We first started our backyard flock when my daughter was in Kindergarten. She is now 10, so that provides some perspective of how long hens have been a part of our family. While we did bring in new chicks for 2 or 3 springs, for the most part, we are now living with hens who are 3-5 years of age.
As mentioned in another post, there have been many changes that made my life rather busy, and took me away from blogging about our flock, and some that have given us impetus to accept some attrition among the birds.
Some time ago I divorced. As part of this, my ex husband has "custody" of the truck that was used for hauling the straw. I had many, many extra bales on hand for quite some time, so only recently did this become an issue.
Likewise, our next door neighbor who allowed us to yard share moved. This meant the space for the chickens to roam was reduced. The reduction in space may not seem too important coming from the perspective of factory farming, but our goal was always to provide the flock with ample room to roam.
All of these things, as well as changes to our lives simply becoming busier have put me on a course with our beloved flock of ushering them into their old age, and allowing nature to take its course. At the peak, we had 2 dozen hens. Today we have 12. Deaths due to raccoons, old age, and illness have all taken a toll. My goal is to allow as many of the hens to run the normal course of their lives as I can, since they were so very generous with their egg laying for many years.
At this time I'm not completely sure how many laying hens we have left, as several are just finishing up a molt and one is coming out of a broody phase. I believe one or two are still laying, and in coming months I believe I'll have a better count on this. I've been told that 3-4 years is considered normal for egg production, and I believe that is true.