Pullets, or young hens that haven’t laid eggs yet, need to be cared for and treated properly in order to turn into efficient and well-functioning laying hens. There are 3 main issues with pullets, which can affect their production if not corrected.
Weight issues – Incorrect rearing diets can cause issues with under or overweight pullets. These birds are still young and growing. Their reproductive systems are still developing before they can lay. Underweight birds can be caused due to cramped housing, stress from temperatures, or poor quality chicks. These birds can benefit from light therapy that will delay maturity and give them more of an opportunity to grow. Improper beak trimming could also cause pain or issues with how a bird is able to eat. If they are severely affected, this could cause them to be underweight.
Overweight pullets usually carry extra fat in their abdomen. These larger birds could mature faster, and therefore start laying before they’re ready to. Light stimulation should be stopped, and the bird should be put on a low protein diet so they are able to burn off belly fat. If the hen has already started laying, keep her on a diet for laying, but make it low protein still. This diet change will make them healthier and more productive once their weight has been regulated. A laying hen eats between 4-8 ounces of feed daily. It is important feed is nutrient dense to help birds grow and produce efficiently.
Non-uniform – Pullets need to be weighed when they come in. It is recommended to take the average weights of about 100 birds and calculate the average to compare to the breeder’s standard weight. In order to be considered “uniform”, a flock should have 80-90% of the birds fall within the range calculated for proper weight. A flock that isn’t uniform might have to have a variety of different diets in order to get all the birds back on track for laying. This is more difficult and time consuming for the farmers.
Untrained – At 12-14 weeks, young pullets should be starting some sort of training process to be familiarized with nesting boxes. If they will be outside, they need to get acquainted with the outside world in small increments, so it doesn’t overwhelm or stress them out. Birds in alternative housing need to know where to find food and water and how to eat/drink properly so they are able to compete with other chickens to stay properly fed and watered.
As with any animal, keeping them relaxed and happy is the best way to make an efficient bird. A full stomach, plenty of water and protection from weather are all essential to keep a pullet from being stressed.
Alonzo, Austin. “How to Turn Marginal Pullets into Strong Adult Layers.” Egg Industry
“Tips to Boost Egg Production.” Eco Farming Daily