Layer Growout

Typical Layer varieties, like Broilers, include crosses of parents from two genetic strains as well as from within the same strain. Unlike Broilers, Layer varieties are selected for their ability to lay eggs - successive generations of selection result in a chicken with lower body weight, but very high egg production. There are different colour varieties such as Brown, White and Black layers; Brown varieties such as Hyline™ and Bovans™ are our most popular, however we can supply white varieties on request. Black Layers are not readily available as a commercial breed any longer therefore we cannot normally supply them.

BROODING

On receiving your day old layers, it is critical that they be placed on clean, dry animal bedding such as wood shavings, diced paper or bagasse (crushed sugar cane pith) at least 2 inches deep. New bagasse should be 'seasoned' outdoors for several months to ensure that all residual sugar has been washed out or consumed by microbes, otherwise it might be contaminated with Aspergillosis fungi which can be fatal to baby chicks.

Water and feed are placed according to chick volume, with 1 one-gallon water bottle and 1 feeder tray or mini plastic feeder per 100 birds. These are both optimally designed for small chicks to find the feed and water readily. Use clean water (mains supply is suitable, as is clean rainwater) and 'Broiler Starter' feed. For optimal results, chicks can be started on a vitamin and antibiotic regime for the first 5 days of brooding. Recent research has suggested that the addition of a yeast extract product such as CELMANAX™ to broiler feed during the first 10 days of growth can significantly improve overall growth rate and feed conversion, and aid in the ability to react to stress in a much more efficient manner. Yeast extracts can also improve a vaccine’s access to immunity pathways, making the body build a stronger immunity to the virus that is being vaccinated against. This in turn allows healthier growth and faster achievement of goal weights. Yeast extracts such as CELMANAX™ are strongly recommended during the first 10 days of brooding for these reasons. 

Heat Bulbs (1 per 100 to 200 birds, suspended 18 inches above the litter) are also critical - these are special high wattage bulbs that provide heat to the chicks at night or during cooler weather. Baby chicks need additional sources of warmth for up to 3 weeks into their life, and are dependent of the Farmer for providing it either with heat bulbs or gas brooders or some combination of the two. Please also note that regular household bulbs are inadequate for providing heat. To assist in saving energy costs, curtains are a good complement to heat sources as they prevent wind draughts from creating chills, and help to retain the heat in the pen. It is good farming practise to have the pen warmed up prior to placing the chicks, so that they enter an environment which is comfortable and encourages them to feed immediately. The sooner feeding commences, the sooner metabolism and growth are kick-started.

VACCINATION PROGRAM

Vaccination against several well known poultry diseases is another important management tool. Day old chicks are vaccinated in the Hatchery before delivery for a variety of ailments, but some vaccines cannot be administered until the chick is older and its immune system more advanced. Infectious Bursal Disease in chicks can be prevented with addition of 'Bursine-2' vaccine to the drinking water at 14 days, mixed with vaccine stabiliser on the following guidelines;

  1. Determine the water requirements - 3 to 5 gallons per 1000 birds from 7 to 28 days old.
  2. Collect the required number of gallons of distilled water or other dechlorinated water. Tap water that has been left to stand for 3 days will have dissipated most of the chlorine.
  3. Mix 1/3 package of stabiliser to approximately 5 gallons of water, stirring until completely dissolved.
  4. Mix vaccine with the stabilised water, avoiding direct sunlight which will destroy the vaccine. Vaccine is sold in portion controlled bottles, the number of which will determine the volume of water you have selected. (Example: if you have 500 birds, and have purchased a 1000 dose vial of vaccine, you will still mix as if you are feeding 1000 birds, and whatever is not consumed should be discarded). DO NOT store unused open/mixed vaccines, they will be rendered ineffective.
  5. Administer vaccine water to birds in plastic one gallon bottles - metal containers may deactivate the vaccine.
  6. DO NOT use disinfectants to clean water bottles just before administering vaccine.
  7. Withdraw water from the birds for a short while before vaccinating; this will encourage them to drink immediately, ensuring that all chicks are vaccinated. (If they do not drink any water before it is discarded, they are not vaccinated).
  8. Return chicks to plain water once they have consumed the vaccine mix.

SEX DETERMINATION & DEBEAKING

Colour Sexing
Brown Layer Cocks and Hens are always separated in the Hatchery - brown layers are easily differentiated by colour (hens are brown while cocks are generally much lighter and have a 'reverse pattern' in their markings). We cull layer cocks and do not offer them for sale to our customers, as they are poor growers and do not (obviously) lay any eggs!

Debeaking
Debeaking, the process in which the tips of the beaks are trimmed to prevent 'picking' within the flock, was once common practise in Hatcheries as farmers wanted their broiler flocks free of picking behaviours that cause mortality. There are several methods of beak trimming, but the one most commonly used in our hatchery is 'Hot Blade' where a heated blade is used to trim and cauterise the beak in one step. Cauterisation (sterilisation of the wound) prevents further infection, but also destroys the tissue that is responsible for regrowth of the beak tip - if done properly, one beak trim will be sufficient for the life of the bird. Debeaking is now considered to be too stressful for broilers, as with adequate management many of the undesired behaviours addressed with debeaking can be otherwise controlled. Since the life of a broiler is around 6 weeks, and debeaking causes at least 2 weeks of stressed recovery and reduced weight gain (due to sensitive beaks) we do not usually recommend debeaking. Layers, however, have a much longer life span and can be prone to picking in later stages of growth – particularly when the first eggs are being laid at 5 to 6 months old. Layers are debeaked in the Hatchery before delivery to the farm, but may occasionally require a second round of debeaking on the farm if picking presents a significant enough challenge. We carry a line of debeaking machines for sale, however we also offer (based on availability) a debeaker on loan to our customers who may want to debeak older layers themselves.