The longer I homestead, the more I realize how important it is to be a good steward of the resources I have available to me.  Last year, I kept track of the amount of chicken feed I was purchasing and the amount of eggs I was selling.

It was a rude awakening…I was losing a lot of money in the laying hen division.  As much as I enjoyed ALL my hens, some of them were past their prime and were consuming a lot of feed and not giving anything back in return.  I had to set my heart aside and look at this situation as an efficient steward and homesteader.

Here’s the plan I came up with and started implementing last season.  I bought different colored leg bands for the chickens.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of these little colored plastic rings – they were more expensive than I’d expected.

But I needed them to make the system work…

I purchased all female chicks this spring and raised them in the chicken tractor.

When it was time to move them to the hen house, we banded each hen with an orange leg band.

Once all the girls were banded…

It was time to transfer them from the chicken tractor to the hen house.

Chickens start laying eggs at 5 months of age and they lay the most eggs in the first 2 years of their life.

I needed a system that let me know how old my hens were.  You can imagine with this many how difficult it would be to remember which year the hens were added to the hen house.

By looking at the color of their leg band, I know how old the hen is and how productive she is being.

Last year, 2009, I used yellow bands and green bands.  (I had the green bands already but didn’t like them as well as the colored ones.)

My goal is to have enough eggs to sell to at least cover the cost of my feed.  It would be great to make a profit, which is very doable if you have all young hens who are laying.

Now that the new hens are in the hen house and at the age to start laying, I’m keeping track of how many eggs we collect each day.  I put in 24 new hens and there were 25 from last season and before.  Our egg output is still not where it should be but we’re on the right track.  I know I still have some old hens in the house who are eating more than laying.  Eventually they will be culled from the flock.

And how are the new hens doing?

Just fine!

They are the majority and slowly establishing their positions in the house.

They’re beginning to discover the nesting boxes – this is a good thing!

As you can see, not all are happy with this new arrangement….

It’s not always easy making new friends in the pecking order, especially when you’re near the bottom of the order.

But as a homesteader, I need to keep reminding myself that there is a purpose for every animal and plant on my farm.  Stewardship of resources is vital in order to keep the systems efficient.  It’s so easy to allow all of this to become a huge drain on our finances if I’m not careful about managing our hens.  Their reason for being a part of our homestead?