Laying Capacity in Chicken

What is laying capacity in chicken? #

Laying capacity is the maximum number of eggs a layer farmer should expect their hens to produce, within a certain time.

Laying capacity is a physical ceiling on your farm’s egg production. Hens cannot lay any more eggs than they are naturally capable of producing.

Actually, it takes 24-26 hours to form an unfertilized egg from scratch.

And they’re prolific – because only 30 minutes after laying an egg, hens begin forming a new egg.

According to Hyline (a global leader in poultry layer genetics), their Brown Commercial line hens lay 95% hen-day egg at peak.

Simply said, you can expect these Brown Commercial hens to lay an egg every single day 95% of the time,

Or, said slightly differently, with 95% confidence – that’s during their peak laying months.

This line of layer hens is well known for its high-level egg laying performance.

How To Optimize Your Hen’s Laying Capacity #

Choose The Optimal Breed #

As we said, laying capacity is a physical ceiling on production.

A chicken (whatever the breed) simply cannot lay more eggs than it is physically able to produce.

The maximum here is 1 per day for a chicken.

Whilst this is the most, depending on breed, hens can lay anything up to this number.

The matter is of efficiency.

Each breed of chicken has its own physical performance profile.

Basically, a bunch of numbers that summarise the norm for what you should expect of the chicken.

Take Hyline Commercial Brown layer hens, for example,

They lay an egg a day 95% of the time at their physical peak:

Hyline Commercial Brown Peak Hen Day Egg Production Chart

(Source)

Lohmann Brown Classic hen, on the other hand, achieves 93%+ hen day egg peak production.

Which breed have you chosen and how does it measure up to standard?

Time Your Expectations With Their Age #

Egg-laying in hens is a function of their physical prime.

But just as you would expect, there are ages and seasons where their performance reaches peak.

This window of opportunity presents the highest egg output potential for your layer farm.

Take this graph of Hyline Commercial Brown hen-day egg production:

Hen Day Egg Production Graph Hyline Commercial Brown

This particular breed of hens reaches its peak egg-laying ability at around week 29-30 of life (see the ‘r‘ shaped ribbon on the graph above).

(This is only after about 10 weeks from point-of-lay…a steep incline.)

After the peak egg production (you can see from the graph above) there is a steady decline in egg production after week 31.

This profile determines your business’s future:

  • output,
  • sales and
  • profit potential.

How are you accounting for layer age in your production expectations?

Maintain Good Layer Health #

Layers are natural egg production machines.

Their bodies are systems that are specialised in this function.

Much like man-made machines, e.g. computers, cars and the like…

…the performance of a layer hen’s body if entirely dependant upon its conditioning.

How well the hen’s body is poised and finely tuned dictates how many eggs it produces.

In the case of a car: mileage, oil levels, calibrated breaks etc. are all necessary for expected functioning.

Regular maintenance checks will keep your car’s overall ‘health’ status in good nick.

As for layer hens, bodily development and being disease-free ensures optimal conditions for laying.

Use Optimal Layer Feed #

Chicken feed is THE raw material of your egg production business.

Just like a commercial factory manufacturing process, you just simply don’t get a product to appear at the end,

Unless you have the necessary materials supplied upstream.

But what is the optimal layer feed for getting the best egg-laying results?

The answer is in three parts…

And here they are:

  • nutritional value
  • palatability
  • condition

This graph shows recommended feed products for layer birds from day old until the point of lay (PoL).

Nutritional Requirement of Hyline Layer Hens

(Source)

Within the first 17 months of life,

A layer hen would need to be passed through 5 different feed preparations (feed formulas) in order to reach PoL – point of lay – in optimal condition for laying.

Next,

…let’s take a look at how the composition of each feed preparation affects the feed uptake by the bird:

Particle Size In Layer Feed Chart

(Source)

So in summary…

Too coarse a feed particle – and the feed mix will separate out and lead to hens selectively picking at food.

(Very inefficient feeding.)

Too fine – intake decreases and house dust increases.

Birds here will suffer a loss of nutrition and respiratory (breathing) problems.

Now,

Let’s take a look at feed condition and how this leads to feed efficiency…

…a recent email from a reader provided some valuable insight into the negative impact of feed condition on bird health.

The background?

Alongside usual feed grain i.e. maize, this reader recently trialled some alternative feed ingredients, including kitchen scraps.

A new flock was purchased and not before too long he found widespread disease symptoms.

Bread Mould and Aspergillosis

Poor health in chicks leads to under-par physical development,

And less efficient laying performance in later life.

Which is why it’s critical to accept only the very best condition of feed ingredients (especially if you take the homemade feed route).

Plan Environmental Factors for Best Results #

Your flock’s surroundings are natural helpers toward optimal egg production.

They provide your layer hens with just what they need to live comfortably and productively.

Lighting is one such factor.

The release of chemical messengers in layer hen’s bodies (stimulated by light) leads to an increase in egg prodcution.

Here’s how charting a lighting programme – against patterns of natural sunlight – can help keep optimal laying conditions:

Optimal Layer Hen Lighting Program Chart (Hyline)

A chart like the one above plots artificial lighting needs against sunlight hours.

Depending on your climate and available sunlight hours,

You can literally develop an optimal program for putting on the lights for your layers.

Monitor Your Flock Uniformity #

In layer farming, some simple facts are just unavoidable. No matter how smart you get.

Every bird is different.

And yet every bird’s individual physical efforts counts towards your overall business performance.

A single egg can make all the difference.

Retain optimal egg production across the flock,

And retain business profitability.

But how do you know whether your flock is hitting their production target?

And how do you benchmark against the gold standard?

One word…

UNIFORMITY.

Layer Hen Flock Uniformity (Hyline Commercial Brown)

Flock uniformity is a measure of teamwork.

If you have any experience of either following or participating in competitive team sports,

You will know that the BEST performance occurs when the group behave like one man.

No separation, no clashes, no differences…

Having one ‘star performance’ among many mediocre is useless.

Because the overall result will likely result in a loss.

Star highlights in the midst of a hammering amount to vanity.

However, a uniform front and every man pulling in a tightly disciplined performance, time and time again…

= winning material.

Put it this way:

In a hundred days,

2 chicken laying at 75% (Example A) is MUCH more rewarding than two hens laying at 95%/35% (Example B).

The first instance would produce 150 eggs in 100 days (and the second, 130 eggs in the same).

Factor in the same cost of rearing from feed expenses etc…

And the flock in Example A would provide 15% greater returns than the flock in Example B.

Multiply this by as many flocks as you intend to rear and you can snowball ROI.

But how exactly do you measure layer hen flock uniformity?

The key factors are:

Egg count and bird weight.

So,

Monitor daily egg output against flock size,

…AND…

Measure pullet weight regularly (from a random sample of birds) throughout the lead-up to ‘point of laying’ age.

Why?

Bird weight is a reliable development indicator for a hen’s future egg-laying capacity.

Keep Your Flock and Houses Biosecure #

A sick or harassed flock of layer hens will not thank your business with eggs.

Make sure your measures of biosecurity are watertight.

For example,

I share in one of my recent subscriber newsletters the ultimate gameplan for overcoming every poultry farm’s worse bio-enemy:

BIOFILM…

Biofilm and Layer Farm Biosecurity

A valuable tutorial for staying in the clear of any bacterial threats to your layer farm profits.

Account for Molting #

On average an adult layer hen will go through a period called ‘moulting’.

This phase is characterised by feather loss and total loss of egg production for the time being.

Moulting in high-performance layers typically lasts for about 12 weeks.

After that, they bounce back rapidly into the swing of full flow egg laying again.

How do you smooth out the downturn in egg-laying due to moulting?

Raise multiple flocks.

Which brings us onto…

Calculating Laying Capacity for Your Farm #

PRO TIP: Use The Most Profitable Production System #

Understanding egg-laying patterns in a single hen is one thing,

But having a clear vision of production patterns in a multi-flock production system is quite something else.

The overlap can be incredibly complex.

Why?

Because of the variables relating to egg production.

  • Age
  • Batch size
  • Simultaneous flocks
  • Cull

The timings and scheduling could match major transport service timetabling for difficulty.

(Ever thought what it would be like to manage the daily incoming and outgoings of an international airport runway?)

And within all of this – you’ve still got the matter of maintaining enough visibility to predict your ROI against committed funds.

Nerve-wracking to say the least,

…but help’s at hand.

I recently wrote an in-depth tutorial called, ‘Layer Income Analysis’.

My aim was simple.

To answer the following question:

“Which is the MOST profitable multi-layer flock production model (1+2 vs. 1+3 vs. 1+1+5)?”

So, I got to number crunching.

Using Poultry Project Reporter my task became a relative breeze.

What did I find?

ALL KINDS OF PATTERNS EMERGED.

Take this, for example,

…a 12-week repetitive egg production pattern in a 1+1+5 layer system with 400 bird batch size.

(snapshot taken from Poultry Project Reporter Software)

This model naturally would result in 5x batches of 400 layer hens =

…2,000 total farm laying capacity.

If this model is anything like what you might be looking at,

Here’s one statistic that’s worth taking away with you:

By comparison, the 3 models (1+2, 1+3 & 1+1+5 ) delivered production variance of: 51%, 33% and 20% (between low & high), respectively.

What does this mean practically?

You can expect with 1+1+5 layer farming systems that at optimal production levels,

Your volume of eggs produced should never dip below 20% of peak output.

And so, your sales income, profit and resulting business earnings fit within a much tighter band of variation.

The other models (1+2 & 1+3) send you on more of a roller coaster ride of performance.

PRO TIP: Map Out Age Overlap & Flock Replenishment #

Chicks and pullets don’t lay.

Hens do.

So what happens to your overall farm production when you cull a ‘formerly profitable’ flock?

How does the transition of bringing in a replacement flock affect your numbers (eggs and profit)?

This 1+3 model again with 2,000 birds total laying capacity produces this production rubber ball bounce back every 20 weeks,

This just so happens to be the period when an exiting layer flock is culled and a PoL flock takes their place.

See here:

The colourful right-hand side column is actual eggs produced and the black left-hand column of numbers is the week number.

Notice week 72 and week 92 having identical numbers of eggs?

12,186 per week to be exact.

This is the final production output of a cycle.

Immediately after this…

…the total number of egg produced on-farm drops to 8,451 eggs per week at the adoption of a new PoL flock…

…and then the egg-laying capacity builds up again.

(Just the detail you need for razor-sharp feasibility planning.)

Now I’d Like to Hear From You #

So that’s it for laying capacity.

Now I want to hear about your experience with planning how many eggs to expect from layer hen flocks.

How accurate have your attempts been?

What could you have done better?

Let me know.

Leave a comment below right now.

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