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Ways to Put Those Old Hens to Work!




You know it's time to butcher old hens when you can't remember what year you bought them as chicks.  I think I can actually call a couple of them pioneers to this farm, and we've been here for 6 years.

We tried following the finger measuring rule and vent rule and butchered a couple of old hens before only to find eggs in them.  Yeah, we felt guilty.

So, we saved quite a few from being stewing hens but they did not lay.  I mean THEY DO NOT LAY!  I mean, THEY WILL NOT LAY!  Frustrating, yes.  In fact, I'm to the point where even if I find an egg inside the old hens, I will feel no guilt when butchering.

I will feel no guilt when butchering.

I will feel no guilt when butchering.

Now, that I've got that taken care of...

If you don't want to feel the guilt of finding an egg when you butcher your old hens, there are a couple of alternative ways to put them to good use.  

You know they can make some good fertilizer, right?  So let's use it!

We put our old hens in a chicken tractor that we use for our meat chickens.  

A chicken tractor is a movable pen with no floor.  We have pretty sandy soil in some spots, but when we moved our chickens around the grass became plusher, so much so that we could see the ten foot wide strip of extra green and plush grass where the tractor was.

We wanted to utilize this tractor more than just the spring/summer time when we raise meat chickens.  So we decided to put old hens in there in the colder months when we don't use our garden or pasture.  Depending on the weather, we can keep them in there sometimes the whole winter.  Last winter was an exception and I hope we never have to experience arctic temps in Indiana again.  

That was -40 windchills.  Crazy.

Anyway, that was an exception, big exception.

So, what better way to put those old hens to work by moving them around in your dormant garden, or depleted pasture.  These gals aren't laying, so we don't need nests, but we do put a turned over bucket or two in there with some hay for them to set in.  Sometimes I wonder if they are in denial of their age?

Another good way to keep those old hens alive and kicking is to use them as brooder hens.  

Some of our best hens for hatching eggs are older-than-dirt gals.  And, having a hen do that job is so much easier than doing it ourselves!  Sometimes ours will just take over a nest and hatch them out without our intervention.  And, because they don't lay anymore, we don't have to waste a good layer to set on the eggs.

There is a time to butcher.  When you are feeding more old hens than good layers, you know it's probably time.  Been there.  Am there.  In fact, next week is butchering time.

But I still have my favorite ole' broody girls and a few I can spare for the tractor.

What are ways that you make use of your old hens?


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1 comment:

  1. My husband and I have thought about getting some chickens, but is there a way to keep snakes out of the pens? That is one thing that keeps us from getting any. I enjoy reading your adventures on the farm. :)

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