Chickens Seasonal Care Stories from Our Nest

Flock Rotation: A Solution for Aging Chickens

Chicken keeping can become addicting if you let it. Before you know it you will want one of each breed. You will lose all will power on the trips to the feed store and you will find yourself craving “just one more”. I too admit that it is difficult to control these such urges. Goodness knows that I have them! However, I have resisted for a number of reasons. The best one being that as the flock ages, the number of eggs it produces tapers off.

Chickens lay most of their eggs in their first two years of life. After that, their egg production decreases, mostly stops in the colder months of winter, and overall it becomes more unreliable. Most chickens live an average of five to seven years, but some can live as long as 20 years. This year, my entire flock turns four years old. They are all healthy but I am also aware that some of them may be close to the end of their lives.

I have always known that I would never re-home them when they stopped laying. I would allow them to live out their natural lives here at their home. For years, they have laid wonderful orbs filled with delicious goodness for me and my family. They have earned their rights to stay and I would not have it any other way. Plus, they are our pets and we have grown to love each and every one of them.

I have had a plan in my head for years, and now the time has come to put that plan into action this year. As this flock ages, we will build a larger coop for them. We will also introduce new chicks this spring, six of them to be exact. These new girls will be the ones we come to depend on for our eggs.

This idea of flock rotation makes perfect sense to me. It allows us to explore new breeds, even if the gratification is delayed by a few years. But best of all, Tilly and the girls also remain part of our family as we remain part of theirs. Truthfully, I could not imagine it any other way. The idea of flock rotation is something that just might work for your family too. For us, it’s a solution to an issue that many backyard chicken keepers face.

Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest

Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

  • How wonderful that they will get to live out the rest of their lives with your family. Looking forward to seeing the baby chicks!

  • Deb

    I love that idea. I would do the same. I'm sure 'senior' hens have quirky habits that you will enjoy. Looking forward to meeting the new chicks. Deb

  • How exciting. Looking forward to your new chicks and your new COOP. I want to add a couple more bantams this year but hubby is putting his foot down. We'll see. Lol!

  • Anonymous

    Easy peasy for somebody that has space and no ordinances prohibiting flock size. What about people that can only have 6 hens? Any advice?

  • We too are doing a flock rotation. We had built a second coop just for the reasons you listed in your post and are expecting the next group of chicks this week.

  • How do you plan to introduce the new chicks, though. I believe that they are often picked on and have to be kept separate.

  • Thank you–lovely article. I clicked the link with some trepidation as I was hoping NOT to read a disposable animals solution. So very glad for those who value their animals as a lifetime commitment.

  • Kp

    I was JUST talking about this yesterday with the mister. We have not made the leap to chicken keeping yet, and one of the big reasons is we don't agree on the proper way to let a laying-lady retire. I will have to print this off and put it on the fridge! Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    We have had trouble adding new chickens in with the older ones. The older ones like to fight them.
    What should we do? Having trouble leaving my email address, could you answer on this site?

  • the older ones will pick on the little ones and can really hurt them.And if they draw blood they will not stop/ Keep them separate for a really long time until they get used to each other. The term "pecking order" is real. I dont have room for a whole new set and my hens are 5 years old now – Im still getting a few eggs here and there, but I will just let them live out their lives. I will replace them when they die naturally, however long that is.. The farmer's market is closeby…..

  • I agree with you, our chickens are family. New to this but we are with your thinking. We too will build a coop on our holl orchard for the older ones.

  • I have always had a soft spot in my heart for hens. I ordered from and I am so worried about them arriving safely. This is my first time with mail order hens since I always purchased basic breeds through Tractor Supply. When you add this spring are you incubating, store buying or mail order? If you can let me know what your thoughts are on mail order….I just don't want to see a poor baby arrive DOA.

    • We ordered by mail again with My Pet Chicken. We have always had great luck with them and I hope you do too.

  • Tilly – very well said. I too become addicted to purchasing more and more chickens. It almost feels like a collection or hobbie, but the more I add the more my feed costs go up. You definitely have to have some self control! Great article and keep up the great writing! Love reading your blog.