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May 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM

‘Henopause’ and whether you should have backyard chickens

Chicken file photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times

Chicken file photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times

Every time I visit friends with backyard chickens and come home with treasures like blue-green Aracuna eggs, I debate whether I should get my own flock.

Just when I think I can balance the responsibility and nuisances of chicken care against the benefits, along comes a perfectly pointed post from Erica Strauss of the Northwest Edible Life blog, one of my favorite gardening resources, assuring readers like me that “You Absolutely Should Not Get Backyard Chickens.”

She highlights the “henopause” problem: Hens are done with their prime laying lives around age 3, but might easily live another five years, eating a lot of expensive chicken feed along the way. (Most commercial operations cull hens at age two, notes Seattle Tilth.) “So basically those are your two choices: you continue to pay and care for chickens that barely give you eggs or you cowboy up and you deal with the slaughter of no longer profitable hens,” she wrote.

I’d be fine supporting those older hens simply as pets and compost producers– except that, as Strauss reminds us, for Seattle city-dwellers they would be taking up slots in the limited quota of eight chickens allowed on most lots (that in itself is an increase from the mere three chickens that used to be allowed.)

I wouldn’t be up for slaughtering chickens that had been seen as “pets with benefits” — or even sending them off to be slaughered for someone else’s soup pot. But I also don’t think I would take on the responsibility and cost of chickens without getting the payoff of the eggs. So I’m out. How about you? (Read Erica’s entire post, along with more than 200 comments bringing up other notable points, over here.)

0 Comments | Topics: Aracunas, backyard chickens, eggs

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