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Stimulating the setting instinct

The most critical factor for inducing females of any bird species to set on eggs is the amount of daylight each bird is exposed to every day. The increasing length of daylight hours in the spring of the year stimulates the hens to lay and roosters to begin mating. The additional daylight eventually stimulates the hen to "set" on the eggs after a sufficient number of eggs accumulates in the nest. If eggs are removed each day, the hen may never become broody and start incubating or "setting" in the nest.

After the daylength reaches its maximum (June 21) the daylength starts decreasing and egg laying and setting tendencies decrease until the shortest day of the year arrives (December 21). The cycle then begins all over again. In general, hens require about 15-16 hours of continuous light daily to maintain good egg production. These seasonal factors have developed in all birds and most mammals through millions of years of natural evolution.

Hens can be be stimulated to lay or set on eggs during any season of the year if the lighting program they receive is carefully controlled. They must be "tricked" into thinking that they are in the springtime. Place artificial lights in the house and control them with timers so that the daylength is increased to about 17 hours each and every day. Do not vary the daylength that the hens receive or they will cease to lay and set.

After the hen accumulates a nest full of eggs (a clutch) sheinstinctively starts setting and incubating them. The ease to which she accepts this incubation responsibility varies within and among breeds, strains, and families of chickens. Some hens have better "mothering" instincts, while others are not as inclined.

Almost all females will be stirred into setting on the eggs if the daylength is maintained properly and the environment around the hen is good. Provide the hen with dark, secluded areas in which to make her nest. In this way she is not distrubed while setting on the eggs. The quality of the eggs can be maintained until setting begins by replacing good "setting eggs" each day with artificial or infertile eggs. When the hen begins incubating the eggs, all eggs in the nest can be replaced with the stored fertile eggs.

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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.

Filed Under: Agriculture, Corn, Peanuts, Rice, Soybeans, Sweet Potatoes, Poultry December 15, 2016

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The estimated $7.6 billion value of Mississippi agriculture increased by 1.8 percent in 2016, helping the industry retain its prominence in the state's overall economy.

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