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Management of egg producing hens

The housing and management of layer hens can be carried out using one of two methods, caged layer production or floor production. Use of either method can keep the hens in production throughout the year if proper environmental and nutritional needs are met.

The poultry house should be located away from other farm structures. The ground should allow good water drainage. Adequate light fixtures are needed to provide proper light intensity. Adequate light is present if the water and feed levels in the troughs can be seen after allowing enough time for your eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.

The house should allow for plenty of ventilation and sunlight. Place 1 inch, poultry wire netting over all openings to separate the hens from other birds and animals, both wild and domestic. Removable curtains or doors are recommended so the openings can be opened or closed as the weather changes. Keep the house dry and comfortable by ventilating from all sides in the summer and closing most openings in winter.

The caged layer production method consists of placing the hens in wire cages with feed and water being provided to each cage. The birds are housed at a capacity of two to three hens in each cage, which measures approximately 12"x16"18". The cages are arranged in rows which are placed on leg supports or suspended from the ceiling so the floors of the cages are about 2 to 3 feet above the ground. Water is supplied by individual cup waterers or a long trough outside the cages that extends the length of the row of cages. The feed trough is also located outside the cages and runs parallel to the water trough on the opposite side of each cage. The cages are designed so the eggs will roll out of the cage to a holding area by means of a slanted wire floor. This method of housing is used primarily with egg-type layers kept for infertile egg production.

The floor production method is designed for either egg-type or broiler-type birds kept for fertile or infertile eggs. In commercial flocks this method is used when fertile eggs for hatching are needed. The birds are maintained in the house on a litter covered floor, giving the term floor production.

One nest 14 inches wide, 12 inches high, and 16 inches deep is needed for each four hens. A mash hopper 5 feet long and open on both sides is adequate for 25 hens. Three 3-gallon pans provide adequate watering space for 30 hens. Clean, scrub and disinfect the house and equipment thoroughly before placing the pullets in the laying house after it has dried. Put 3 inches of litter material in the nests and 4 to 6 inches of litter on the floor.

Regardless of which production method is used, the 22-week old pullets should be given an increasing daily light schedule after being placed in the laying house. The length of daily light should be increased 15 minutes each week after the birds enter the laying house. The increased light will stimulate egg production and help maintain production throughout the year. The day length increases should continue until the birds are receiving 16-18 hours of light each day. The day length should remain the same for the rest of the laying period. After the birds begin to produce eggs, the total duration of light, including both natural and artificial, should not be reduced.

The birds should be fed a nutritionally balanced commercial laying mash containing 16 percent protein. Use a special breeder ration if the eggs are being saved for hatching purposes. These breeder diets contain higher levels of vitamins that help produce higher hatchability and healthier chicks. Poultry older than 16-18 weeks do not require a ration containing a coccidiostat unless a coccidiosis outbreak occurs. If a commercially produced layer ration is provided, additional oyster shell, grit or grain is not needed.

Broodiness is often a problem in floor production housing. It is characterized by a hen wanting to build a permanent nest and begin "setting." The problem can be solved by removing the hen from the flock and placing her in a wire-floored cage for 3 to 4 days. Ample feed and water should be supplied to the affected hen. The hen can then usually be returned to the flock with no further problem. The treatment can be repeated if the hen continues to be broody.

Additional information for managing the egg flock for maximum productivity is found in Culling Hens.

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Dressed in a pink T-shirt and blue jeans, broiler grower Teresa Dyess stands next to two wagon wheels in front of a barn on her family farm.
Filed Under: Women for Agriculture, Poultry October 20, 2017

In three days, Teresa Dyess shifted her business focus from produce to poultry.

The change began two years ago with an offhand remark from her husband, Joe Dyess.

 “He told a broiler grower in Wayne County we wouldn’t mind building pullet houses because we wanted to diversify our farm,” she said. “We didn’t think any more about it, and then the next day a poultry processor called and offered us a contract. A banker came the next day, and everything fell into place.”

Lanette Crocker, coordinator for the MSU Extension Service in Wayne County, said Teresa Dyess’ adaptability has helped her maintain success through the farm’s transition.

Hen flock inventories grew after the poultry industry recovered from the 2015 avian influenza outbreak, increasing the number of eggs on the market and driving down the price. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kevin Hudson)
Filed Under: Poultry August 4, 2017

RAYMOND, Miss. -- Mississippi's poultry industry remains healthy with a strong demand for broilers and a positive outlook for the remainder of 2017.

Filed Under: Avian Flu March 30, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- All Mississippians who raise any species of poultry are being urged to follow strict biosecurity practices and review new requirements regarding sales and exhibitions.

Tom Tabler, poultry specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said that while avian influenza is not a threat to human health or food safety, an outbreak would endanger backyard flocks and the state’s nearly $3 billion commercial poultry industry.

Choosing the right breed of chickens for a backyard flock is an important decision. From left, Tripp, Luna and Charlie Sanders examine chicks for sale March 8, 2017, in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Kat Lawrence)
Filed Under: Poultry March 16, 2017

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Families willing to host a flock of feathered friends reap the benefits of fresh eggs delivered daily just outside the door.

What started several years ago as an underground "urban chicken" movement has become much more common and widely accepted. Today, raising backyard chickens has gained popularity nationwide, boosted by interest in locally grown foods that avoid the energy use and carbon emissions typically associated with transporting food.

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