A lot of readers responded to my story about abandoned backyard chickens with advice on what to do when your backyard chickens stop laying eggs. You can eat them, or turn them into pet food, some said. You could keep them as pets, find a new home for them or set them free to be eaten by predators, said others. Of course, there was some debate over which of those options is best.
Tracey suggested building a business around butchering “retired” backyard chickens – or possibly starting a nonprofit that would donate the meat to a local food bank.
Mom urban chicken keeper said raising chickens was the best option for getting local, humane and sustainable eggs. But it did leave her with a difficult decision of what to do when the chickens are done laying:
“We decided that we will eat ours, and we will do so with great appreciation for all that they brought to our lives, not the least of which is a greater understanding and appreciation of our responsibility as humans to treat animals humanely, but also for their wonderful entertainment and nutritional value!”
KBPDX said older backyard chickens won’t make a tasty meal: Their meat is tough, and they’re not usually the breed of chicken that people enjoy eating.
“We have them and love them. I could never give them up after they stop laying. They’re curious, perky, hilariously stupid, and fun to just sit and watch. Raising them from chicks was incredibly satisfying, and there’s nothing better than that first egg. If you’re not prepared to keep chickens as pets as well as their eggs, you shouldn’t have them.”
Dan agreed that the meat from older chickens can be a bit tough, “but that is what Coq au Vin and other slow cooking recipes are for. There is absolutely NO reason to just dump these birds!”
Prairiegirl offered to adopt other people’s unwanted chickens:
“I have a great place for chickens and free range, no predator problems. I will take them and give them a great home!”
Rhiannon suggested letting the chickens go and die naturally.
“A colleague of mine, who has raised chicken for more than ten years, says that when his chickens are done laying, he locks them out of the coop for the night and “lets nature take its course.” Sometimes it takes a few days, but it never fails.”
But Julie didn’t like that idea, and advocated for a swift butchering instead:
“Giving her a great life with one day of bad is far less cruel than dumping them and allowing them to get mauled by a predator or hit by a car or to otherwise fend for themselves. Start off with fewer birds and have a plan. If you manage your expectations of the birds, it won’t be so difficult when they have reached the point of non-laying.”
G. Fawkes was still undecided, unsure of whether to keep her hens, let the raccoons take them or maybe, possibly, something else entirely:
“This may or not be unrelated, but my son is experimenting with different recipes for homemade dog food. :/ And now I feel really bad for talking about my Berta like this.”