You can trim off the spurs with a set of hoof trimming pliers. A set of large wire cutters will work if you don't have the hoof trimmers. Just cut the spurs off close to the leg. A little stub is ok. He will probably bleed a bit and you may want to apply some QWICK-STOP styptic powder (available from pet stores for use when trimming dog toenails). He may limp for a few days, but he will live and be much easier to live with until they re-grow. Then just clip again.
a) Yes. b) Yes. c) Yes. d) Yes (use common sense though). e) They can go outside anytime as long as they can still get to the heat light whenever they want, for example if you put their little brooder/box inside a little fenced area. As for going outside without the heat light, they no longer need the heat light when they get their first adult feathers.
Egg Producing Chickens
Two types of chickens are used for egg-production purposes in small flocks: the dual purpose and the egg producing breeds.
Egg producing chickens have been bred for maximum egg production rather than meat yield, and can produce up to 300 eggs per year. They have a mature body weight of 1.8-2.0 kg (4-5 lb). These chickens are usually of the White Leghorn type or California Grey crosses. They usually lay white eggs.
Dual purpose chickens are often raised in small flocks for both meat and egg production. They are smaller than commercial broilers, but reach a mature body weight of approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) for females and 3.0 kg (6.5 lb) for males. The hens will produce 200-250 eggs per year. Available breeds include Rhode Island Red crossed with Barred Rock, Columbian Rock, or Light Sussex. These hens usually produce brown eggs.
Brooding and Rearing
If pullets are purchased just prior to laying, it is important to obtain information on the management procedures used. This includes lighting program, feeding program, vaccination program and any disease exposure. This history will aid in planning flock management and assist in determining causes of any production problems. Pullets should weigh approximately 1.3-1.55 kg at the start of egg production.
Proper light management is important when raising pullets in order to obtain maximum egg production. Lighting will stimulate egg production and help to synchronize the pullets so that they start to lay at approximately the same time.
If pullets are raised in a windowless barn which is light-tight, the daylengths should be controlled with a time-clock. During the brooding and rearing period (1-20 weeks), the daylength can be held at 8-10 hours of light or gradually reduced from 12-13 hours of light per day to 8-10 hours by 6 weeks of age. To bring the pullets into production, the light should be increased abruptly to 12 hours/day. It can then be gradually increased to 16 hours. Once egg production has been stimulated with increased lighting, the day lengths should not be reduced, or the hens will lay fewer eggs.
Often with smaller flocks, pullets are raised in barns with windows or are outside during the day and are subject to natural daylengths. They are also usually hatched in the spring. In this situation, by the time they reach 19-20 weeks of age, the natural daylengths are decreasing. Increasing the daylength with supplementary lighting will help bring them into peak production, and synchronize the flock into similar egg production cycles.
Light intensity should be held at 5 lux (.5 foot candles) in the barn, if possible. At this intensity it is still possible to read a newspaper, but with some difficulty.
Hours of Light to Provide by Age of Chicks
Nests and Perches
If hens are to be kept in litter (straw) pens, or outside during the laying period, nest boxes should be provided. One nest (30 cm x 30 cm), should be provided for every 5 hens. They should be placed approximately 60 cm off of the floor, with perches to help hens reach the entrance. Nesting material, such as straw, should be placed inside the nests and replaced regularly.
Hens will sit on perches if they are provided, especially at night. If perches are provided, hens will also be less likely to stay in the nests at night. This will help to keep the nests clean.
Perches made of a hardwood are easier to clean and disinfect than those made with a softwood. They should be approximately 33 mm wide at the top. If perches are too wide, they can cause breast bone deformities. The perches should be deep enough so that the hens cannot puncture their own footpads by curling toenails around the bottom. Rounded edges at the top are also recommended. It is recommended that 12 to 15 cm of perch length be provided for each bird.
A temperature range from 12-26 °C is suitable for hens during egg production. Hotter temperatures may decrease feed intake and therefore reduce egg production. Hens will increase feed intake in temperatures colder than 12 °C in order to meet energy requirements. Colder temperatures may decrease egg production, and in extreme cases freeze combs and feet. Temperatures should never go below freezing.
Nutrient recommendations for egg-laying chickens are illustrated below.
Approximate Ages (weeks) Approximate Weights at End Crude protein % Calcium % Phosphorus % Starter 0 - 6 weeks 0.62 - 0.75 18 0.9 0.45 Grower 6 - 17 weeks 1.3 - 1.45 16 0.8 0.45 Pre-layer 17 - 19 weeks 1.2 - 1.55 17 2.0 0.45 Laying > 19 1.5 - 2.5 17 - 19 3.8 - 4.0 0.45
Laying hens should always have ready access to feed. They will eat from 100 to 120 grams of feed each day. Feed consumption is affected by temperature, age of bird, and water availability (should be constantly accessible).
Calcium intake is very important for laying birds, because the egg shell contains a great deal of calcium. It is also important in the pre-lay period (2 weeks prior to egg production), because this is the time period in which the pullets build up their medullary bone to enable them to manufacture egg shells. A deficiency in calcium can lead to skeletal problems, reduced egg production and thin egg shells. The main calcium source for laying hens is limestone and/or oystershell in the feed.
Preference for yolk color varies. Some people like the pale yellow color, while others prefer dark gold yolks. Yolk color is influenced by pigment content in the feed. Essentially, if the hens have access to greenfeed, alfalfa or corn, the yolks will be darker.
Eggs should be collected regularly and nesting material kept clean in order to avoid bacterial contamination. Eggs should be allowed to cool gradually prior to refrigeration to avoid sweating (which could also lead to contamination). Eggs are normally stored for 3-4 days at temperatures of 10-13 °C before marketing. Albumen (egg white) quality will decrease as the length of storage increases.
If eggs require cleaning, they can be brushed off with sand-paper or washed. If washing, a water temperature at least 12 °C higher than the eggs themselves should be used. A sanitizer should also be used in the water (not dishwashing liquid). Water with a high iron content should not be used. Eggs should be rinsed and then completely dried prior to storage.
Poor Egg Production
A problem often encountered with smaller flocks is poor egg production or sudden drops in production. There are many possible causes for low egg production, and often it is a combination of a few different factors. These factors may also influence egg size and shell quality. The items discussed below should be examined and corrected if necessary.
Feed which is poor in quality, with nutrient deficiencies and imbalances, can lead to reduced egg production. Protein, energy, and calcium are the more common culprits. An extra calcium source, such as oystershell or limestone, is usually required with diets made up of poultry supplement and grain. Also, if hens run out of feed or water, a drop in production could result. Toxins contained in the feed may also cause a drop in egg production.
Lighting programs which are not appropriate may cause problems. Low production may result if the pullets are reared with daylengths that are too long, or there is no proper increase in daylength to bring them into production. Daylengths which are too long may result from sunlight coming into barn windows. Hens may stop laying eggs if daylengths are decreased at anytime during the production period.
Sudden changes in temperature can affect egg production. Hot temperatures may cause a reduction in feed consumption, leaving the hen with insufficient nutrient intake to produce eggs. Both sudden increases and decreases in temperature will stress hens, and could adversely affect production.
Poor ventilation may cause a build-up of gases which might cause a drop in egg production. High stocking densities will also adversely affect egg production.
The age of the birds will also affect how many eggs they produce. Commercial pullets begin laying eggs at 19-20 weeks of age, and peak production occurs around 24-26 weeks. The hens in smaller flocks may not start until later. Production begins to drop slowly after the peak and by 72 weeks of age is down to 70% of the hens laying in a given day. The hens will eventually cease to produce and go into a moult (lose and replace feathers). Following moulting, hens will lay eggs for at least a second year. Egg production after a moult will be approximately 10-15% lower than the first year.
Various diseases will cause a drop in egg production. These include infectious bronchitis, mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and avian encephalomyelitis. Parasite infections such as coccidiosis and mites can also cause a reduction in production. If a disease is suspected to be present, a veterinarian should be consulted.
Nutrient deficiencies, cannibalism, parasites and cage-layer fatigue are specific diseases affecting laying birds.
Cage-layer Fatigue (osteoporosis)
Cage-layer fatigue, as the name implies, is typically found only in hens housed in cages. Inadequate dietary calcium, phosphorus and/or vitamin D can, however, can lead to the disease in hens housed on litter floors.
High levels calcium are put into each eggshell, and this calcium is removed daily from bones. Normally the bone is replaced, but in situations of nutrient deficiency (calcium, phosphorus, and/or vitamin D), the hen is unable to do so. Poor skeletal development and lack of exercise (especially in cages) are also causative factors.
Hens with cage-layer fatigue have lost a significant amount of bone and will go out of production. Other signs of the disease include paralysis, fragile and deformed bones, fractures, and weak egg shells. In extreme cases, hens will die.
Treatment by removing hens from the cages and placing on the floor with easy access to feed and water may be effective. However, prevention of the disease is much more important.
Good nutrition during the rearing and pre-lay periods is essential for good skeletal development. Proper levels of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D are important during the laying period. In small flocks it is common to supplement the diets with a calcium source (oystershell, limestone) that the hens can obtain free-choice.
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This page was last updated on December 09, 2007