A laying hen reaches maturity and begins laying eggs at around 4-6 months of age. She will lay an average of two eggs every three days for the next 3-5 years. After that, you may wish to consider adding the girl to the stewpot. Laying hens are not as tender as young meat birds (which are typically slaughtered at eight weeks of age) but their meat is still salvageable if boiled or tenderized with some vinegar prior to cooking.
Laying Hens or Meat Birds?
The first decision you need to make is whether to have laying hens or meat birds. Chickens have been cultivated for a long time, and while some breeds make excellent laying hens, and lay large eggs for a long period of time, other breeds are definitely cultivated to grow quickly and be consumed in short order.
We have twelve Araucanas and one Rhode Island Red – all laying hens. The Araucanas lay a pale blue-green egg, that is considered a medium sized egg. The Rhode Island Red lays an extra-large brown egg. Rhode Island Reds are known for their large, high production egg capacity.
At this point, we have no meat birds. However, from my past interactions with them I have to say that they are very different from their egg-laying counterparts. Meat birds have one goal – to consume as much food as possible. That is why in eight weeks, a meat bird will average about 6-8 pounds, whereas my delicate Araucanas weigh in at a total of five pounds each full grown. Meat birds can also be rather aggressive, pecking and drawing blood on each other and more importantly, you. Take care if you have small children and meat birds, it could be traumatizing.