Isn’t it always the busiest weeks that end up with unexpected additions? Well, that describes our last week to at T. In the midst of ranch chores, beef sales, school projects, appointments, kids illnesses, and more, I found out that a local egg producer was selling a flock of 18-month-old hens. And by a flock, I mean 4,000 hens.
Side note: This isn’t uncommon in the egg industry. Hens are most productive in their first year of laying (from about 6-18 months old). Some egg producers keep hens for more than one laying cycle, but not all. These particular hens were laying organic, cage-free eggs.
So, of course, Huck wanted to get them ALL to add to his flock of already productive hens. After discussing the fact that we absolutely could not re-home 4,000 hens, I reached out to the farm and found out that yes, there were still hens available. However, we had to go pick them up within 36 hours, and it was a first come-first serve situation. In other words, it was GO TIME.
Dan had the pickup, so we loaded up our largest animal crate in the back of the Tahoe, and headed down the road. The facility abides by all USDA organic standards, among many other health requirements, so it was a process. We had to sanitize our car tires before even driving back to the facility, then put on disposable boots and full coveralls before going in to catch the chickens.
It was quite the chicken rodeo to say the least! But, two trips later, 53 hens found themselves a new home in our barn and pasture.
Now, these hens were well cared for at the farm they were on. I do not have a single bad thing to say about where we got them. In fact, how awesome is it that they opened up the opportunity for other local farms/ranches to come get them?! However, they are molting, and were in living conditions that had them very close together (cage-free means exactly what it states, no cages. It does not mean they have lots of room to roam). So, they had been pecked at a lot and have not been around many humans. Needless to say, these girls won’t be walking down any chicken runways due to their beauty. And, they don’t love to be loved on (yet).
They are here now though, and have the chance to live out their lives as spoiled egg layers, being doted on by three boys who love them. They are slowly but surely getting acclimated. It’s going to be fun to see their transformation over the spring and summer. Welcome home, hens!
Side note #2: As I’ve shared a bit of this story, some have asked what would have happened to these hens if we hadn’t picked them up. It’s my understanding that any that were not sold would have been humanely euthanized. These hens are a different breed from the typical meat chickens (that give you chicken breast in the grocery store’s meat department). So, most often, after they are cycled out of egg production, their meat is utilized for other chicken products you see on store shelves such as dog and cat food. We appreciate having a good quality pet food, but our boys were sure happy to know these hens would live to see another day.