After reaching a good production peak , H&N hens should enter a production plateau. Their genetic potential allows them to maintain a high production level and good eggshell quality for some weeks but to achieve this, pay close attention to certain aspects:
Detailed laying cycle records are necessary to evaluate performance and proﬁtability. Daily ﬁgures for hen-day production, egg weight, feed and water consumption and mortality are necessary.
This information will allow you to calculate very important data including daily egg mass, cumulative egg mass and feed conversion. All results should be presented in graphs.Use of graphs will improve analyses of flock performance trends.
Growth records, accurate cage and / or pen counts are also very important.This enables timely intervention in response to any irregularities and generates historical data for more in-depth analysis of production performance.
|Low feed intake, low water intake, stress factors, feed quality, decreasing light program, pathology
|Low feed consumption
|Temperature, water supply, feed quality, inadequate feeder space, incorrect feed supply, pathology
|Low egg weight
|Temperature, low feed consumption, low body weight at light stimulation, incorrect feed formulation
|Flock uniformity, light intensity, stress factors, pathology
|Low body weight
|Incorrect feed formulation, low feed intake, high stocking density
|High body weight
|Incorrect feed formulation, overfeeding
|Ca/P ratio, Ca particle size, temperature, water quality, pathology, incorrect egg collection management, incorrect feed formulation, incorrect grading machine maintenance
|Water quality, pathology, incorrect egg collection management, incorrect feed formulation, incorrect grading machine maintenance, high stocking density, pest/diseases
Feather coverage is a key indicator of the hen’s body condition. If hens lose their feathers, their thermal insulation capacity will remain seriously impaired. This impacts directly on feed intake and maintenance energy needs. It therefore means an increase in the production feed costs. Poor feathering can also be caused by stress or pecking. The condition of the feathers is also a sign that indicates stress or deficiencies.
Excessive feather loss can be due to various factors including:
Monitoring feathering can help signal potential problems caused by aggression, nutritional deﬁciencies or other problems.
Occasionally, aggression and cannibalism can occur in the ﬂock. This can aﬀect hen welfare and their production performance. Behaviour-related issues can have multiple causes, but certain management practices can be applied to help prevent aggression and canibalism :
Layers do not consume equal amounts of feed during the whole day. 70 % of feed consumption occurs in the early hours of the morning and the last four hours in the afternoon. They also have a predilection for calcium during the last hours of light.
To mirror this behaviour better, feed times should be adapted to get a low level on the feeders for eight hours after switching on the lights. Under normal conditions 2/3 of the daily feed should be supplied in the last eight hours. Ensure this afternoon feed is effectively distributed to the hens.
H&N “Brown Nicks” are not normally prone to put on fat with correctly formulated feeds. Therefore, feed restriction is not recommended. Monitor egg size, body weight and production percentage very closely. These traits will decrease ﬁrst if birds are being under fed.
This management technique is used to increase feed intake and allow calcium availability in the hours when the eggshell is formed, and its absorption is increased. It consists of lighting in the dark period to allow hens to feed and refill the crop.
The following guidelines should be followed for correct application:
Midnight lighting can be used with diﬀerent objectives:
Egg formation is a complex process that occurs in the oviduct of the hen. The whole process takes around 24 hours, but forming the eggshell takes most of the time (18– 21 hours). Lay is a critical moment for hens. If possible, they prefer a protected and dark area. The cloaca could be reversed during the lay process which can encourage cannibalism. If hens retain eggs due to stress, shell defects may occur. Therefore, avoid disturbing hens during maximum laying hours to reduce this kind of defect. This means not disturbing them by removing dead birds, feed distribution, inspecting cages . . .
The laying window is deﬁned as the time in hours since the lay of the ﬁrst egg to the last one. Its range varies between breeds of hens. 50 % of the lay takes place around 4–5 hours after switching on lighting or after the sunset. It is useful to know when most of the eggs have been laid.This information can also be used to advance or delay the time of sunset, although periods of 16 hours of light are used routinely.
Egg collection impacts the external and internal quality of the produced eggs. It must therefore be performed correctly in order not to degrade the value of the eggs:
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