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BrightonSteve

Dilemma over last remaining (non laying) hen

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I'm in a bit of a dilemma. I have a house and run for three girls, although have only had two for about a year.

 

My oldest bird (a hybrid, 3 yrs old) had to be put down last week as she'd developed an internal problem that was making her tummy swell and was clearly not long for this world. She stopped laying last summer after being spectacularly productive - non-stop laying for about 2.5 years.

 

This means I've only got one bird left. Also a hybrid, she's about 2 years old but hasn't laid for nearly a month. I've wormed her and also used Frontline to clear any ticks or mites and she seems healthy and behaves normally -she's eating, drinking, dust-bathing, scratching etc but just not laying, after laying pretty much non-stop since we got her, including through the winter. I'm guessing she may have come to end of her laying career. She's also clearly lonely since the other bird went.

 

For me the chickens have always been about the eggs - they're not pets but a productive part of the garden. What I'd really like to do is start again with three new pullets - I'm not sure I want to introduce two new ones and continue to feed and care for the older one if she's not laying. She's also been top of the pecking order and I suspect may object to two new interlopers.

 

Having said that, she's an otherwise healthy bird who has been a productive layer so destroying her seems wrong - or am I being too sentimental about this? Is there any way of rehoming an unproductive chicken?

 

Also, having lost one recently to an unknown infection, would it be a risk to introduce new birds to an older chicken who could potentially be carrying something (although as I say, she's currently healthy)? And would another chicken keeper want to rehome her, for exactly the same reason?

 

Any thoughts/suggestions welcome!

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At the risk of horrifying people -if it's about productivity for you then perhaps you could cull and stew the hen -it will be a bit tough but makes a very fine broth. I am of a similar mind re: productive. I grew up around livestock, but I now lack the energy and hand-strength to do culls and process animals anymore, so I knew I would have older hens in any flock I had. I see it as a way for the older hen to show the younguns the ropes : what plants in my garden are edible, where to go to sleep, that sort of thing. I imagine re homing could be done if one wanted to, but there is already a flood of chickens needing re homing because people didn't want hens that didn't lay eggs but would rather buy chickens at the supermarket than sort out their own.

 

In my view when one takes on an animal, they are responsible for that animal to the bitter end. If you wish to start over, by all means, but the decision with the last hen remains with you, come what may, rather than trying to give it to someone else. Just my tuppence.

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I understand you chicken was brought as a productive part of your garden but she does deserve a happy retirement after serving you so well....if you decide to cull then I hope you have the experience to do a good clean job!

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I am down to one girl too and have had a bit of a problem introducing two new girls but it was due to the ill health of the newbies. I think things would have been ok introducing the two new girls. My plan was to keep the new ones in a run and let Layla my old girl free range round it. When the new ones arrived she created quite a noise and marched round the run but after a day that stopped and I had a feeling she was getting used to them. Sadly they had to go back to the supplier but I am going to start again. I have had Layla for four years now and she has laid wonderfully. I thought she had stopped but has had a sudden return to laying, but even if she had stopped completely I think she has earned her retirement. Egg production is important to me too and although I would take a sick bird to the vet I would not continue long expense treatment. I hope you can solve your dilemma.

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I don't see any problem - other than the usual introduction issues - about introducing two new girls. I think your remaining hen is unlikely to lay regularly again at her age, and although she might have years left, chances are she is approaching the end of her natural life. What this means is that you could soon be down to two hens again, and introducing a single new hen to two established older ones is more difficult, though not impossible.

 

As Bluesilver says, rehoming an old hen is nigh-on impossible. Most people on this forum keep hens as pets and will let older 'spent' hens live out their retirement - it's what I do. However if you keep them mainly for egg production then culling her and starting with three new ones is a perfectly valid decision.

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I rehomed Tallulah from next door for exactly that reason, he was going to cull her as she had stopped laying. She lived with me for a year or so. But then I have ex-batts so its not about the laying.

 

Do you know any local people who keep chickens as pets and would be willing to take your old girl on? I would if I lived near you.

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