Monday, January 19, 2009

Holding Back the Hen

Ways to Manage the Hen which Slow Progression Toward Breeding

My e-mail today asks, "Besides lower aviary temperature, is there anything else you can do to slow down the hens from laying?"

If the diet is too stimulating, it is common to see hens laying single eggs that are a darker blue color. These eggs are called heat eggs and will not produce chicks because she is laying like a chicken rather than being in breeding condition. Should this happen, I would go ahead and get her ready and not try to stop her. I would get her on the weekly treatment with vitamin E in the water, as mentioned early, suddenly turn the lights up to 14 hours, increase oily higher protein seeds, and turn the heat up to 70 degrees F. You can expect to waste a few eggs but I would not confuse her by trying to reverse her cycle! When you do that, she goes clear out of condition and it takes 3 or 4 weeks to get her on tract toward breeding. You may have observed your frustrated hens going in and out of breeding condition. Could this possibly be due to confusing mixed breed/don't breed messages she is getting?

If, however, she has not laid but you see she is ahead schedule, you maybe able to slow her progression by simply putting her in a cock's cage who is not quite ready. You will need to watch, as one of two things will happen. She will either reset to a slower pace that is in sink with the cock or she will take out her frustration on him and try to kill him. If she tries to kill him, put a wire divider between them and give the extras like greens to him and not her. Then she will beg him to feed her through the wire! Once that happens regularly, remove the divider and watch again.

Slowing the hens can also be promoted by placing hens in the lower cages with less light or placing thin curtain that allows lower levels of light in the cage. Sudden reducing the day length is not a good idea as that would promote molt.

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