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.
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.
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.
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