What Is: Layer Chicken?

Hens that are selected, bred and commercially farmed especially for their egg laying performance are called layer chicken.

Egg farmers buy layer hens are either as ‘day old chicks’ (DoCs) i.e. from birth, or at the point of lay (PoL) i.e. when they are mature enough to lay eggs.

Layer chicken are reared in flocks and best practice recommends each flock consists of batches of birds bought from the same supplier and of the same age.

Layer flocks, as layer chicken are often called, are reared right through their most productive weeks of life. Eggs are harvested daily.

Hens are farmed without the presence of male chicken (cockerels), so the eggs are unfertilized, have a longer shelf-life and are in best condition for consumption.

When the egg production of a layer chicken declines below the financial ‘break even’ point (in other words, it becomes a cost and no longer a profit to keep them) – they are culled by farmers.

At this stage of becoming commercially unprofitable, layers are called ‘spent hens’.

Outline process of farming layer chicken

1. Prepare layer poultry house to receive either a flock of day old chicks or point of lay pullets (ensuring optimal cleanliness, temperature, ventilation, adequate lighting – feed – water,  and space per bird, above all).

2. Buy day old chicks or point of lay pullets from reliable supplier for delivery.

3. In early weeks make sure birds are behaving as expected, finding feed and water, getting good rest and appear settled.

4. Transition birds onto the right balance of feed at the right times to meet their nutritional needs.

5. Clear waste regularly and look out for signs of poor quality litter (if you are rearing layers in a deep litter environment).

6. Consider beak trimming if birds are pecking one another.

7. Monitor and target the following in line with breeder guidelines:

  • Weight
  • Feed intake
  • Water
  • Temperature
  • Lighting
  • Humidity

8. Have a clear roadmap for increasing space allocation and adjusting access to feed and water in line with growth of birds.

9. Examine the flock for males and remove them.

10. Egg quality and body condition/growth are directly linked. Get briefed by breeder guides on the key body markers and targets. Make sure to monitor growth and plot against the standard.

11. Keep an eye on how palatable the feed is and adjust the recipe, or particle size accordingly. Remembering calcium for greater shell strength.

12. Move hens into the layer house when they begin production – usually around 20 weeks of age. Monitor for signs of stress at the earliest stages.

13. Hens physicality changes considerably leading up to their egg laying maturity. Use weight as a marker for whether birds should be on target for peak egg production.

14. Track flock uniformity on all key performance indicators.

15. Remove mortalities immediately.

16. When egg production begins routinely, monitor quality and flock conformity.

17. Continue to examine the flock’s egg laying performance whilst fine tuning factors like, Calcium particle size for best results.

18. Keep rearing to 72 weeks and then cull as spent hens.

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By Temi Cole
Temi Cole

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