Chickens do not necessarily have to be replaced as they can still be used as foragers in the school garden or as agricultural pets. Keeping them until they expire is also very education for the children to learn about their life cycle and deal with death.
An educational facility should write a chicken keeping policy so that there is always a plan to go by when the question arises. Are they just for eggs, are they for meat, too, or are we happy to keep them as school pets (garden mascots)?
Usually one teacher is designated as the person who secured funding for the chickens and their facilities, so it would be most appropriate to include this person in future decision making. This person should have the first choice as to whether they would like to take the unwanted hens, rehoming them or introducing them to their own backyard.
It can be an emotionally charged time in a school or kindergarten, just amongst the staff alone, to make the final decision.
For this reason, it is best not to disclose your intent to the children or families, or make it too broad and final as this can stir further emotions. I will discuss this a little further to clarify.
Keeping the old with the new
Keeping the hens and introducing new hens can also be done so long as the coop is big enough for the new additions. Remember to stick to the ratio of 3:1 - chickens per layer box.
Integrating new hens with the existing girls also requires a 3-4 week quarantine period in separate coops on the same premises. In that time we observe both flocks for signs of illness, respiratory issues, discharge, lice and mites. Both are given worming treatment and are pest dusted (e.g. with Pestene).
For this period, two coops with fencing will be necessary. This will be a issue for your budget.
The pecking order will be disrupted for a time but if handled well, they should all fully integrate. Keep an eye on any loss of feathers or bleeding during this time. If the worst occurs that they do not integrate well, then it is best to remove the older hens entirely.
Provide food distractions to help them get along such as hanging apples or a cabbage head for them to all pick at. Food is a remarkably good way of helping hens to get to know each other.
Choosing to say goodbye
Aim for any change of chickens during the school holidays. Children returning in the new term will cope easily with the change and fresh faces of new hens. Do not make any big announcements about the old or new hens coming or going to make this transition run smoothly.
Where to get rid of them to
- Allow a member of staff to have the first choice, who has the most emotionally vested into the keeping of the chickens.
- Use your Newsletter to ask parents if they would be interested in rehoming chickens.
(Yes, this is notifying them but never overlook the great community right under your nose. Keep it LOW KEY.)
- If you are not abject to the possibility of someone eating non-laying hens, list them on www.gumtree.com.au
- If they are still laying, list them on www.backyardpoultry.com/noticeboard
- Use Facebook groups to assist with rehoming in your area.
- If all else fails, speak to your Governing Council and/or Grounds Keeper for assistance to dispatch them.
Wishing you all the very best of luck for rehoming your hens!