Keeping hens

>..In middle age





...Table chickens

...Rearing program

...- Quality

...Multiplying chickens

...- Incubator

To keep up maximum egg production you must provide light for at least 14 hours a day.

If your hens are totally restricted, you will need to supply all of it by electricity; if they are roaming about in the daylight, you only have to supplement this in the autumn and winter. If you are lazy (like us), you can have the light on a time-switch.

When the hens have finished their frantic nearly 300 egg stint they moult. Your beautiful happy hens look seedy, their combs shrink and fade and in general they look disreputable. They will come back into lay some eight weeks later and look normal once again. However, they will now only produce around 70 per cent of their first year's yield, so if you are aiming for the highest return per bird space you should get rid of them as they come into moult. In Poultry World there are always several advertisers requiring live hens. However, you will not get very much for your birds probably less than a quarter of the price you paid for a point of lay. There are some better-paying ways to dispose of your stock. One is to advertise them locally as yearling hens and ask half the price of a point of lay bird you will end up more in profit than if you sold for a quarter of the point of lay price and the newcomer will be satisfied with the lower yield for his lower outlay. Often, of course, these birds only sell in small batches so your involvement is higher. Usually you can also sell small batches of hens through the local livestock markets. The stipulation of sale in these markets is usually immediate slaughter but a surprising number of birds find their way to new homes. Another way to dispose of your hens is to kill and dress them and sell them as boiling fowl.

Obviously, if you have culled your laying flock, you must have another batch coinciding in egg production. Or if you are keeping your birds into another year, you will have to buy in eggs to keep your customers supplied. After all if you stop supplying, your customer will buy from your competitor and you will probably have lost out for good an egg is an egg!

It is worth bearing in mind two last facts. One is that you can really only rely on your flock producing around 80 per cent of its capacity (and that is an overestimate if you are an egg-tray dropper); and the second is that selling to retailers has to be absolutely regular. The retailer will plan his stocking according to your delivery and he will not take at all kindly to sudden alterations, so apart from everything else you need a dependable vehicle.