Layer Signals, A Practical Guide to Layer Focused Management

Layer Signals, A Practical Guide to Layer Focused Management

By Monique Bestman, Marko Ruis, Jos Heijmans and  Koos van Middelkoop

‘Laying hens are not egg laying machines. Proper care requires knowledge of the animal and the capability to use this in practice. For optimal results.’

Not all poultry farmers maximise the full potential of their birds. Both kept in cage or floor systems, for a good performance during the production period, the management should be correct and efficient. But how do you know that what you are doing is right? Your chickens continuously send out signals: about their health, how well they know their way around their surroundings and whether they feel happy and comfortable.
Do you recognise the signals your chickens are giving? Do you know the difference between abnormal, runny droppings and healthy caecal droppings? Are you able to identify abnormalities of the egg and trace this back to the cause? And do something about it?

If you recognise the signs that point to potential problems, then make sure you are armed with information to take the appropriate steps to get your flock back on track. But to do so, you must know all the ins and outs of your own farm and be able to assess the impact these changes will have on your animals.

Layer Signals is a practical guide that shows you how to pick up the signals given by your animals at an early stage, how to interpret them and which action to take.
Poultry Signals® presents practical knowledge of animal oriented poultry farming in an easy, accessible format.

Table of Contents

Introduction 4
1 Seeing more by looking more closely 
Picking up the signals 9
Using the signals 10
Farm records show objective signals 12
Analysis criteria for egg production 14
Inspection outside the house 15
Inspection in the poultry house 16
Paying attention to the hen 17
Bird behaviour 18
Anatomy 20
Respiratory system 22
Senses 23
Checking individual birds 24
First impressions 25
A closer look 26
Signals from manure 29
2 The hen and her environment 
Differences between husbandry systems 31
Open sided or closed poultry houses? 32
Climate management in high temperatures 33
Ventilation 34
Assessing ventilation in the poultry house 35
Climate under control 36
Effective temperature (wind chill factor) 37
Air 38
Light 39
Dust 40
Why free-range? 42
Covered range or winter garden 43
3 Rearing hens 
A good start is half the battle 45
The early days 46
Quality of day-old chicks 47
Comfort signals in day-old chicks 48
Temperature 49
Weak chicks 50
Cage rearing 51
Floor rearing 52
From 6-15 weeks 53
Weight and condition 54
Development of feathering 55
Training good behaviour in aviaries 56
From rearing to laying: 16-25 weeks 57
Light 58
Light during rearing 59
Moving from rearing to laying house 60
Vaccinations 61
The right way to vaccinate 62
Good vaccination – a science in itself 64
Keep the use of antibiotics to a minimum 65
From small to adult in 18 weeks 66
Feather pecking during rearing 68
Beak trimming 69
Methods of beak trimming 70
4 Laying hens 
Schedules aren’t written in stone 72
Moving in 73
The ideal curves 74
Gear management towards nesting peak 75
Feed selection 76
Feed and light 77
Deficiency signals: eating feathers 78
Feeding when temperature is low 78
Feeding when temperature is high 79
Drinking 81
Water output from the nipples 82
A second laying period? 84
Pecking, feather pecking and cannibalism? 84
Difficult to reverse 85
Feather pecking 86
Cannibalism 87
5 Egg signals 
A fresh egg? 89
Internal egg quality 90
Shell abnormalities caused before laying 91
Finding abnormal eggs 92
Shell abnormalities caused after laying 93
Cracks and breaks 94
Quality report from the egg wholesaler 97
Egg production problems 98
6 Health 
Disease signals 101
Biosecurity outside the house 102
Biosecurity in the house 103
What seems to be the trouble? 104
Gastrointestinal problems 105
Respiratory diseases 106
Disorders in the locomotive organs 108
Sudden increase in mortality 109
Summary of the main diseases 110
Viruses 110
Bacteria 113
Internal parasites 115
Coccidiosis 116
Worms 117
Red mites 118
Index 120

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