My first criteria is an odd one, but it fits my schedule. I prefer hens that tend to lay in the morning before noon. I never paid much attention to the timing at first, since I just would gather eggs several times a day. But with my present set up, the hens are confined in the morning and in the afternoon are released to go forage in pastures and areas specifically planted for them. I quickly noticed that some hens were consistent morning layers, making things much easier for me. So whenever I would sell a laying chicken, I'd always offer the afternoon layers or the inconsistent ones. By keeping a watchful eye on them, I could identify the morning layers, thus assuming the rest were afternoon layers. Now most of the eggs here get laid by noon. I seldom find one out in the forage pens.
Among my hens laying for the first year, I like to see at least five eggs a week during the good egg laying period. Many of the hens are pumping out 6 or 7 eggs a week. Any first year hen laying less than 5 a week will be a sale candidate.
With hens on their second year I like to see 4-5 eggs a week. Some still do better, but some slip down to 3. If those 3 eggs are larges or extra larges, then hen can stay. But if they are mediums, she's on the sale list.
Can you guess? Hen that laid the extra large egg on the left is a keeper even if she only lays 2 a week. The hen laying the mediums on the right is a candidate for selling.
Older hens can still stay in the flock if they produce large or bigger eggs. I have one old hen that consistently lays a jumbo egg every 3-4 days. Since I can sell big eggs at a premium, that hen can stay. I have many older hens giving 3 large or extra large eggs a week. All keepers. But any hen that drops below 2 eggs a week is at risk of being culled. There has to be a good reason to keep a hen only laying one or possibly two eggs a week. A hen earns points if she has double yolkers, extra large or jumbos, or unusual colored eggs. Being able to put a pretty speckled egg, an olive colored or perhaps a chocolate brown egg in a dozen helps to sell the eggs.
Do I sell all my culls? I try to. But some of the hens are rather old and end up becoming dogfood. First they go to make chicken broth, with the stringy meat being then added to the dogfood. I
I have plenty of meat sources so I don't have to use every chicken for our own table. But if I did, then even those old hens could be ground up for chicken croquettes.
But then there are some favorites who I let hang around. They get alternate jobs, like scratching up the garden aisles to deweed them prior to laying down new mulch. Or scratching up and deweeding a growing bed before replanting. In this latter case they stay in their wire pens for several days, eating and sleeping there. The aim is to add their manure directly to the growing bed. Easy fertilizer application! I'll talk about this in an upcoming post.