Laying Hens Guide

Housing, lighting, and feeding tips for a successful flock.


Hens for a laying flock can be purchased as day old chicks, as pullets at 18-20 weeks of age or as mature laying hens. Good feeding management and light control will help to maintain maximum egg production.

  • Pullets are housed in a layer building at 18-20 weeks of age. (Farm flocks that run loose may not start laying until 24 weeks of age.)

  • Floor space should be 0.2 - 0.3 m (2 – 3 feet) per bird, depending on whether they have an outside run.

  • The layer house should have 10 cm (4 inches) of litter on the floor and adequate feeder and waterer space.

  • Provide one nest box 30x30x30 cm (12”x12”x12”) for each four hens.

  • A temperature range between 7°C to 27°C (45°F to 80°F) is acceptable. In extremely cold weather, supplemental heat may be needed.

Lighting Programs For Layers:

Chickens normally lay between early spring and mid-fall.

Increasing day length (January – June) stimulate egg production; decreasing day length (July – December) inhibits egg production.

Commercial egg producers regulate temperature and lighting to ensure continuous egg production year-round.

Farm Flock:

If the chicken coop has electricity, light bulbs will help to keep it warm in winter and prevent drinking water from freezing.

  • Lighting can also be used to stimulate laying during the winter.

  • Giving the chickens light during the evening or early morning to simulate 14 to 16 hours of sunlight will increase winter production.

Housed Layers with Runs:

Lighting control can be used to increase egg production. The most important considerations are:

  • Maintain a constant day length for growing pullets.

  • Never decrease day length or light intensity for laying hens.

  • A general lighting program is to raise pullets on a constant day length of 10 hours of light per day.

  • When the pullets are old enough to lay (usually 18 – 20 weeks of age), the day length is gradually increased up to 16 hours of light per day.

Lighting: Housed Layers:

For maximum egg production, lighting can be used to control the birds sexual maturity, behavior and rate of production.

  • Start chicks at 24 hours of light for 3 – 7 days. After the chicks have found feed and water, reduce the light to 16 hours.

  • Up to 3 weeks of age, gradually decrease the light to 10 hours per day. Maintain 10 hours of light until the pullets are large enough to lay (usually 18-20 weeks), and then begin to increase the day length.

  • Increase the light 30 minutes each week until there is 16 hours of light. Maintain a constant day length of 16 hours.

  • If the light period is decreased, egg production will drop.

  • Automatic timing devices to turn the lights on and off are available and recommended.

Feeding Program:

Laying Rations should feed free choice as the only feed in order to maximize egg production.

  • Laying pellets fed alone provide a complete diet with a sufficient amount of calcium. Laying hens need calcium to keep the shells thick.

  • If laying pellets are combined with other whole grains, the levels of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, will be diluted.

  • Oyster shell can be offered free choice or sprinkled over the feed for additional calcium.

Have more questions? Visit your local Buckerfield's and we'll be happy to help!

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