Free or very inexpensive hens are available from chicken rescues, which find new homes for commercial layer hens after their production declines. These homes also get younger hens from other sources.
Retired factory hens may still lay eggs in large enough quantities to satisfy the average household, but not enough to satisfy commercial standards. Adopting retired factory hens may save their lives, since many are killed once they no longer meet factory demands. Retired factory hens often lay several eggs per week. Chickens are social animals, so adopters should plan on having at least four hens.
People looking for free chickens should also check newspaper classifieds and websites such as Craigslist.org. Feed stores are a good source of information, since many have bulletin boards for people to advertise livestock in need of homes. The employees may also know local farmers and may be able to suggest leads.
The cost of hens is usually the least expensive part of adoption. Chickens need a safe, secure coop that is solid enough to keep predators at bay and to keep them cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather. They also need nesting boxes and materials to lay eggs. Hens forage on plants and insects, but they need a good diet to lay consistently, the cost of which adds up over time. Veterinary care may also be expensive.