Kenny Nutting BVet Med MRCVS
As the season has now finished, it is time to plan for next season and prepare the hens that will shortly be caught up or moved from overwintering pens into laying pens. I aim to share with you some aspects of management which we have found to be beneficial to hen health leading to egg and chick quality.
Catching up hens or moving them from overwintered areas is a common stress trigger point. It is often the time when “bulgy eye” or signs appear suggestive of Mycoplasma. We would recommend using Ultimate Acid in their drinking water from the moment the birds are caught up or 2 weeks prior to their movements from overwintering to laying pens. Ultimate Acid helps to acidify the gut environment and helps to promote a positive gut flora. Maintaining good gut health will help aid overall bird health and reduce the stress on the birds.
If bulgy eye is seen, as per figure 1, it would be worth getting them tested to identify what pathogens are involved and how and what we could vaccinate the following year. This has proven to be beneficial sites I have worked with recently and has allowed for a site specific vaccine prevention programme. If you would like more information on these tests and what is involved then please call your direct vet or Head Office on 01392 872932.
The worming of caught up or transferred hens should also be undertaken using the licensed product Flubenvet. However, if this is unavailable or not possible in your system then in-water Panacur AquaSol can be used. It disperses much better than traditional Panacur medication and is ultimately the most cost effective method for worming birds for laying.
I often get asked about whether or not eggs should be washed. I would always advise not to, unless the eggs are extremely dirty. Washing eggs can lead to inappropriate heating of the eggs; the eggs then cool and suck in external bacteria or can damage the natural protective cuticle on the outside of the eggshell. Fumigation using a fogged disinfectant will often produce good results and greater hatchability. For more information on which fogging disinfectants work best, call your vet who can advise you further.
Figure 2 and 3 show an excellent example of how to still have the floor laying systems which, although not ideal, it can produce some quite clean eggs. Here the half barrel cover has a sunken floor, over which lies a chicken mesh framework covered with straw. This prevents moisture getting in contact with the eggs and produces a clean egg.
If you wish to discuss any other aspects of laying management then please do not hesitate to get in touch!