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What’s important for layers?

  • Eggshell quality: The quality of the external shell and the internal composition of an egg.
  • Egg production rate: The amount of time it takes and the frequency at which a hen produces an egg.
  • Long-term health: The health of a layer after peak egg production, when birds are more susceptible to health and performance challenges.

Common challenges

  • Low egg production rate: Hens usually lay one egg every 24 to 26 hours, so a low egg production rate would be anything slower than this average. The production rate can vary depending on:
    • Environmental conditions (e.g., light, housing temperature or housing system)
    • Stress (e.g., nutritional changes or inconsistencies, disease, illness or parasites)
    • Age of bird
    • Breed/genetics
  • Poor eggshell quality: Eggs can have many imperfections and/or can be of an inferior quality, depending on:
    • Time
    • Nutrition
    • Age of bird
    • Environmental conditions (e.g., light, temperature, humidity, overcrowding, etc.)
    • Stress (due to heat, disease, illness or parasites)
    • Poor gut health
    • Mycotoxins
    • Breed/genetics
  • Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses or other microorganisms that can cause disease. Some common pathogen challenges for layers include:
    • Bacteria (e.g., Salmonella, E. coli, Clostridium, etc.)
    • Viruses (e.g., avian influenza, bronchitis, etc.)
    • Worms (e.g., roundworms)
    • Fungi (e.g., mycotoxins from molds)
  • Focal duodenal necrosis (FDN): An intestinal disease that layers are susceptible to and that is identified by many locations of necrosis throughout various parts of their intestines, primarily near the duodenal loop and the proximal jejunum. FDN can cause a decrease in egg size and a drop in egg production of up to 10%.
  • Sustainability: Overall, poultry are a very efficient and sustainable species — but there is always room for improvement. Sustainability in layers refers to maintaining the amount of egg production needed to efficiently supply the growing population with quality eggs while also maintaining high-quality animal welfare. Housing systems and other processes are constantly being evaluated based on their performance and efficiencies to help determine how sustainability can be improved.

Tips for maximizing health and performance

  • Provide antioxidants and minerals that are better absorbed to increase mineral reserves.
  • Implement a gut health program that supports the creation and maintenance of a diverse microbiota and enhances the surface area of the gut.
  • Monitor and manage ammonia and manure outputs.