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Managing broiler breeder pullets from transfer to peak of lay

Managing a flock of broiler breeder pullets is not easy. From the birds’ transfer to peak of lay, here is our experts’ advice on how to optimise the performance of broiler breeder hens during the laying phase.

"The hens have just been transferred to the laying house. There are no eggs yet, cool, I can take a break!” At that stage, a lot of poultry breeders might be thinking so but they’re wrong…

In fact, the birds’ transfer to the lay house is a crucial period in many respects. At that time, animals will have to find water and feed, get used to the premises and familiarise themselves with each other (the females and cocks are mixed for the first time).

The farmer must pay careful attention to his/her flock and make several small adjustments regarding animal welfare (% of cocks, aggressiveness, pecking, time of feed consumption, water to feed ratio ...).

Here are a few tips for managing your flock from transfer to laying peak.

How can we accurately adjust the feeding and watering equipment in breeding flocks?

At the time of transfer, pullets still have a strong appetite because of the drastic feed restriction they are still undergoing. Therefore the same rules apply as during the growing period: there must be a 15 cm feed space for each hen; feed distribution should not exceed 2 minutes 30. The feed tracks will be equipped with grills preventing cocks from getting in (42 mm x 55 mm apertures). To sum up, extreme caution must be taken to maintain flock homogeneity.

Water: On the water supply side, it is key to be able to measure the daily water intake and to monitor the water to feed ratio.

Laying nest: the requirement is four hens per nest in manual nest boxes, while in automatic nest, the ratio of 52 hens per linear meter seems to be a maximum.

Light, ventilation, litter: finding the right balance between comfort and efficiency in broiler breeder pullets

Light: In the case of an open-sided poultry house, ensure that the rays do not enter directly into the building (design enough roof overhangs). In darkout houses, the light intensity in the laying house should remain at the same level as it is in the growing house (it will then be increased at the time of light stimulation). In terms of lighting program, stimulation should not occur if hens are not physiologically ready to lay. Stimulation at the end of the 23rd week seems appropriate (+ 3 hours at a time). Then adding an extra hour of light up to 16 hours maximum is the right way to lead to good hormonal stimulation.

Ventilation: the house must be equipped with fans to provide sufficiently high air speeds to ensure animal comfort during extremely hot periods.

Litter: A sufficiently thick layer must be spread to ensure the comfort of the animals. Do not forget that mating takes place on litter.

What is the nutritional and dietary program to apply during peak of lay?

In terms of nutrition,  a "pre-lay feed" is recommended up to 5% of production. Calcium overloads must be avoided as these could lead to death. The energy on protein balance must provide the hen with enough fat reserve for the development of its ovary grap but with no excess. After the 5% production, a peak laying feed should be distributed. Till that stage, the feed allocation is established by monitoring both the hen’s weight gain and the feed consumption duration. Then, feed allocation will be adjusted to the laying rate. Yet be careful not to increase the feed allocation distribution by more than 3 grams a day, otherwise there could be a risk of superovulation or double eggs. It is also important to monitor the feed consumption duration.

During lay, egg weight is usually recorded daily; hens are weighed once a week and the laying percentage must be calculated every day. These three variables are essential to adjust the feed allocation and the nutritional program.

To these factors can be added other issues such as floor eggs.The key to success is to adapt to the requirements of hens at these different ages and to anticipate the impact of any action on the flock evolution. Our experts will do their best to answer your questions if you contact them!

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