The Old Hen

She’s beautiful. A classic. She has been a part of your flock for years and years. There is just one problem; she’s growing old.

When a hen who was once productive begins laying less eggs, eventually halting egg laying permanently, it can be very disappointing.

Hens start laying their first eggs at around 6 months of age.

Hens lay the most eggs in the first 2 years, with egg production slowly decreasing each year after age 3. On average, chickens live 8-10 years. That means, there will most likely be several years your beloved hen will go on living without producing eggs.

Egg production can differ by breed, but generally most hens hit peak egg production at 2 years old, with it dwindling steadily each year.

White Leghorn hens are by far one of the most productive egg laying breeds. Leghorns are the primary layers used on industrial sized egg farms. When a hen on an egg farm stops laying regularly, which is on average at around 2.5 years of age, she is euthanized. Leghorns are very small birds, and are not processed for human consumption. They have very little meat and can taste gamier due to their rough, often overspent lives. Most are sent to pet food factories.

This grim reality is important for consumers of store-bought eggs to know. Eggs are eaten by most people everyday in some form or another. Therefore, the high demand for eggs has resulted in egg laying hens eventually being disposed of on a large scale.

As a backyard flock owner, the quality of life and fate of your older hens rests in your hands. You have the final say in her fate. Your options are either to cull or to keep her.

Some Cull:

A hen could live many years after she stops producing eggs. At some point, she will become nothing but a consumer of feed; costing you money with no return. She may be taking up limited room in your coop for younger, replacement hens. Many food experts claim the meat of an old hen is some of the best tasting.

Some Keep:

For many, the reason for keeping an old hen is a sentimental one. The argument is she earned her retirement by providing eggs for many years, and deserves to spend out her remaining time on the farm. Her presence and personality would be missed by her owners, who in turn, had a great fondness of her.

For many, including myself, keeping the faithful old hen is the sometimes the right option.

Miss Personality is a hen I have had for 4 ½ years. She is an ISA Brown from Hoover’s, with the best personality; tame, sweet, and friendly -thus her name, Miss Personality. Miss Personality, for years, faithfully laid the BIGGEST dark brown egg of any of my hens. This year, she has certainly been laying less and less eggs, her feathers are duller and more unkept than they used to be, and I can tell her age is catching up with her. She still has a trusting demeanor and is always easy to catch and pickup.

For most of us, keeping an old hen around is a little about loyalty.

For others, an old hen is best used one last time to nourish the family.