Many people are aware of the protein benefits of eating eggs, but what they might not know is eggs also offer almost every vitamin and nutrient needed for life, including iodine, phosphorous, selenium, choline, antioxidants, vitamins riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, and B12. There are a number of factors that can affect the quality of eggs laid by your chicken. Read below to see how you can make sure your chickens are laying you the best, healthiest eggs possible.
Light: Purina Mills recommends giving your hens 14 to 16 hours of light (natural or artificial) a day for maximum egg production. Chickens have a pineal gland located behind their eye that controls reproduction that is stimulated by light. When daylight is longer in the spring egg production rises, and as the hours of daylight decrease in the fall and winter months egg production does as well. Supplementing natural light so hens consistently get the recommended amount all year will provide you with optimum egg production.
Age: The life expectancy of chickens can be up to 8 to 10 years, but they are most productive during the first four years of life. Most hens become sexually mature and can begin laying eggs between 18 and 22 weeks old, with optimum production occurring around week 28. In their first year, owners can expect about 20 to 22 dozen eggs. After peaking, egg production decreases about 1 to 1.5 percent each week.
Water and Nutrition: You are what you eat, so giving your hens the nutrition they need will help them lay the healthiest eggs possible for you and your family. Make sure hens have plenty of water available at all times. A hen's body contains 60 to 75 percent water. They need to rehydrate themselves regularly to keep egg production up, since laying eggs depletes a hen's internal water supply.
Healthy laying hens need a balanced diet with proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, calcium and vitamins. Purina Mills® Layena® SunFresh® Recipe contains all the quality nutrients laying hens need to produce lots of strong-shelled, healthy, golden-yolked eggs.
Over supplementing nutrients such as calcium can cause laying problems. It can cause the same symptoms as a deficiency, including weak or soft shells and reduced egg production.
Breed: Each breed of chicken has certain qualities that make them better for egg production or for meat. If you're raising specifically for egg production, White Leghorns are known for being great producers of white eggs, and Rhode Island Reds and related breeds for brown eggs. Other breeds known for good egg production include Black Star, Red Star, Light Sussex, Plymouth Rock, Cuckoo Maran, and Barred Rock.
If you plan to use older hens that aren't laying eggs anymore for meat, choose a dual purpose breed such as New Hampshire, Wyandotte, Plymouth Rock, Barred Rock, Araucana, Ameraucana, and Rhode Island Red.
Housing: Give hens special nesting boxes to provide the best environment for them to lay eggs. Although three to four hens can share each nest box, having one to two birds per nest box can reduce the potential for broken eggs. Boxes should be big enough for one hen to enter and be able to turn around comfortably in. Keep nest boxes in dark or dimly-lit areas, away from predators, and line them with dried grass or hay.
Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs: It is best to collect eggs two to three times a day, especially during hot weather. Collecting often will help keep eggs fresh and from getting cracked or dirty. It will also help prevent hens from breaking and eating eggs.
If your eggs do get dirty, wash them carefully with water and dry and cool them as quickly as possible. You can remove stains by scrubbing gently with a fine brush.
Store eggs at approximately 45 degrees Fahrenheit and at 70 to 75 percent humidity. Try to avoid storing them with strongly scented foods since eggs pick up odors and flavors easily through their pores. Putting an open container of baking soda in your fridge will help absorb. In general, a washed egg stays fresh for about four to five weeks.
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