Beekissed

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I always discourage newbies to chickens from getting the production layer birds. Unless someone is experienced in poultry and practice regular culling of spent layers, they are a poor, poor choice, particularly if someone is wanting to have pet chickens.

I know the high production is attractive, but it's also what gives these gals a short life span and most often the death is preceded by suffering. The same folks who wouldn't get a meat bird due to their short life span and possible health issues will gladly buy the production birds or "rescue" them from batteries, without a single thought of what they will do when those birds burn out on laying.

Three times I've gotten small flocks of production reds from folks when they were going to get fresh infusions of POL birds of the same type and in all three flocks there were hens that should have been culled long ago when they stopped laying...externally. Because they continue to lay...internally.

A hen will continue to ovulate, though her healthy laying days are over, so while letting a good old hen scratch and peck gracefully into the sunset sounds lovely, it's hardly ever a reality of life for an old hen. Even those that are not production breeds will usually die of reasons related to her reproductive system not long after she stops laying in regular cycles.

Today I got a group of production reds on the cheap, to use for meat purposes, but among the group was a hen that needed killed immediately(the farmer was the one who transported her to my cages or I would never have taken her at all...didn't get to see this one until we got her home) and two more who will need killed within the week if I want to prevent further suffering for them. All three have massive ascites~huge abdomens~indicating either fluid around egg tumors or massive egg tumors.

Another two have vaginal prolapse that may not cause them problems if they cease to lay due to the move...neither of them are currently laying very often, judging by the vent, but if I were to hold onto them they would eventually lay more, causing them pain and suffering due to the prolapse.

I did a necropsy on the hen I killed today~she had a purple comb, massive ascites and was listless...in other words, she was dying anyway, just taking her good ol' time to do it. The farmer I bought her from was totally clueless about chickens...nice man, but clueless, so he thought she was broody...nope, she was sitting on the nests as a refuge, as the other hens would have pecked her mercilessly if she had huddled out in the coop.

She had the most massive egg tumor I'd ever seen in a hen and how she lived this long to form all that material is just a huge question. It just kept rolling out of her, the most putrid smelling mush that was pocketed all over her abdomen but most of it came from the largest sac of tissue and in the middle of that mush was the egg tumor itself. This bird had egg peritonitis in the worst way.

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I'm not saying people shouldn't get high production birds if they are in the egg business, as long as they provide a good death for these chickens as they start to burn out or warn those they give or sell them to what to expect and what they should do to prevent suffering for the animal.

Most often these birds die after a lingering suffering due to these masses and infection, but people never open them up to find out why...usually they try to medicate, soak them in warm water to help relieve them of being "egg bound", or just bring them inside until they die.

These people I got these birds from said one had died recently but they didn't know why...wish I could show them these pictures.

Questions?
 

Hinotori

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I've never seen a mass that big.

I've had tons of issues with hatchery birds. Rocks with reproductive or heart issues. None made it past 3. New hampshires that didn't make it to a year old. Brahmas that had so much tissue bits in their eggs that they weren't really human edible.

Only hatchery ones I haven't had much issue with is their Easter eggers.
 

baymule

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Educational. This would shake up those "let her live out her life" do-gooders. I have 2 old hens that do not seem to be suffering any ill effects from their old age......
but if they do, they will not suffer any more.
 

sumi

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Yes, sad to see, but educational. I remember visiting a friend's farm one day and in his huge flock spotted a hen that was looking miserable. These were not a commercial layers, they were an African hybrid "breed", hardy as heck free range birds. I picked her up and examined her and her abdomen was a mess… You could feel with your hands that something was wrong in there, my guess was internal laying. I pointed it out to him and he was a touch defensive, probably because he should've noticed the problem. I left him with some advice and hope he learned from that poor hen's experience.
 

Beekissed

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Educational. This would shake up those "let her live out her life" do-gooders. I have 2 old hens that do not seem to be suffering any ill effects from their old age......
but if they do, they will not suffer any more.

I've kept hens to the ripe old age of 7+....but regretted it when they finally showed up with lash eggs. A good, sweet hen shouldn't have to be uncomfortable or in pain at all if we can prevent it by culling them when they no longer have laying cycles~BEFORE they suffer a single minute.

Here's what was in my sweet little BA, a loyal and wonderful layer for 7 yrs...wished I had culled her before she was hurting from trying to expel these lash eggs. But, I really liked her and wanted to keep her around...you know the feeling. Now I don't give into the sentiment any longer, if I can spare a good hen a single day's suffering, I will.



I think everyone has stories about hens that age gracefully into old age and die peacefully off the roost in the middle of the night, but they are the extreme exception. They truly are.

That whole "it won't happen to me" thing is something all humans suffer from, I'm afraid...until it happens to them.

It's happened to me enough to get the word out there so that folks can prevent it happening to them....cull those old hens BEFORE they suffer a single day. They deserve that consideration after all the food they've produced for us. Chickens don't count the days, can't anticipate tomorrows and each day is the only day for a chicken...do we want that last day and only day to be one filled with misery or a really good day ended in a humane death?
 

Mini Horses

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THAT is a real mess!!! Thanks for the lesson.

So Beekissed, what did you do with this bird? Is it dog food or compost?

Personally I have no problem with hybrid crosses (although I have many full blooded breeds). Haven't bought from a hatchery in years. It's often hard to find breeders of some breeds. But while I look for birds that are good layers, I want good setters, too. Plus the heavier dual types are preferred.

I don't use lights in winter to increase production. It's counter productive for MY use & expectations. While it's best to cull, it's a sad time for many. For me, it's a mess that I "deal with" and always dread it. Once I'm doing it, the functions are just what you have to do......:eek: and you get it done.
 

Mini Horses

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It's happened to me enough to get the word out there so that folks can prevent it happening to them....cull those old hens BEFORE they suffer a single day. They deserve that consideration

The decision to stop their suffering is both the hardest & most loving an owner has to make!! Same with all old & sick ones.

True of dogs, cats, horses, and yes -- even the lowly chicken. If you think about it, a chicken is one of the hardest working on the farm. Eggs, meat, bug control.....few demands, just another day, every day.
 

Beekissed

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THAT is a real mess!!! Thanks for the lesson.

So Beekissed, what did you do with this bird? Is it dog food or compost?

Personally I have no problem with hybrid crosses (although I have many full blooded breeds). Haven't bought from a hatchery in years. It's often hard to find breeders of some breeds. But while I look for birds that are good layers, I want good setters, too. Plus the heavier dual types are preferred.

I don't use lights in winter to increase production. It's counter productive for MY use & expectations. While it's best to cull, it's a sad time for many. For me, it's a mess that I "deal with" and always dread it. Once I'm doing it, the functions are just what you have to do......:eek: and you get it done.

That bird is coyote fodder. Wouldn't feed that infectious mess to the dogs, even though it probably wouldn't affect them in any way, the thought of it just makes me wanna hurl.

She was deposited at the edge of the property, next to the field where we hear the coyote pack the most...hope they get a belly ache from that one.

I don't use lights either. I'd rather work harder to develop a flock that lays adequately through the winter than force those that wouldn't to do so. A girl needs a break eventually and there's been studies that show that lighting up the birds to force production can lead to reproductive cancer down the line.
 

NH Homesteader

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What is a lash egg exactly? We had a friend who sold eggs on a large-ish scale and had production layers, but he culled every year. A guy came up from Boston and paid him $2/bird and sold them in the Asian community down there. Perfect solution really (I mean, as far as production birds go).

We haven't had chickens long enough to have really sorted out any sort of plan for old hens. None of ours are over 4 (well there's one we don't really know how old she is....)

That is pretty horrific, had no clue of these things really.
 

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