Transfer is a severe stress entailing a major change in environment (temperature and humidity ...etc.). It must be done as quickly as possible, ideally within one day. The following observations will help to reduce stress.

AGE OF TRANSFER: around 17 weeks

Due to the stress of transport and adapting to a new house it is very important that the transfer takes place before the first, egg. During the 10 days preceding first egg the reproductive organs develop (ovaries and oviduct). We also recommend that any vaccinations are done at least a week before transfer to insure immunisation is not impaired. Transfer too close to point of lay will cause floor eggs since the pullet will not have time to accustom itself to the new surroundings and find the nest boxes. Following housing birds should not be neglected. For the first few days/weeks it is important to train birds to move onto slats half an hour before and after lights out. If necessary birds should be manually placed on the slats.


Weight estimation can only be calculated in the days preceding the transfer. Depending on the time without feed, the temperature and duration of travel time, weight loss at transfer may reach 5 to 12 %.


Transfer causes a loss of body water between 0.3 and 0.5 % per hour depending upon the climatic conditions (4 g per hour at 20C and more than 8 g per hour at 30C or above).

On arrival, birds must drink before feeding. If food is not available they will find drinkers more easily. Feed intake during the days following transfer will depend upon adequate water intake. To encourage water consumption, the birds should be placed on the slats and should be moved onto the slats every evening during the first two weeks.

It may be necessary to use extra drinkers throughout the house.  


Between transfer and peak of production feed intake will increase by about 35 %.

Any underfeeding during the run up to peak will reduce growth rate, halt egg size increases and result in a flattened peak.

Causes of underfeeding are generally linked to:

 the accumulation of fine dusty feed in the chains or tubes

 too frequent feed distribution which leads to uneven flocks

change in particle size


Avoid underfeeding:

leave feeders to empty in the middle of the day, this will avoid low intake due to dusty feed accumulation

by not feeding too often, then birds will wait for the next feed to pick out the larger particles

by giving 1 to 2 hours of light during the night

by having a good particle size (80 % between 0.3 and 3.2 mm and using calcium in granular form),

 by using a pre-lay feed up to 2 % of lay,

by maintaining temperature in laying house similar or slightly lower to that of rearing house

Feed intake and growth rate will be reduced with a sudden increase in average temperature:

by ensuring that temperature is uniform throughout the house

by distributing 4 or 5 g of grit per week ( grist size 3 to 4 mm).



Birds are very sensitive to high moisture levels. It is better to maintain humidity at 60 to 75 % rather than try to maintain a high temperature.

In winter, it is very important to move the birds to well dried houses.

I would recommend:

ventilating well after washing

allowing adequate drying time

 using of hot air blowers

An observation of the hygrometers in the morning and in the middle of the day is required to maintain good ventilation. When the weather conditions are unfavourable, it is necessary to have sufficient air change to remove ammonia and maintain relative humidity below 80 %. The birds can withstand lower temperature better than the high humidity. High humidity encourages respiratory problems and reduced appetite which results in lower levels of production, poorer shell quality and reduced growth at the start of production.


Regular monitoring of egg weight gain is vital if we are to detect any potential under feeding problems.

Generally, a potential problem (of under feeding) is shown by poor egg weight gain, a slowing of the growth rate followed by a fall in production.


Regular checks are essential and will highlight potential problems such as:

 insufficient feed intake

poor feed quality (grist size, raw material, formulation, amino acid levels)

viral disease, stress




The performance and persistence in lay and is influenced by:

correct bodyweight at sexual maturity

correct nutrition in early lay (satisfying the need for both growth and production)


Rate of lay

Bodyweight (g)









35 weeks


 These weights are for fed birds; the birds being weighed in the afternoon with feed 'ad lib'.



A recommended  weighing  sample of 100 birds from first eggs to 35 weeks should be taken. You often find that feed intake is too low resulting in underweight birds.


Prolapse and/or pecking at the cloaca is one important cause of mortality during the laying period. Good management is essential to reduce the amount of pecking/ prolapse.



When an egg is laid there is a momentary eversion of the oviduct.

The risks of pecking at the oviduct are related to nest quality and light intensity.

Uncomfortable or too few nests will result in floor eggs and/or the bird to sit wrongly in the nest (head away from opening). This will increase the risk of vent pecking especially if light intensity is high.

High light intensity can of itself be responsible for pecking.

Mortality and pecking will be reduced by the provision of perches in sufficient quantity, comfortable nests in sufficient number, good control of light intensity, reasonable bird density, good and sufficient equipment, and external correct beak trimming (can be redone during lay if necessary), by avoiding stress and by controlling external and internal parasites.

Perches in the building and good house conditions will help to prevent pecking.

Reducing light intensity and fitting "spectacles" will assist in reducing pecking although it should be realised once pecking starts it is difficult to stop.



Prolapse results from wounds followed by total eversion of the cloaca and oviduct leading to rapid death. This occurs with birds that are too lean at point of lay. Underweight birds (when the flock receives light stimulation) start laying before the skeleton is sufficiently developed. In 'free range' or litter operations this risk is high when the pullets are transferred in summer to naturally lit houses, the sexual maturity of the flock is suddenly accelerated and leads to problems in lay. We can avoid acceleration of light period and intensity if we have a well adapted preparatory light programme in rearing.

Schematically we can describe pecking and prolapse as follows.

External causes

Triggering causes

Aggraving causes


Sudden increase of light intensity

when birds arrive at laying site

Birds light at P.O.L.

Increase in day length


Natural light houses

Increase in intensity


Bad beak trim.



External or internal parasites



Floor laying ( nests, shade area,
cold neon light)



Broodiness appears in flocks when stressed or when they are underweight.

Broodies can be identified by their characteristic behaviour; staying in the nest, fluffed feathers, clucking and aggression. You should close nests in the evening. Isolating broodies should also be done in the evening.

The length of time of pause in lay depends upon rapid action.

Time broody

Pause in lay

1 day

7 days

2 days

9 days

3 days

12 days

4 days

18 days

B. Sauveur (INRA)

Broodies should be isolated from the moment they appear. Place them in a spacious pen, on a concrete or slatted floor without a nest. The density in the pen must not be greater than 6 per m2.

The birds must have feed and water. At the end of 4 days those that respond (widening of pelvic bones) can be put back with the flock.

The efficiency of broodiness will be improved if they are soaked in water for 20-30 seconds and given aspirin (one 125 mg tablet) before being put into the broody pen.

The best system is to have 2 broody pens. Birds picked up on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are put in the first pen where they stay until the following Monday. The other pen is used for the other days and follows a similar time lapse.

To reduce the spread of broody behaviour avoid leaving broodies to brood on the floor.


Birds may crowd if they are stressed (coccidiosis, lice, draughts, fear, drop in temperature, etc...) - high densities also increase the risk.

Visit the house at the end of day or when the lights go off to see that the birds are calm.

In half lit or dark houses, lights off must be after sunset. In this type of house it is extremely important to eliminate any shafts of light.

A scratch feed of grain or grit on the litter after the birds have finished laying gives good results.

Avoid delaying 'lights off' time during rearing. If the birds seem to be grouping, gently separate them, find the cause and remedy it quickly. For open air rearing, open the pop holes at regular times to avoid piling up at the doorways.