Friday, February 18, 2011

Aging Chickens

In our henhouse, we have aging chickens, but it's also useful to be able to age chickens by looking at them. 

Some are obvious... they are old and infirm, in a chicken way...Dovey is one of these.  She is five this year, and she and her sister Rosewitha have raised many, many little chicks to chickenhood.  Now she has lost many of her toes, and can no longer roost.  In the good weather this week, she has jumped down from her nest box and gone outside to enjoy the sun with the others, though she must hop along.  She is still eating and drinking, though, and occaisionally I'll find an egg in her favorite two boxes, so she has a home here still.  Her face is bleached out, and her legs are pale white.

Next are two Wyandottes, the remnants of five beautiful Wyandotte hens we were given by our friends Paul and Nancy five years ago.  We have lost Pandora, Isis and Clea, but Sprocket and Lola live on.  They have not laid in probably three years, they are seven years old (we think) now.  They have had the color come back into their combs and faces and legs, it has been so long since they produced eggs.  They hang out together, and have always been the bullies of the henhouse.  If you could see their shanks, you would see they are yellow again, since they are no longer laying.  A hen in high production will bleach out all her color around her face, her eyes, and her legs.

Younger hens who are just coming into lay will begin to lose the coloring as they start producing eggs, to witness, are Libby and Rosemary, each laying a lovely brown egg daily:

I have another hen, Birdy, the last full size daughter of old Rambo, who is still laying... but Birdy was hatched by Helen the turkey, and survived a terrible snake attack... she has always been a wild thing and won't hold still to have her picture taken. She is three, and still laying about three to four eggs a week.

In the bighenhouse also are two very tiny white/blacktail Japanese hens who haven't laid in years, and a beautiful black frizzle cochin purebred bantam, who is not laying.  She has produced some gorgeous chicks, but I have not found an egg from her in a while.  I am hoping once we move the hens into their new house this summer, that she will begin laying again. There are also the Three Survivors, who will be coming into lay at any time now.

We are getting three to four eggs a day from the hens in the little henhouse, who are all young.  Led by Silka, one of the three mamas... who is about two... there are a trio of one year olds, and about six born in September.  We are hoping they all begin producing the nice off white eggs that we have gotten from the older hens in there.  Whoever thinks bantam eggs aren't good hasn't seen these, they are great eggs. 
This is a very small pullet, who is almost an exact copy of the cochin in the big henhouse.  The other colored chick (grey)  was a clone of Rosewitha and Dovey, who was killed by the opposum this week.
 You can see the silkie and jap influence in the roosters, who also have the very bright coloring in their combs.
(Not all the birds in this pictures are cockerels)
Now that I look at this picture closer, I see the cochin influence in their combs, too.
I will try to get some pictures this weekend to show the difference in the sizes of birds.  These are actually very small.  (And I think my estimate of five cockerels in there yesterday was on the low side!)
Come on over to "Farm Friend Friday" at Verde Farm and look at all the great farm blogs listed this week!


  1. Hi lady, I truly love this post. My heart aches as I read about the older birds that are still enjoying some sunshine, hopping around. We have a few that are getting old now too. How wonderful that they get to live out their days there with good food, warm bedding and love. I am so glad you shared this post with us at Farm Friend Friday too.
    Happy weekend,
    Amy :)

  2. Thank you for your comment. I think your life is full of serenity with all these animals, in the nature as me, my life is that also. Have a good week end

  3. I too keep our old hens...I feel the deserve their retirement!

  4. Wonderful post! I can sure see the silky influence in your roo`s. Most of mine look exactly the same way!

  5. i am relieved you allow your chickens to 'retire'. i would not be a very good farmer and couldn't kill anything. i enjoyed this post very much!

  6. Thanks for the photos and the tour. You have a very big heart. I would never kill a chicken that stopped laying eggs either. It's not like they are going to eat you out of house and home. Love the name Rosewitha - too cute!

  7. Very sweet post. We too have a "retirement home" for chickens. They will be our girls to the end regardless of production.

  8. I too allow my girls to stay with us until the end. They are no only our chickens but are member of our family --they are ours for life.
    Great post!

  9. Nice photos I love chickens. Retirement home that is cute. B


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