If you care for a flock of laying hens, then you’re probably quite familiar with the impact that environment has on egg production. The conditions that your chickens live in combine with various elements of their diet to have a profound effect on egg volume, shell strength, and overall quality. Read on to learn about nine ways that you can ensure that your chickens are happy, and their eggs are top quality!
It might seem obvious that a chicken’s diet directly affects her egg production, but not everyone knows which factors to consider when shopping for chicken feed. When choosing between different types of food, you’ll first want to consider the breed of your chickens. All chickens need plenty of protein, but certain breeds may also require specialized nutrition.
The balance of protein and added nutrients will depend on the age of your chickens as well as their breed, so read labels carefully and compare the contents with the needs of your particular birds. Selecting the right type of feed will ensure that your chickens produce eggs at a good rate, and that the shells of those eggs are healthy and strong.
Alongside your chickens’ specialized feed, you’ll want to supplement their diets with an assortment of nutritionally-rich snacks. Mealworms provide added protein, and healthy, fresh greens can give your birds appealing dietary variety and extra nutrients.
Well-Designed Nest Space
Along with maintaining a great diet for your chickens, it’s also important to optimize their nest space. Chickens are actually descended from jungle birds and prefer a high roost. It is generally recommended to provide one nesting box for every 4-5 hens, and to supplement boxes with extra roosting space. Nest boxes should be well insulated, but still provide ample ventilation.
A great way to supplement secure nesting areas with fresh scenery and grass is to utilize a chicken tractor. Chicken tractors can improve egg cleanliness, which reduces the risk of bacteria contamination. Additionally, these portable enclosures provide an easy way to let your chickens get some extra grazing and sunshine that will boost egg production.
The production of eggshells requires an enormous amount of calcium from a chicken’s body, making a calcium-rich diet imperative when it comes to egg production and quality. Giving your chickens top-quality feed is an excellent starting point. However, you can supplement your chickens’ diets with treats that will give them extra calcium as well.
Laying hens need an added calcium boost when they reach laying age, so once they mature you’ll want to provide them with calcium-rich oyster shells or old eggshells. Set a dish or two of these out in your chicken enclosure and let the birds peck at their leisure. Breaking up oyster shells into smaller flakes will enable your chickens to peck at them better and get the nutrients they need.
One of the most essential elements in happy laying hens is plenty of open space. If your chickens feel cramped, their happiness and health may suffer, so it’s important to provide them with added space alongside their roosts and nesting boxes. This will provide the chickens with space to forage and will result in a cleaner nesting area.
While it’s highly important to provide your chickens with open spaces to explore and peck, make sure you also give them some form of shelter wherever they are. Stress plays a big part in the frequency and quality of egg laying, so it’s imperative that your birds have the opportunity to go someplace where they feel secure.
It should go without saying that your chickens should have constant access to water, but few people are aware of how directly this affects egg laying in particular. Water comprises around 65% of each egg, meaning that any reduction in a hen’s water intake can affect her egg production.
Not only should your chickens have access to plenty of water, but the water should be clean and drinkable as well. It is recommended that you replenish your chickens’ water sources on a daily basis with cool, fresh water to keep them well hydrated.
Alongside providing your chickens with clean, secure living conditions and fresh food and water, you’ll want to regularly inspect them to make sure they’re healthy. Catching any budding health issues early can help prevent unnecessary discomfort for the birds and reduce the risk of rampant health problems.
While chickens that have a good diet generally boast healthy immune systems and seldom get sick, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs of common ailments such as Infectious Bronchitis, Fowl Pox, and Avian Influenza.
Beware Toxic Elements
In addition to maintaining ideal nesting spaces and allowing for plenty of open-area ranging, make sure that nearby areas are free from toxic plants and debris that could harm your birds. If your chickens roam right next to your house, make sure that any paint chips and debris are picked up from your yard — especially if you live in an older home that might have been coated with lead paint.
Along with keeping your chicken’s area free from debris and trash, keep an eye out for any toxic plants that might have sprouted. Many different ornamental plants like Azaleas, Daffodils, and Sweet Peas are harmful to chickens, so be sure to separate them in order to prevent your birds from getting poisoned.
Light is a key factor in egg production, especially during winter. When the days start getting shorter, the light levels tell your chickens that it’s time to stop reproducing and start roosting. This will result in decreased egg production if left unchecked, but you can combat this by installing lamps above your nesting boxes.
Since it’s the daylight duration and not the temperature that affects egg-laying frequency, cooler LED bulbs will work just as well as other types of light bulbs and may withstand the cooling weather better. Provide your chickens with the same number of well-lit hours that they’d get during the rest of the year, and they’re more likely to keep laying without interruption.
Unfortunately, worms are a natural part of your chickens’ lives and are easily picked up by pecking or consuming something contaminated with parasite eggs. Chickens in peak condition can combat worms on their own, but sometimes external factors compromise their immune systems and they may require medication.
Should you need to medicate your chickens for parasites, pay special attention to any label advice regarding medicated chickens’ eggs. It might be tough to bring yourself to throw away any eggs after all the work it took to produce them, but any medicine ingested by the chicken will be present in her eggs as well.
When raising your own laying hens, it’s important to consider the many factors that affect the frequency and quality of their egg-laying. To help keep your chickens and their yield at their best, remember these nine ways to make sure your eggs are top quality!
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