Laying hens: breeding, feeding, breeds and more

Chickens are poultry and a source of protein. Therefore, it is important to know several important aspects about laying hens, also called laying hens . In this sense, the importance of these farm animals has a great influence on human nutrition.

Hence the importance of knowing some characteristics about laying hens, such as breeding, how many breeds of laying hens exist, their diet, and other important aspects that will be analyzed throughout this article.

What is a laying hen

It should be noted that there are different types of hens . In this sense, there are those who raise hens for fattening in order to slaughter them and prepare them as food. There are also free-range hens, which are raised for the same purpose.

Because hens are source of protein , and especially because lay eggs , on many farms they are raised for this purpose. So, an egg-laying hen is basically one that is raised solely to lay eggs for human consumption .

How a laying hen is raised

Whether for personal consumption, or for marketing and industrial production; there are various methods that can be followed for raising laying hens .

Home rearing

In the family farms , pens are built for raising chickens. We recommend you to visit the following link in which you will find the Cages for Hens the cages are usually a suitable space that generates that these animals are located with the appropriate posture.

In this case, a homemade hen house will consist of sufficient number of hens for internal consumption . However, there are farms or large houses that have a little more than ten hens.

In this sense, one or several chicken coops or pens for laying hens are built so that the hens can live in them. The important thing is to create the right environment for the hens to settle in. In this sense, it is best to avoid overcrowding.

On the other hand, for the rearing of laying hens it is important to keep these pens or laying hen houses clean . This in order to avoid pests or diseases that can endanger the health of the hens. We will talk about some of these diseases later on.

Corrals are not difficult to make. However, for convenience, these can be purchased for reasonable prices at specialty stores.

On the other hand, on some farms it is only necessary to fence off the area where the hens will live . An advantage of this is that they will be able to feed, in addition to the food provided, on the contents of the soil, such as fodder and insects that they manage to get around.

Commercial or industrial rearing

The purpose of this type of breeding of laying hens is precisely to commercialize the eggs laid by the hens. In this sense, a whole larger infrastructure and logistics is needed to get the most out of the laying hens; and at the same time take care of several factors, such as their health, feed and, most importantly, the site to be used as a farm.

For this reason, industrial laying hen farms have improved cells where the hen has space to move around and must even have the necessary forage for feeding. This is because new standards and regulations were created for the rearing of laying hens. This is because the previous system used in many countries caused certain problems related to health and hygiene in general .

How to keep laying hens at home

If you have wondered how to raise laying hens at home, it is very different from raising hens on an industrial level. Therefore, it is important to follow the following guidelines for effective rearing of laying hens at the home, or if you will, farm, level.

First of all, prepare and condition very well a laying hen hatchery or home hen pen . In this sense, it is necessary to bear in mind that, to avoid diseases, it is better not to overpopulate it ; that is to say, to put a greater amount of hens than those that can enter in a corral.

A factor to be taken into account is the higher production cycle of the hens.

The fertile cycle of a laying hen is usually two years . Although hens can live longer, their production cycle is, compared to their own life, relatively short. For this reason, after these two years, a hen that has completed her cycle is usually exchanged with a younger one.

An important factor is the feeding of the hen . It is also important to be very attentive to the health of the hens. In this sense, it is important to have the recommendations of an expert in laying hens , to know what diseases the hens may have and how to combat or cure them.

Feeding

For a laying hen to produce or lay high quality eggs, a very important factor is feed. This will also have an impact on the development and welfare of the hen itself.

To know what is the best feed for laying hens , a balanced feed is the most important thing to take into account. In case the hens are raised at home or in a farm; besides supplying them with feed with the necessary components for their health, these can also be fed by digging in the soil to eat earthworms or insects. These are rich in protein and also provide nutrients to these birds.

The feed consumed by the hens will greatly influence the quality of the egg . For this reason, there are special feeds that contain certain proteins and hormones that will help take care of the hen, as well as contribute to the gestation of higher quality eggs. Many marketers sell this type of feed according to the needs you have with respect to raising hens.

For the feeding of laying hens in the case of home rearing, a mixture of various feed factors can be made to generate a better result. For this reason, a mixture consisting of two thirds of corn, preferably ground, and one third of wheat and rice, could be fed to.

Even in the case of hens from home farms, they can be fed food waste and leftover fruit and vegetables, which is ideal for what laying hens eat .

If you want to know which are the best feeds for laying hens that currently exist I recommend you to see this article about Feed for Hens .

How Feed Influences Egg Production

A good quality feed for laying hens lays high quality eggs . Because eggs are an important source of protein, for consumers an egg that meets all the nutritional values will contribute to their nutrition. Therefore, what and how much a laying hen eats is of great importance.

The yolk

In the case of the yolk, while factors such as age and reproductive cycles play a very important role, also feeding contributes to the correct coloration . This ranges from a pale yellow to an intense orange coloration.

One of the food factors that contribute to the correct pigmentation of the egg yolk is corn . For this reason, corn is an integral part of the hens’ feed. For this reason, it is advisable to mix corn with the feed . In this way, it will be supplied with the necessary substances, such as xanthophylls, or other feeds containing synthetic components that help in this aspect.

Albumen

The consistency of the albumen is what will indicate its quality. Consistency, in addition to feed, is also linked to the freshness of the egg , as well as the age of the hen herself. For this reason, hens must consume a considerable amount of protein to contribute to the consistency of the albumen.

However, it must be taken into account that factors such as contamination or excess of metals or magnesium can modify the consistency of the egg albumen, and this will generate problems at the time of consumption.

For this reason, in the feed, or feed for laying pullets , there should not be too much protein concentration; this is because reducing the protein concentration helps the consistency of the albumen; while an excess could cause the opposite effect.

Bean meal , as well as meat meal are protein sources that will help and can improve albumen consistency. On the other hand, sunflower or rapeseed meal will have the opposite effect. Therefore, it is best to avoid them.

The husk

The shell is what covers the entire contents of the egg . It consists of ninety-four percent calcium carbonate. For this reason, hens must consume a considerable amount of calcium to produce quality eggs.

Although the diffusion of carbon dioxide plays a major role in the formation of the shell, it is calcium that also, combined with carbon, will give it the consistency and thickness necessary for it to be resistant.

For this reason, the hen needs an extra dose of calcium . This is because, when laying eggs, calcium is extracted from her own bones. So, the provision of calcium, in addition to phosphorus, are elements that will contribute to the physical health of the hens , and will contribute to the fertilization of high quality eggs.

This indicates that proper feeding with the necessary nutrients will help the laying hen lay high quality eggs. These nutrients can be found in an appropriate feed mix, or poultry feed. Also, as mentioned before, in feeds such as corn, and certain home grown fruits or vegetables that can be fed to these laying chickens .

How to prepare the feed

Although feed can be purchased in farm animal stores, there is also the possibility of preparing feed at home. In this sense, by knowing the needs of the hens in the barnyard, you can prepare a feed, or feed with the necessary nutrients.

It is important, on the other hand, to know very well the poultry feed, since it is usually different from that of the rest of the breeding birds.

To make feed for a laying hen, you need:

  • Twelve kilos of soybeans.
  • Eight kilos of fish meal.
  • Thirty-four kilos of whole corn.
  • Ten kilos of corn bran.
  • For the calcium source, eight kilograms of lime is also required.

It should be noted that these quantities correspond to make or manufacture seventy kilos of feed . However, the quantities can vary according to the needs of the birds; or if the quantity is to be reduced, the portions are reduced.

In addition, to process all these ingredients, a grinding machine is needed. Although it can be piled or run through a hand mill machine, it is much more effective to do it with an industrial grinding machine.

Breeds of laying hens

There are several breeds of laying hens . Some are more productive than others; while there are laying chicken breeds that are native to certain regions and whose fertility is more effective if they remain in their habitat or rearing area. If you want to carry out this activity I recommend you to see this article about Wooden Hen Houses.

Among the types of laying hens there are also hybrid breeds , that is, the mixing of two breeds of egg-producing hens to improve the quality of the laying hens. However, it is better to be careful with crossbreeding, since sometimes, if you do not have the right technical knowledge, the crossbreeding could go wrong. This would result in infertile laying hens, or hens with low egg production.

The consequences would be a low productivity of the farm, which represents an important loss of the economic investment made. Some hen breeds are named after their place of origin. An interesting fact to know where they come from.

Light hens

Generally speaking, light hens are the best for egg gestation. As their name indicates, light hens are not very big, and they are characterized by laying the best eggs, so they can lay eggs all year round.

Among this type of hens are the following breeds:

Hy-line

It is characterized for being a small breed of hen, generally brown in color, although white specimens can also be found. Due to its characteristics, it is one of the most used laying hens for industrial development.

Hisex Brown

This breed of hisex brown hen is characterized because its eggs are of an intense brown color. In addition, it stands out for its physical strength. Another of the characteristics of the hisex brown hen is that in optimal conditions, it can lay more than 250 eggs per year.

Hisex white

The hisex white hens are also hardy laying hens, and can be adapted in laying hen houses . In addition, it is one of the breeds that produce high quality eggs, and these are of intermediate size.

Leghorn

This breed is characterized for being more productive on farms.Its effectiveness is much greater than other breeds of hens. For this reason, it is a favorite among farmers. Its adaptability is impressive. In addition, it can lay up to 300 eggs per year. In addition, unlike other breeds, it consumes small amounts of feed, which makes it more profitable to raise.

Babcock

The babcock hens can lay 300 large eggs per year. One of the characteristics of the babcock hen is their gentle nature. They are also suitable for home breeding due to their docility and adaptability.

Semi-heavy hens

Semi-heavy hens serve two purposes: the first purpose is to lay eggs for human consumption, and the second is for the production of broilers . Unlike the light ones, which are exclusively for the production of eggs for human consumption.

Among these semi-heavy breeds are:

Rhode Island red

The rhode island red hen is large and has a wide body. It is short and has yellow legs. It produces large eggs. This red laying hen is regular, since, as we said, she incubates eggs.

Plymouth rock barred

Like the previous one, it is also large in size, but its head is small. Its trunk is wide and deep and its tail is very short. It lays up to 200 eggs per year.

In addition, there is the possibility of crossing these breeds with each other. This can give an interesting variety of offspring, as well as large eggs. Of course, the crossing of these breeds should be done very carefully to avoid mistakes later.

Heavy hens

This breed of hens is used, above all, to raise broilers . For this reason, although they are laying hens, their production is rather low compared to the other breeds. So it is important to know very well which breeds of hens to choose and the purpose of these: whether it is only to lay eggs for human consumption, or to raise broilers.

Ross

The ross hen is one of the most popular breeds for egg laying and broiler breeding. It is a favorite among farmers because it is a breed that grows very fast and consumes the minimum amount of feed. This makes it economical to raise.

Cobb

The cobb hen , like the Ross breed, also grows fast and consumes a minimal amount of feed. The difference is that they can adapt to different climates. For this reason, it is a breed that can be taken almost anywhere.

There are also hybrid hens, which consists of crossing two breeds of hens to achieve a greater effect in terms of egg and brood quality. It should be noted that light and semi-heavy breeds of hens are used for the gestation of eggs for human consumption, or to gestate broods for fattening, in the case of the latter.

But in the case of heavy hens, their sole purpose is to obtain chickens for fattening. Therefore, they are not suitable for laying eggs for consumption purposes.

This is something to be very clear about, since it is important to choose the type of hens for breeding and breeding purposes. Most of them are used for commercial purposes. But they can also be quickly adapted to homemade farms or pens.

Laying cycles

It is interesting to know how hens lay and the whole process. The processes vary according to the breeds of hens.But it is interesting to know how is the process in general and the laying cycle of a laying hen , which is different from the life cycle of the hen .

Some hens are high egg producers . There are breeds that can even lay more than one egg per day. But these factors will depend on the feed, as well as the use of egg-laying stimulant products.

Although the life cycle of a hen is ten years and a little more , in the case of industrial production, its fertile life is as long as three years . Under normal conditions, although hens can lay eggs frequently, after this age they cease to be, so to speak, productive.

I recommend you to see this article in which you will find the best Chicken Laying Houses

Although after three years she continues to lay eggs, these are not of higher quality, and the laying is not as frequent as in the beginning. That is why, after this time, many hens are culled and replaced by younger ones.

In this regard, it should be noted that hens reach maturity at 22 weeks of age. From this moment on, their productive life begins, which can last up to a little more than sixty weeks. From this point, a new phase begins with the change of feathers.

Although with the change of feathers a new laying phase begins, the truth is that it will be a little lower than the first one, since the hen has already reached the maximum of her weight. This does not mean that she will not lay eggs of excellent quality. For this, it is important to have a good diet rich in proteins and calcium .

On the other hand, it should be noted that, at the industrial level, genetic adjustments are made so that hens can reach their laying age much faster, and even extend this period for a little longer. In this case, the purpose is to increase and maintain the performance of the laying hens.

Although this could also be done at the home level, it is better to maintain the natural cycle of these egg-producing birds if the production is intended to be internal rather than commercial. This will result in higher quality eggs, and therefore, in a food sense, will benefit consumers more.

Diseases

Like all farm animals, chickens do not escape from suffering from diseases . It is important to know what they are and how to combat them.

In addition, we must be careful, because some of these diseases have repercussions on humans ; and since they are animals used for consumption, they could cause much more serious problems.

For this reason, there are antibiotics for poultry, including chickens, such as amoxicillin . Of course, the use of these antibiotics should be used under the supervision of a veterinarian specialized in poultry.

Some of the following diseases that can affect hens are as follows:

Plague

It is one of the most common viruses in poultry. This virus occurs more frequently in poultry houses where there is overcrowding, since its transmission is through the nasal route.

The symptoms it produces are: catarrh, nervous disorders, bronchitis, as well as cough and suppression of balance; besides respiratory problems, and a fundamental characteristic in the symptomatology is the torsion of the bird’s neck .

To avoid this disease, it is important to vaccinate the birds, as well as to avoid overcrowding and maintain a good environment for the hen . But it is also important not to introduce into the pen those hens that are not yet vaccinated.

This is important, considering that there is no effective cure for the disease. Therefore, vaccination is essential to prevent it.

Infectious bronchitis

Infectious bronchitis is caused by a coronavirus . It only affects chickens and hens. Like plague, it is spread through the respiratory tract.

Symptoms include coughing and runny nose, as well as watery eyes and difficulty breathing. This virus can be easily transmitted through the air, which could lead to infection in other hens. Therefore, in these cases, it is important to avoid overcrowding of poultry houses.

In addition, if a hen is infected, should be isolated immediately to avoid infecting others. The most effective way to prevent it is with the vaccine, since there is no treatment for it.

Gumboro

This disease is caused by a birnavirus agent; and this is very resistant to unfavorable environmental conditions. It is a virus with a high probability of transmission, and whose most effective treatment is the vaccine. Its transmission occurs through direct contact between birds or with their droppings; and it can even occur through the operators’ clothing.

For this reason, to prevent it, it is necessary to clean the corrals frequently , besides creating more henhouses in case there are enough hens.

Influenza or avian influenza

This is one of the most common diseases of laying hens . It is a virus that can kill hens in a short time. Symptoms are ruffled feathers, loss of appetite, very thirsty; drop in egg production and constant diarrhea.

The transmission of this disease occurs through contact with other birds that are aquatic , especially migratory birds. For this reason, to prevent this disease, it is necessary to keep the poultry house clean and dry, in addition to avoiding contact with other types of foreign birds.

Oil vaccines are effective in reducing the mortality rate and also in preventing influenza. In addition, a treatment based on amantadine hydrochloride is also effective.