A healthy bird will begin laying at about 20 weeks of age, which means you've probably been seeing eggs coming from the new chicks you got this spring! Healthy pullets will begin laying at about 20 weeks of age. Peak production begins at about 30 weeks and excellent production would be getting an egg 80–90 percent of the time. However, the breed, housing, weather, management, parasite load and nutrition can all affect the rate of lay.
Eggs should be gathered three times daily and even more often in hot weather. If you plan to keep eggs for hatching, store the eggs at 55°F and 70–75 percent humidity, large end up, for no more than 10 days before putting them in the incubator. Eggs for eating should go straight to the refrigerator. Eggs are laid with a protective coating, which helps to keep bacteria out, and it is best if this is not disturbed. Excessive washing can force bacteria through pores in the shell and into the egg and greatly reduce its chance for successful incubation and hatching. If washing is necessary, be gentle and quick, and use only water. Be sure to use water that is warmer than the egg. Dry and cool the eggs as rapidly as possible.
Have your hens stopped laying? There are many factors that could be in play when a bird stops laying eggs. Below are some of the most common reasons and ways you can avoid them.
Light: The primary reason a hen will stop laying is the decreasing day length. Hens need a minimum of 14 to 17 hours of daylight to sustain strong production. If your hens are not provided with supplemental light, they will naturally stop laying eggs when daylight hours drop below 12 hours. Hens may also stop laying if light abruptly decreases by a few hours. This is a hormonal response regulated by a tiny gland (called the pineal gland) that responds to changes in light. One 40–watt bulb per 100 square feet of coop space is enough to keep birds laying. Use an automatic timer to keep light and dark hours constant. Just a day or two of too little light can end a laying cycle. Once ended, laying cannot be restimulated by adding hours of light, so be sure to start your supplemental lighting program before the days get too short to support egg production.
Nutrition: Inadequate nutrition is another reason hens stop laying and, surprisingly, the missing nutrient is often water. Hens need a constant source of fresh water and they do not like it very cold, so it is very important to check and refresh waterers often in the winter. Cool water in the summer will help the birds combat the effects of heat. Never underestimate the importance or power of clean water at the right temperature!
Protein/Energy: Inadequate protein and/or energy can cause a production decrease. A shortage of dietary calcium will result in weaker eggshells and, eventually, weak bones as the hen robs her skeleton of calcium in an attempt to manufacture shells. Feeding too much "extra" feed, such as scratch grains or table scraps, can dilute and unbalance the complete nutrition in the hen's pellets or crumbles, thereby negatively affecting her production and health. Hot weather will inhibit a hen's appetite, causing her to eat less, which results in a drop in egg production on even the best diets. Feed a high–quality feed and severely limit table scraps and alternative feeds to obtain maximal egg production.
Disease: Diseases and parasites will both reduce a hen's productivity, as well as her comfort. Build a relationship with a veterinarian who can help you establish a good flock health program. Never introduce new adult birds into your flock without quarantine first, as adult birds can be apparently healthy carriers of a number of deadly diseases. Keep all premises as dry as possible to limit growth of coccidia, an insidious and stubborn parasite that flourishes in dampness and causes coccidiosis.
Age: As with so many things, egg production also decreases with increasing age. Good hens will productively complete two egg–laying cycles of 50 to 60 weeks each. After that, production will drop off greatly, though egg size may increase a bit.
Stress: Any kind of stress — extreme temperatures, excessive handling or moving, fright caused by predators or noisy children (they're all the same to a hen!) — can negatively impact egg production. Keep your hens' environment as serene and comfortable as possible to help maintain health and productivity.
Secrecy: Sometimes what appears to be a reduction in egg production is really the result of free–range hens hiding their eggs. Be sure you have enough nesting sites for the number of hens you are keeping, especially if you are allowing some to be "broody". Make sure the nesting area is warm, comfortable, dimly lit and well–bedded with clean litter. Give the hens lots of good reasons to lay their eggs where you want them.
Molting: Molting is the process wherein hens lose feathers and grow new ones. It occurs naturally after 10 to 14 months of production, or it can be caused accidentally by temperature extremes, running out of feed or water, a decrease in light, or disease. Hens will not lay eggs during a molt. Molting gives birds a chance to rest. After seven to eight weeks (longer for some genetic strains) they will return to production, however they will generally not be as productive the second time around.
Purina® Flock Raiser® SunFresh® Recipe takes "natural" to an entirely new level by using only the freshest, highest quality sun–grown grains and plant proteins. It is a nutrient–rich feed, perfect for a mixed flock of chickens, ducks and geese from hatching until laying age (18 to 20 weeks) and turkeys from 8 to 10 weeks until laying age. Purina® Flock Raiser®SunFresh® Recipe grains provides your poultry with the quality nutrients they need to grow and stay strong, healthy and beautiful.
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Small, Crumbled Pieces: Waste less feed and ensure proper food intake
Superior Nutrition Including Essential Amino Acids: Provide chicks with a strong start, optimal muscle development, uniform growth, and top vigor
Vitamins A & E: Support overall health, reproduction, vitality, and a healthy immune system throughout your bird's life
Exclusive Level of Marigold Extract: Give your birds brightly colored beaks, shanks, and overall appearance
Complete and Balanced: Provides wholesome nutrition for your entire mixed flock with no supplements needed
*with added vitamins, nutrients, and trace minerals