing to culling by keeping hens?

I'm not sure I understand

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 21:45:46

where are you, I'll have your poor hens

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 21:50:11

What do you think happens to the male hens that hatch? They get culled by the breeder. People don't keep a flock of cockerels do they? So, for every hen you buy, a male has been culled.

I knew I would get flamed but you won't find any farmers keeping old hens. 2 of my hens were battery hens so I've already given them an extra 18 months of life.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 21:51:26

sorry, I should have said male chicks.

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 21:52:20

ok I see what you mean but I have two growers at the mo and I bought them knowing that I don't know what sex they are

if you want it to stop then everyone has to never eat eggs again

MelanieSminge Sun 19-Aug-12 21:52:47

make soup

hopenglory Sun 19-Aug-12 21:53:49

Ours lay well past 3 years old, so they may come back to it - once they stop laying they just stay as part of the flock and carry on scratching around

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 21:53:58

and cant they sell the males to be eaten?


NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 21:54:09

Exactly! That is why if I cull them, anyone who criticises me but eats eggs is a hypocrite.

I am having a dilemma.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 19-Aug-12 21:54:32

I keep mine till they die. Never really sure which ones are laying and which aren't.

I've currenyly got a 5yo chicken who I suspect isn't laying. Was happy to keep her but she's come down with Mycoplasma again, am treating with Tywhatever antibiotic. Am considering going to the vet tomorrow to ask her to be put to sleep as she keeps getting poorly and I'm worried about it spreading to my others. Vet will put down sick chickens for £3 but not a chicken that is elderly.

When I hatched some cockerals out I tried necking them and was unsuccesful. A friend came and cut their heads off in the end. I haven't hatched any chicks out since. It was all a bit traumatic.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 19-Aug-12 21:55:33

Trinity, no not really. Meat chickens are different to egg chickens. Egg chickens mature more slowly and it isn't cost effective to keep it/feed it for the amount of time it takes for it to be big enough to eat.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 21:58:51

If you go to a chicken breeder to get your hens, they breed to sell. You can't sell cockerels, so they are no use to the breeder. But, yes, people who have bought unsexed chickens sometimes eat them if they end up being boys. Not many people want to keep a load of crowing cockerels.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 22:01:32

Viva £3!!!! I have had 2 chickens pts and the vet charged £30 a time!

beachyhead Sun 19-Aug-12 22:02:40

When we hatched chicks and two of them turned out to be big hoofing, raping cockrels, we bundled them in the car and took them back to the breeder, as agreed by him. I don't really care what he did to them, they were chaotic to have around.

But other than that, like Viva, I'm not sure who's laying and who's not.....

VivaLeBeaver Sun 19-Aug-12 22:04:41

£30!!!! Jesus, if I thought the vet was going to charge £30 I'd beat it death with a broom handle.

<joke, but still>

imsotired Sun 19-Aug-12 22:05:25

we bought point of lay chickens and kept them till they died. We made sure that everyone knew they were pets, who just happened to provide us with eggs. so the choice was really easy for us.

VivaLeBeaver Sun 19-Aug-12 22:06:01

And I'm almost too ashamed to admit it but I once let 3 young cockerals free in the woods. I didn't really think it through and can see it was a bad idea now. Feel bad about them.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 22:08:39

I have 5 and only one is laying. I know which one because her eggs are different. However, she makes the most dreadful egg call early in the morning and I am surprised the neighbours haven't complained. It really stresses me out.

I sometimes get squashed thin shelled eggs or shell-less eggs from the others. I give oyster shell and super corn but it doesn't solve the problem.

duchesse Sun 19-Aug-12 22:09:05

Most people I know around here cull their old birds and keep their flock moving so to speak. We eat surplus cockerels from hatching. Had to marinade the last one in pineapple juice for 3 days but it was surprisingly tasty for a tough old bird.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 22:11:02

viva I have heard a few stories of feral chickens. You never know, they might have had a long life. If not, I guess Mr Fox had a few hearty meals.

SrirachaGirl Sun 19-Aug-12 22:11:21

Why wouldn't you just keep them until they get old and die? <knows nothing about chickens> What is wrong with just keeping them as pets?

beachyhead Sun 19-Aug-12 22:11:59

Friend of mine just locked hers out one night....blush

duchesse Sun 19-Aug-12 22:14:18

They are not very rewarding pets and the feed is really quite expensive! It's not like you can hold them on your lap and stroke them. They are noisy, smelly, aggressive creatures that crap everywhere, destroy the garden and try to kill each other all the time. The trade-off is the eggs.

I say this as a chicken-lover.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 22:16:40

Srirachagirl because they are not economical to keep, i.e, a waste of feed and time cleaning them out. They poo for England.

Beachyhead it has crossed my mind shock but I couldn't stand the mess afterwards! I couldn't do that.

SrirachaGirl Sun 19-Aug-12 22:20:14

Oh Dear. I see. People always wax romantic about keeping chickens...I thought they were relatively unobtrusive...like fish. <creeps out of thread and reconsiders breakfast egg habit>.

imsotired Sun 19-Aug-12 22:22:38

duchesse-- you didnt meet my chickens... they were very rewarding pets, they used to follow my dd around the garden, they recognised thier own names, my dd had races with them... I even have a photo of them having a picnic, with each of the chickens waiting their turn for the feed to be put on thier plate!

my dd cried when they died, we had to use our garden incinerater to burn them and then she burried the ashes! they were very rewarding pets indeed!

beachyhead Sun 19-Aug-12 22:23:03

Think Fox cleared up the mess himself......she didn't mention it....

Or like Viva, take them, like Snow White, to the woods..... They might meet dwarfs grin

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 22:24:26

My hens sit on our laps and be tickled. They also like sitting on the kids heads.

I got them AS pets who also might give us lovely eggs.

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Sun 19-Aug-12 22:25:40

I used to have 15 and they never tried to kill each other.

NPPF Sun 19-Aug-12 22:27:26

What happened to your 15? Genuine question, just curious.

sleepdodger Sun 19-Aug-12 22:28:06

Our last girl went on Friday, after a bad run in with infection dh did the kind thing sad

herladyship Sun 19-Aug-12 22:35:02

we have two pekin bantams aged 7 that still lay, also have 2 hybrid hens aged approx 5 that are 'retired' and four younger, more productive hens

Once past laying, we agreed they would live out their days with us.. I don't find hens any bother or much expense to keep thoug. Definitely wouldnt eat them as chicken tastes blergh at best of times!

TrinityIsAFuckingRhino Mon 20-Aug-12 08:06:41

It was 6 years ago and I was struggling pg with dd3, Dh away on a submarine, depression worsening.

I looked for and found a retirement type place for them, lovely lady came and got them. She takes any and lets them live out their lives

duchesse Mon 20-Aug-12 08:12:01
NPPF Mon 20-Aug-12 09:03:46

Interesting, Duchesse. I wonder if we Might get a similar problem here.

Trinity, I am struggling to cope with mine now after many changes in my circumstances over the last 3 years. I live in a very urban area and I don't know anyone who could take them. Perhaps if I lived in the countryside it would be different.

NPPF Mon 20-Aug-12 09:07:39

I am now a single parent of 3. I am about to start teacher training and we will be living on a student loan for the next year. I am only doing teacher training because I have had to change career due to the recession affecting my business. I will have long days and I could do without the extra burden of the chickens. They are starting to die off anyway but I could be left with remaining ones for a few more years. I just can't face it.

schilke Mon 20-Aug-12 09:20:11

I'm rapidly going off the idea of chickens after duchesse's description.

If I did get them I would look after them until they die.

NPPF Mon 20-Aug-12 11:46:35

shilke, I guess it depends on the individual but they are a pain in the ass if you are not getting any eggs.
Also, it can be tricky getting people to look after them when you are away. It is a little awkward asking people to clear up a load of shit for you hmm

VivaLeBeaver Mon 20-Aug-12 11:59:43

I had nightmares about my cockerals been in the woods, alone and scared and hungry huddled in a tree in the rain. sad

duchesse Mon 20-Aug-12 12:00:31

Some breeds are a lot more short lived than others. If you get commercial crosses, they are bred to lay extremely well for about 2 years, and then they die. They are quite the best compromise to my mind. They also tend to be a lot calmer than most breeds.

My pure bred araucanas are mad as boxes of frogs, refuse to sleep in the coop, preferring to roost in trees, get eaten by foxes, next in hedges and under piles of twigs out in the open, are never ever tame (not even the ones I hatched in the kitchen- so much for imprinting!), are quite aggressive to each other. The only advantage to them is that they look gorgeous and lay lovely blue eggs. When they stop laying and become just bad tempered and manky I am sorely tempted to wring their bloody necks. but I don't because I want them to live out their excessively long lives (about 8 y) in peace.

MrsTomHardy Mon 20-Aug-12 12:00:36

I have 6 hens and i look at them as pets.

2 of them are about 2 1/2 years old now and 4 are baby Pekin Bantams and my kids and i love them. They follow us round the garden, my youngest picks them up and cuddles them.....
I can't imagine being without them now

NPPF Mon 20-Aug-12 20:41:30

I have just now I have seen a rat in the garden. They are going PDQ.

AmIjustcold Wed 22-Aug-12 12:50:28

Mine are pets

lentilweavinghippy Wed 22-Aug-12 13:00:13

Having read this thread I don't want chickens anymore!

QuietTiger Sun 26-Aug-12 13:05:35

We've got a mish-mash of about 25 chickens of all breeds and ages here, along with 3 ancient ex battery hens. The ex-bats have stopped laying now they are about 3, but DH (mean, tough farmer) can't bring himself to dispatch them because he's fallen in love with them they are (to quote him) "too comical and entertaining".

There is something highly amusing about a cheeky brown hen chasing the cats through the cat flap into the kitchen because she's managed to escape again.

Reality here is, unless they are "ill" (at which point we dispatch them or they die) they stay until they die of old age. I'm genuinely not sure quite who is laying and isn't, but then we have a lot of young POL hens at the moment who are due to start laying in the next couple of months.

SundaeGirl Sun 26-Aug-12 18:51:44

We have 10 hens and one isn't laying. I would like to dispatch it but can't because we share them with the excessively anthropomorphising neighbours and this one is one of their favourites. It's a proper nuisance to think we're going to be giving it feed and coop space for the next X years.

Hens are lovely pets but I'd be happy to put this one in a pot. She's already had a brilliant life above and beyond anything a commercially reared chicken. Don't feel bad, OP. Give them a good life and quick death when it suits you.

TunipTheVegemal Mon 27-Aug-12 19:02:17

I am an evil chickenslayer. At least, I got my cleaner to kill one to teach me, so I could be sure I was doing it right, and I killed the other. I didn't feel any guiltier about the one I killed with my own hands because I know I did it quickly. I would have liked to let them live out their lives after they stopped laying, and if I had space for more I would have done, but I thought it through and since I wouldn't have room for any more layers it would have meant buying eggs and meat that I could not be sure had either had such a happy life or been killed as quickly, which kind of undermines the whole point of me keeping hens, so morally I simply couldn't think of a reason not to do it unless I also turned the whole family vegan.
The plucking is easy, the gutting a touch smelly but OMG it was also the best chicken I have ever eaten.
Some commercial free range flocks are now kept in really nice environments which are as nice as my garden, but even then they still cull the unproductive ones.
When I have a bigger garden I won't cull unproductive ones - I don't care about the cost of feed - but for now I am happy I am doing the right thing. <justifies madly>

NPPF Tue 28-Aug-12 00:13:07

turnip Very good point!

I can't bring myself to do it yet

WithoutCaution Thu 01-Nov-12 15:12:51

duchesse shock we have 12 chickens who are are very rewarding, though that's probably because I was very bored and taught them all tricks. Can't believe your chickens can't be held or stroked I usually have a hard time getting them off my lap if I sit out in the garden

lurkingaround Sat 03-Nov-12 21:34:57

Oh my! Have just read this thread and am now thoroughly gone off the 3 hens that are arriving next week! I haven't kept hens before, my garden is a piddly urban smallish garden and I now have visions of me being completely distressed by nasty noisy hens, never mind the strife with my lovely neighbours over the noise and mess!

Toomuchtea Fri 09-Nov-12 20:26:55

They do have a lot of plus points, lurking. They're not always noisy, usually just when they've laid an egg, or if they're alarmed.

I have necked three of mine, because they were ill, but I'm going to have to do one my older hens. I have to rehome them because we are going into rented, but I can't rehome my Black Rock because she is vile: a thug and a bully. She feather pecks and egg eats. She's survived this long because she doesn't always do either, but there's no way I can inflict her on anyone else. It's a real shame, because she's a beautiful healthy hen, but I think it's best if I despatch her quickly where she's lived for years, than take her to the vet or let someone else have her when I know she'll be horrible.

She is the only one I've had who's been this bad. The others have all been fine. In fact I even had one hen who would step in and stop any fights.

2kids2dogsnosense Fri 16-Nov-12 06:05:32

duchesse - yes you can cuddle them! They will doze quietly on your lap, and make very pleasant, contented purry-cooey-clucky noises. I agree that their toilet-training could be improved (!), and if you have a cut on your finger/ankle/anywhere, they will attempt to devour you alive, maddened as they seem to be by the sight and/or scent of blood. But they are lovely!

There is something particularly restful about sitting with a cup of tea, the radio, and a tired little hen talking in its sleep on your lap . . .

schilke Fri 16-Nov-12 10:08:59

Lurkingaround - I am new to chicken keeping. Got my 4 hens nearly 8 weeks ago and one has just started laying. My 4 are lovely. No squabbles. Hardly any noise. They are gorgeous. Follow me round the garden.

Before they arrived I had visions of red mite, worms and mass brawls. I had to tell myself 4 chickens must be easier than 4 dc grin

Enjoy them....I'm just off to pick up some chicken poo. I am odd as I actually enjoy that!

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