Pets or Producers?
By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm contributor
Monday, January 16, 2012
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my hens haven't been laying for months. My neighbor’s chickens haven't been producing either, so I chalked it up to some weird weather we've been having, and the fact that it's winter, and egg production goes down when the sun is scarce.
After posting that blog, I received several comments from readers saying that, after about three years, hens stop laying. I was surprised to hear this and was inclined to dismiss it, not only because I'd never come across this statement in anything I'd read about chickens, but also because my neighbor's hens also aren't laying.
Then I found out that my neighbor's hens are also three years old.
If it's true that egg production slows down or stops altogether when a hen hits three, have a dilemma on my hands. One of the main reasons I got chickens was so I could have fresh eggs. Well-cared-for hens can live to be more than 10 years old. Does that mean I'm going to have these chickens for seven more years and not get any more eggs?
It seems that some people get rid of their hens when they stop laying. They put them in a pot and turn them into soup. Since I can't bring myself to do that, my only other option is to just add younger hens to my existing flock.
The problem with this solution is that I don't have room in my coop for more chickens. Also, with this approach, I'd have to add new hens to my flock every three years. In about 8 years, I'd have a hell of a lot of chickens.
So what do I do? Get rid of Billi Jo, Betty Jo and Baby Jo? Slaughter them and fry them up?
Maybe a more dedicated urban farmer would do just that, but not me. Because it turns out what I love most about having chickens is not getting fresh eggs, but just having them in my life. Watching their little dramas; hearing their funny noises; seeing their reactions to the antics of the other animals in the yard — this is the real joy I get from keeping chickens. The eggs are secondary.
So, it looks like my unproductive flock of bantams will remain. Maybe if I'm lucky, come spring, I'll get a few eggs here and there. But if I don't, that's okay. I'll still happily call myself an urban farmer with a flock of retired hens.
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