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    EGG PRODUCTION TIPS

    Here's the coop: raising chickens can be fun and rewarding. Tractor Supply Company offers these tips and tricks for better egg production to help you succeed.

     

    SHE NEEDS HER SPACE

    A happy hen is a productive hen. To make sure layers have a "productive work environment," coop planning and maintenance is critical.

    • Allow 4 square feet of floor space per adult bird, 10 square feet if no outside run.
    • Have at least one nesting box for every 4-5 birds approximately 2 feet off the floor.
    • Provide 6"-10 " perch space per bird. Ideal perches have round edges, are 1" diameter for small birds, 2" diameter for large, both with rounded edges. Perches that are too wide can cause breast deformities. If you make perches too thin, the birds' toenails may puncture their own feet.
    • Outdoor runs need twice the space per bird as coops, but the more space the better.
    • Ventilate the coop well, preferably at the roofline to prevent draft on the roosts.

    A CLEAN SWEEP

    Keeping a clean coop means hens are more productive; your family is safer; and your neighbors are happier.

    • Clean bird waterers daily, and feeders at least weekly.
    • Clean nests weekly (except under brooding hens). Fresh bedding keeps hens healthy.
    • Replace floor litter often, especially in areas that get wet or very soiled.
    • Clean and disinfect coop and all equipment every 6 months. Choose detergents and disinfectants suitable to the materials being cleaned.
    • Consider coop materials carefully; porous softwoods harbor more bacteria than hardwoods and are harder to keep clean. Paint or seal wood surfaces before introducing chickens.
    • Install ample perch space away from nesting boxes. Roosting in or above nests increases the need to clean.

    TO SERVE AND PROTECT

    A coop's primary function is keeping your hens safe from predators and elements. But remember, improper nutrition steals production as fast as problem raccoons.

    • Your laying hens should have ready access to feed and water.
    • Chickens are omnivores. They happily eat raw veggies and table scraps (avoid poultry products). Remove uneaten food to prevent unwanted pests.
    • Skeletal development in pre-lay and laying hens depends on good nutrition. Layer rations provide needed levels of calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin D.
    • Inadequate calcium creates thin shells, reduces production, increases breakage, and puts hen health at risk. Oyster shell or limestone are good calcium supplements.
    • Studies have shown eggs of pastured birds have increased nutritional value over their caged commercial counterparts. Access to forage also contributes to darker, richer yolks.

    POTENTIAL FOR PROBLEMS

    Productivity of your flock can be affected by a combination of sources, resulting in fewer or smaller eggs, increased breakage, thin shells, or hens not laying at all. Being aware of the following may help to solve lost production problems:

    • Poor feed quality, i.e., lacking protein, calcium, and energy.
    • Running out of feed or water can drop production temporarily.
    • Toxins in feed or forage. Birds should not pasture where pesticides or herbicides are used.
    • Stress or decreased feed consumption from sudden temperature changes or extremes.
    • Poor coop ventilation can cause build-up of toxins or gases and may lead to health problems.
    • Age. Hens naturally lose productivity, up to 15% in the second year.
    • Moulting. Chickens typically moult in late summer/early fall and will decrease production as the body replaces feathers continuing through the winter.
    • Shorter days. Artificial light can be used to lengthen the laying season, but overuse is unhealthy for hens. If used, extend the day artificially to no more than 14 hours total.
    • Diseases. If you suspect infection of your flock, consult a veterinarian.
    • Parasites like mites and coccidia. Cleaning coops, yards and providing dust baths help prevent infestations.

    HANDLE WITH CARE

    A lot of work from you and your hens goes into making eggs, so always use proper care when handling them.

    • Poultry carry bacteria like salmonella. Birds may not appear sick, but can pass infection to humans, especially the young or those with weakened immune systems. Supervise children. ALWAYS WASH HANDS after handling poultry, eggs, or poultry equipment.
    • Collect eggs twice a day, three times in extreme hot or cold temperatures.
    • Regularly clean and replace bedding in nesting boxes to decrease contaminants on eggs. Add 1"-2" of new bedding inside each box. Proper nest space and bedding increase cleanliness and decrease egg breakage.
    • Discard any eggs with damaged shells.
    Protect yourself and your family from germs!
    For more information, call 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit  www.cdc.gov.

     

    TIDY TIPS

    Eggs are porous and can harbor bacteria even if they appear clean. Care should always be taken when cleaning, handling or preparing eggs for family, friends, and for sale.

    • Start by cleaning dirt and debris from eggs with a brush, rag, or soft scouring pad.
    • Wash the eggs with warm soapy water. Make sure water is 20° F warmer than eggs to avoid the eggs' pores closing and sucking bacteria into the eggs themselves.
    • Use a detergent approved for egg washing that is mild and non-foaming. Eggs can be sanitized by dipping them into a solution of 1Tbsp. bleach to 1 gallon of water.
    • Always dry eggs thoroughly before storage.
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    WHAT'S IN STORAGE?

    Hens often produce more eggs than owners can eat. Eggs are not only highly nutritious; they're highly storable, too.

    • Eggs will last 3 weeks or more in refrigerators at 35-40° F.
    • Eggs can be dried and stored for extended periods. Break yolks and mix eggs. Cook scrambled eggs in a nonstick skillet on low heat with no added oil or fat. Fully dehydrate. Powder in a blender. Store best in airtight, vacuum-sealed jar. To reconstitute, use 1 Tbsp. powdered egg with 2 Tbsp. water to equate one large egg. Use as normal in recipes.
    • Freeze fresh eggs for later use. Do not freeze hard-boiled or whole eggs in the shell. Label with date, quantity, and any sugar or salt added. Thaw in refrigerator and use within a day or two.
      • Whole Eggs: Break yolks, mix eggs but do not whip. Add ½ tsp. sugar or salt per cup to prevent eggs from becoming gummy. Freeze in 3 Tbsp. units in ice trays, equal to one large egg. Put the frozen cubes in a labeled plastic bag for storage.
      • Egg Yolks: Separate and break yolks. Add 2 tsp. sugar or 1tsp. salt per cup of eggs. Package, label, and freeze.
      • Egg Whites: Separate whites and strain. Do not stir. Package, label, and freeze with nothing added.
    • Always thoroughly cook eggs to 160° F. Never eat raw. Washing the outside does not guarantee the egg is free of bacteria. Freezing does not kill bacteria.