Understanding the laying process: Key stages in the life of a laying hen.
Laying hens are poultry birds specialized in egg production. From their birth to the end of their productive life, they go through different phases, each with its own characteristics and requirements. The production period, which extends approximately from 18-20 weeks to 72-80 weeks of age, is of utmost importance, as it is when the hens reach their maximum laying potential.
Beginning of production.
Around 18-20 weeks of age, hens begin their production stage. This initial phase is crucial as it sets the foundation for the bird’s future performance:
- Physiological Development: During this stage, the hen’s ovaries mature and begin to produce ovules, which will become eggs.
- Nutrition: Providing a balanced diet that meets the nutritional demands of the birds is vital. This ensures good egg production and prevents issues like low egg weight.
Around 26-30 weeks of age, hens reach their peak production, laying the maximum number of eggs possible:
- Performance: During this phase, it’s possible for hens to lay an egg nearly every day, reaching production rates of over 90%.
- Monitoring: It’s essential to monitor the health of the birds and ensure they are receiving enough food and water. Any stress or illness can negatively impact production.
After peak production, hens enter a phase of sustained production that can last several months:
- Consistency: Although the laying rate slowly decreases, hens continue to produce a significant number of eggs.
- Egg Quality: During this stage, the quality of the eggshell might slightly decrease. It’s crucial to adjust nutrition, especially calcium intake, to maintain good shell quality.
Decline in production.
Around 72-80 weeks, egg production begins to decline more noticeably:
- Natural Decrease: Hens’ reproductive capacity decreases with age. It’s natural for egg production to reduce at this point.
- Replacement Considerations: Many producers choose to replace their flocks after a production cycle to maintain optimal production levels. Hens that are retired from the production cycle are often processed for meat or sold to secondary markets.
The production stage of laying hens is a dynamic and complex process that requires ongoing attention to ensure the health of the birds and optimal egg production. From the start of production to the decline, it’s essential to understand the changing needs of the birds and adapt management practices accordingly. With proper care, laying hens can be a valuable and sustainable food source for the global population.