Two years ago I started a chicken coop co-op with three other households. It has been a tremendous success and I highly recommend raising layer chickens to anyone who has a bit of space and the support of some neighbors.
By having four households involved, we are each responsible taking care of the chickens one week out of every month. This amounts to about five minutes a day and 10 on the weekend.
We “buy” eggs from the co-op for $2 a dozen which is not bad for humanely raised free-range chickens. No matter what it says on the carton, no grocery store egg comes from humanely raised chickens. Our chickens are cared for, truly.
In the summer we usually have more eggs than we can use. Lately though, the egg production has been tapering off. Chickens produce less eggs as they pass the two-year mark and instead of swimming in eggs, we’ve had to make due with much less.
We decided it was time to freshen our flock and purchased day-old chicks several months ago. My neighbor offered to raise the chicks with her kids. Having done it the first time, I know all too well how the little yellow puff-balls go from being adorable and mesmerizing to smelly and far too large for their enclosure. I was happy to let her do the honors.
After two months of raising the chicks she wanted them out of her house, and also understood why I proposed purchasing mature layers from the local 4-H club in the Fall.
My kids have a fondness for a couple of chickens but I’ve been careful to remind them that the chickens serve a purpose. In return we provide them with fresh air, clean water, good food (with plenty of freshies) space, protection, and time to free-range. And one day we will need to get new chickens. I never sugar-coat where our food comes from so they were prepared for me to kill the chickens, but they didn’t want to know how or when.
I promised that it would be quick and I wouldn’t let them suffer or be scared. I talked pretty big about doing the job myself but as push came to shove I realized I was reticent to do the deed. Everyone was. Instead I posted the hens on Freecycle and was delighted to see how quickly people clamored to snap them up.
Natalie and her son showed up with several cat carriers to pick up six birds. She lost her entire flock to a predator and was happy to have replacements. My hens may be too old to be “working girls” but they will do a fine job keeping Natalie’s goats company.