More By This Author

Current Issue

Current Issue

Posted: August 10, 2009

Entirely Homegrown: Hens headed for the chopping block

Still weeks from egg production, the two youngest birds will have to earn their weight the hard way

Mike Taylor



The first week of the entirely homegrown experiment is in the books and was about as tough as expected, but it’s about to get easier. This morning I made the executive decision to butcher my two youngest hens.

They’ve got no hope of maturing enough to contribute any eggs during this month-long regimen. Might as well get what I can from them, food-wise.

Two small hens carefully rationed should make the final three weeks a lot easier: drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts, and the carcass and skin for soups and stews.

A little background: Some months back I had four hens producing four eggs a day. That ended sometime in spring when a fox killed one and my dog Spock, newly adopted from the Denver Dumb Friends League, killed the other three.

Figuring I still had time to raise some replacement hens to egg-laying age by August, I bought two Rhode Island Red day-old chicks from American Pride Co-op in Brighton. That was in early April, I think. Within a few weeks I became concerned they might not be laying in time for the backyard-only diet, so I went on Craigslist and found a hen source in Strasburg, about an hour east of Denver, up I-70.


Beet salad

I bought two more young Rhode Island Reds, both a few weeks older than the ones I had.  One of the Strasburg hens finally started laying about five days before August 1. The other should start producing any day.

There’s no hope for the other two, so now the only decision left to make is whether to slaughter them myself or find a boutique butcher. I’d also like to point out that butchering livestock at a residence is illegal in Denver, but I admit that’s largely a convenient rationalization for not doing it myself.


Potatoes, egg and sauteed greens, a daily staple soon to be augmented with chicken.

Either way, stay tuned for a video of some sort next week.  

{pagebreak:Page 1}

Mike Taylor is the managing editor of ColoradoBiz. He writes about small-business money issues and how startups are launched. Email him at

Enjoy this article? Sign up to get ColoradoBiz Exclusives. The opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not represent ColoradoBiz magazine. Comments on articles will be removed if they include personal attacks.

Readers Respond

Well, the survey results are in, but too late. One respondent said to head to Jack in the Box, another said you should write the weight-loss book. Two more said they were with ya, the chickens were dead meat. Which, I guess, they are. Bon appetit! By Vicki on 2009 08 12
Well, the governor was too late. Just got back from Harvest Farms in Wellington, dropping off the two hens. You can at least be comforted to know the chickens there are pasture-raised (they all looked very content), and the "harvesting" of chickens is done as humanely as possible, with a special knife with an electric current running through it that renders the animals unconscious at the outset. By Mike T. on 2009 08 11
I'm with you Vicki. Remember what our moms said when we complained about getting that cheese sandwich in our lunchbox for the third day in a row: "There are starving children in Africa who would love to have your sandwich!" If Mike lived in certain Asian countries, Spock's head would be on a platter instead ... and it's pretty hard to fetch a ball when you have no head. I think if Mike weighs the pros and cons - i.e., lower cholesterol and glucose levels versus a fleeting moment of indescribable pleasure - he'll do the right thing. (Oops. We might need an intervention here -- a la "Back away from the hatchet and nobody gets hurt.") By Pam Burrell on 2009 08 11
Great stuff, Vicki. I guess I'll have to go onto your site and try to calm the activist Squawkers you're stirring up! By Mike T. on 2009 08 10
Since I can't call the governor, and I just won't be able to sleep tonight thinking about your poor, hapless hens, I'm doing the only thing I can do in a democracy: a petition drive. Save the chickens, save the world. Go to: and let your Squawks be heard! By Vicki on 2009 08 10
Hilarious, Pam. Sure, some chicks will be turned off, but others (the human kind) will appreciate what I'm doing to secure protein and thus maintain some semblance of muscularity. By Mike T. on 2009 08 10
Hi Mike. Is there any chance you can trade the "dead hens walking" for a couple of champion layers? Please read Chicken Little, Henny Penny, and The Little Red Hen before making a final decision. Maybe you can make a swap on Craigslist ... or maybe there's a Max Fund or No Kill Shelter for birds. The best reason for delaying an execution is the fact that you'll be a "chick" magnet if you tell the story of your personal sacrifice on I guess it's a matter of which breasts appeal to you more. By Pam Burrell on 2009 08 10
No, don't call the governor! I need the protein. It's only been 10 days and I'm already down to 180 pounds (from a high of 193 after the July 31 Good Times feast). I did find a willing butcher yesterday at the Pearl Street (Denver, not Boulder) Farmer's Market: Northern Colorado Poultry. We'll probably just videotape me giving him the two birds and then him giving them back in the form of two whole fryers. The forks are working great! This is the longest - and tallest - I've ever kept corn alive, and I attribute it mostly to the forks. Only a couple stalks have been toppled since I put the forks in the ground. By Mike T. on 2009 08 10
A video of the execution? Oh, dude, say it ain't so! Can I call the guv's office to get a stay of execution? p.s., how are the forks working in the garden? By Vicki on 2009 08 10

Leave a comment

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

ColoradoBiz TV

Loading the player ...

Featured Video