I should make something clear here, before I offend someone. While I keep chickens, my chickens are not pets. This has been made very clear to all parties involved from their first days in our family. We started with three laying hens, nestled into a surprisingly spacious coop in the corner of our 100 square foot backyard. I suppose now is as good a time as any to let you know what I do. Please excuse the poor web design… that is not something I do. Though I am trying to learn. Web developers in Portland interested in bartering, give me a call. 😉
Anyhow, back to the chickens. I intentionally chose breeds which would lay prolifically for a reasonable amount of time, and still be palatable meat sources when the time came in which they no longer provided us with eggs. I have no delusions here: chickens are made of meat. And while I don’t eat meat myself, my family does, and meat is meant to be harvested when needed. However, these little stew hens have been pecking around my back deck for a couple of years now. We’re… you know… not friends, but we’d buy each other a drink if we happened to be in the same bar together. Don’t get me wrong — I’m pragmatic enough and detached enough that if you called me tomorrow and asked me to butcher your hens, it would be no problem. But my hens? Well… I don’t know.
And it is time. Only one is still laying eggs reliably — about 4 a week. A second will lay 1-2 eggs a week. The third has become a mean old biddy who no longer lays eggs, but bites and sits on the nest, determined to hatch something. The long and short of it is space is a commodity, and chicken feed without eggs gets to be expensive. At least two of our old girls must go.
Last week, I hired their replacements. I have a large rubbermaid tub with little peeping balls of fluff in it who will be laying eggs within the next two and a half months. At which point, I will definitely need to move at least two of my old ladies to the freezer. And ideally, I will do it before then.
Here’s the catch — I’m hesitant to do it. Especially because it seems like a lot of work for only two birds, that are likely too thin and stringy for anything other than sous vide or coq au vin. I think I am beginning to understand how people have four dozen hens, and not an egg in their house. I also hate to admit that if I had a couple of acres, I would probably let them be lawn ornaments until I had a half dozen others to add to their ranks. In the meantime, I am simply pouring chicken feed into these creatures and getting precisely nothing in return. It makes for a pretty expensive dinner.