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Free ‘Used’ Chickens
Or should I say “Pre-owned” chickens? A friend of ours gave us his old laying hens to make room for new hens. He doesn’t like to butcher them for stewing, preferring to raise broilers once a year for the freezer. These hens are are around 18 months old and are in various stages of molt, so they haven’t been laying many eggs. He wanted to get some point of lay pullets to get back into production quickly. His impatience turned into my gain.
There are two Americaunas that lay green eggs and I wanted more of those. I was down to 2 Easter Eggers (a cross between an Americauna and anything else). There are also some White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and a Barred Rock. I’ve had them for a little over a month and have been getting a few extra eggs, including some minty green ones.
I have a couple bags of meat producer feed left from raising broilers. Now that the broilers are residing comfortably in my freezer, I’m using the higher protein feed to help all of my hens grow their new feathers back without an added expense. My older hens started molting late this fall too. I give them all a small scoop of the meat feed along with their layer ration each day. So what the heck. I’ve got 12 more chickens in the flock, which brings my total up to about 62. When I see hens that are not in good laying condition, they will go in the stew pot to reduce the number of hungry beaks to feed. I don’t enjoy killing my chickens, but I’m not running a retirement home for old hens here. They will be fine for stewing. For the most tender results, cook the carcasses down, pick the meat off the bones, and then pressure can it with the broth. This makes chicken soup a snap when you’re in a hurry and need some comfort food…or homemade cold medicine.
Where Can You Find Used Chickens?
Used chickens can be a good option for a newbie who want eggs quickly, or for someone who isn’t getting as many eggs as wanted. Be aware that moving to a new home stresses the hens and they will stop laying for a few weeks. Expect around 3 or 4 weeks before they get back in the swing of things. Be sure they have light for around 14 hours a day during the winter. Feed a quality layer ration with oyster shell on the side. Don’t introduce your new hens to an existing flock without going through a quarantine period. If they are sick you could lose the whole flock. The cost of your pre-owned hens will range from free, to a few dollars. It will depend on your area and situation. Sometimes good deals can be had by looking on Craigslist. Watch for signs of disease. If they have watery eyes and noses, or they are sneezing, having trouble breathing, flapping their wings or walking, don’t buy them! They could carry diseases and you should sanitize your shoes before wearing them in your chicken coop or yard. If you’ve already got them home before you discover they’re sick, I recommend butchering, unless they are so sick you are afraid to eat them. Keeping them around will only cause you regrets later on.
Tip: Post an ‘In Search Of’ Ad on Craigslist letting people know that you are interested in their old laying hens or extra roosters. A lot of people don’t want to butcher their chickens and you may be able to take them home for free.
Update: All of these hens have been butchered and made into chicken soup now. They were given to me about 15 months ago and some continued to lay fairly well for another 6-8 months after coming to our homestead. The last of them went into a molt and stopped laying eggs in December. I butchered the last two in early January. Not bad for free chickens!