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We usually observe that due to these infrastructure deficiencies, many batches lose or do not maintain an acceptable breeding uniformity. Farm personnel must have a correct infrastructure in order to facilitate operations and achieve the objectives of enterprises.

Bird density in breeding and production must always be related to facility infrastructure. Densities up to 10 females/m2 and up to 4 males/m2 are acceptable for breeding. In production, up to 6.0-6.6 females/m2 can be very well managed. It all depends on infrastructure of feeders, drinkers, ventilation and other important factors.

This article describes several important aspects in breeding (birds which are from 0 to 25 weeks old) for achieving success in production.

Densities of up to 10 females/m2 and up to 4 males/m2 are acceptable in breeding


  • Sufficient feeder space

This means to progressively increase feeder space in breeding as birds grow older.

When using plate feeders, a criterion similar to those of figure 1 must be applied. However, there may be some preference in the case of plate feeders for daily feeding if the amount of feed allows it.

It is important to have sufficient amount of food in the system so that all plates have a reasonable amount and for consumption time to be >1h if possible.

  • Quick feed distribution

1.-Chain Feeders

Chain speed:  120 feet/minute = 36 m/minute

Distribution in all the carcass in less than 3 minutes

2.-Plate feeders

In the case of plate feeders, once the tube has been fed with feed, availability of said feed is immediate in all barn areas.

3.-Use chicken gutters when using chain feeders for feeding

Chicken gutter used during the breeding period, unlike the production gutter (see figure 2), allows an easier distribution of feed over the entire length of the carcass keeping a good feed height over the chain.

On the contrary, using a production gutter in the breeding period -what it matters to us in this article – complicates feed distribution and negatively affects uniformity.



Figure 2. Different bird gutters. Regular use of the gutter from the left is for chickens but it is recommended for the raising period of heavy breeders

4.-Good bird distribution over the entire surface of the barn before initiating feed distribution

A good bird distribution will ensure that all birds eat almost at the same time. Feeding with low light intensity or feeding using a light signal helps a lot to achieve this objective.

5.-Sufficient amount of water in nipples

After 4 weeks of age, potential of water volume must be 50-60 cc/minute per nipple drinker.

About 4-5 hours after finishing the feed, you may be able to feel a malleable crop in all birds.

6.-Good feed uniformity

Feed presentation with good uniformity of crumb or meal and with poor segregation of feed particles.

7.-Sufficient light intensity (5-7 lux)

You must have at least 2 lamp lines in order to obtain a uniform light intensity and to be able to perform all the tasks in the barns without having to constantly manipulate the dimmer.

This way we’ll be able to control that bed thickness uniformity and gutter or plate height over the bed are maintained. An excessive height of plates or gutters adversely affects uniformity making feed unreachable for younger birds.

8.-Consistency in the use of equipment between raising and production facilities

Lack of consistency in the equipment used in raising and production is frequently ignored and may cause many production problems.

Promoting bird activity in preparation for production with slats. Birds must be trained during the raising period so that they have enough mobility when going into production. They must learn to jump at a higher level, the production slats where they commonly find water, nests and drinkers.

There is more activity with gutters than with plate feeders. In plate feeders, feed is refilled at once, and therefore, bird are calmer.

Whereas, in the case of breeding gutters, birds are constantly jumping over them to move laterally in the barn. In that way, they get used to move more compared to pullets raised with plate feeders.

A correct infrastructure facilitates practices and helps to achieve the objectives of the enterprises

Interaction between light intensity and activity. When light intensity in the breeding period is very low (< 1 lux), birds have much less movement, they make less use of slats or training sling bars, therefore, the possibility of laying more eggs on the floor and not in the nests is increased.

Feeder height adjustment. After 12 weeks, there is no need to continue lifting the equipment. Plates and gutters tend to be lifted to the height of the largest birds. The rule is to keep the edge of plates or gutters at the level of the lower edge of the crop.

It is better to make a mistake putting feeders too low than putting them too high so as not to harm smaller birds and worsen uniformity problems.

Beak conditioning. So far permissible, birds need a beak cutting or conditioning when they are 4-5 days old when raised with plastic plates. If the beak does not wear away enough, “eagle” beaks may develop towards the end of the breeding period and during production. This type of birds may have serious problems when eating and drinking, they may have problems related to pecking other birds and also a higher percentage of cull birds may be observed. In addition, if females are not used to jump in order to reach the slats, there may be more 21-30 week-old birds lost.

Feeder type consistency. Plate feeders may conveniently be used in the breeding period and plates in production avoiding the use of plates in the breeding period and chain in production, particularly when there are mechanical slats and nests. It is much better to use channel/chain feeders in the breeding period and plates in production.

Light intensity and distribution. Between breeding and production, an increase of light intensity of at least 7x must be obtained. Although a 10x increase in this intensity is better, especially when working in production with dark sheds. Minimum light intensity below lamps must be 50 lux at the bird level with 20% variation below towards the darkest places.

Light type importance. In breeding and production, use “warm” artificial light of less than 3000 Kelvin. Use of very cool light of 6000K in production must be avoided. Only when basic criteria are fulfilled, time may be devoted to breeding pullets well with several bird selection plans. But these plans fail if there is not enough space for feeders.

 “Space for feeders” is crucial for maintaining and improving breeding uniformity until the transfer to production facilities


0-8 Week period

Care shouldt be taken in order to achieve a high height uniformity (skeleton) during the first 8 weeks of age. In this early period, it is crucial and may negatively and permanently affect a batch of breeders. Feed decreases after production peak are harder to successfully implement and, in general, there is less persistence in production period.

Both during the breeding period and production, batches having uneven height are much more difficult to feed and normally they are not very productive.

A first height selection, at an early age, must be carried out for uniformity reasons. When labor force is available, birds may be separated in 3 groups minimum, at a relatively early age (1 to 3 weeks of age) in order to carefully manage them until they are 8 weeks old. The objective is to make these three groups uniform so that they reach, as much as possible, the standard body weight of the genetic line.

This implies:

  • Heavy birds: That, in pens of heavier birds, feed consumption shall be more controlled in order to avoid overweight when birds are 8 weeks old.
  • Intermediate birds: pens with intermediate weight or height birds shall be subjected to a normal feeding plan.
  • Underweight birds: pens having underweight birds shall receive more feed in order to achieve a complete height recovery when birds are 8 weeks old.

Figure 1A. Weight distribution and batch uniformity of a barn after 4 weeks. Great unevenness is observed as to bird weights within each batch

 9-15 Week period

After concentrating on weights and uniformity on the first 8 weeks of age, in the period from 9-15 weeks the importance of muscle development must be highlighted – fleshing- and fat deposition, representing energy supplies. This concept is illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1. Standard Muscle development (fleshing) and pelvic fat up to 147 days (21 weeks)

Table 1 summarizes the objectives of muscle development (fleshing) and pelvic fat accumulation at various ages from 12 weeks of age to 147 days (21 weeks of age), when initiating light stimulation plan. From week 12 puberty starts and, ideally, at this age, fleshing standards must be met in order to more easily achieve the objectives of 16, 19 and 21 week-old birds. The standards illustrated in this table are very close to field reality.


repro8Figure 1b. Weight distribution and uniformity at 8 weeks of age for the entire batch once uniformity is improved

Period of 16-20 weeks. Preparation for light stimulation

After the height development in the first 8 weeks of age, the second most important period for birds during their entire life is preparation for light stimulation.

Preparation for light stimulation. Light stimulation must be initiated when the bird is from 147 to 154 days old (when the bird is 21 to 22 weeks old) but before this stimulation takes place, the birds must be ready for it.

Based on the characteristics and knowledge of each genetic line, weight curve may be adjusted when the bird is 16 to 20-22 weeks old, promoting a greater weight gain when females are not ready.

Palpation of birds is crucial for evaluating if birds in the flock are prepared.

Birds must increase their average weight by 34-38% when they are 16 to 20 weeks old, which is achieved by means of a nutrition and feeding plan which guarantees a sufficient muscle development and pelvic fat accumulation when the bird is 20 weeks old.

When females do not show the correct condition when they are 147-154 days old and they are outside (below) the standard weight curve, we may change the feed formula or else we may change the week in which pre-laying feed administration is initiated.


If a batch is not satisfactorily uniform when the bird is 16 weeks old, a “fleshing” evaluation or a revision of muscle development or evaluation of level of conditioning is recommended in 100% of the batch (depending on labor force availability).

When birds are not well prepared, they must receive additional feed so that they can reach the desired level of development when they are 20 weeks old, there is no need of scales for weighting 100% of birds; the sole resistance evaluation of wings when carrying the birds and palpation in order to evaluate the level of muscle development in the breast may provide a very good assessment of the preparation of birds. 



Table 2. Example of feed volume increases in order to obtain muscle development and pelvic fat accumulation in preparation for light stimulation when birds are 147-154 days old (21-22 weeks).

Preparation of females is a combination between:

  • Body weight curve
  • Feed consumption increases
  • Feed formulation and nutritional density
  • Feed systems

The objective of weight having sufficient energy supplies as pelvic fat results in a uniform flock.

repro10Figure 2. Reference guide for evaluating breast muscle development of heavy breeders during the breeding period.

This evaluation must be done with the weekly weighing when birds are 12, 16, 19, 20 and 21 weeks old (see Table 1, page 33).

Note that at the bottom of each image (representing the level of breast muscle development), there is a number representing the score for each level of development (corresponding to the conditions in Table 1).

In order to understand how muscle development and pelvic fat deposition are like in the weeks prior to initiating light stimulation, these evaluations at all these ages are recommended.

The time for photostimulation does not necessarily depend on the age of the batch but it depends on the following three parameters which must be recorded in historical data of batch development:

  • Average dry weight (about 2.3-2.4 kg for quick feathering and 2.5-2.6 kg for slow feathering, even though this depends on the specific recommendations for each genetic line)
  • At least 95% of females must show a score of #3 or #4 in the fleshing evaluation
  • In at least 90% of females the pelvic fat must be able to be clearly palpated

21-25 Week period. Light and Feed Plans

In barns with curtains which allow daylight to enter or in open barns during production

First stimulation. The first light stimulation must be +4 hours; in other words, an increase of 8 to 12 total hours of photoperiod.

Maximum stimulation. According to latitude, light stimulation may continue up to a maximum of 14 hours if there are no more than 14 hours of natural light.

After 12 hours, one more hour of stimulation may be administered, just after initiating production and the additional last hour, to reach a maximum of 14 hours, is provided after reaching 50% of daily production.

Adjusting photoperiods when having 13 hours of natural light. The bird batches which receive, at the time of transfer, 13 hours of natural light may be raised with 9 hours in the breeding period instead of 8 hours. Maintain the 13 hours for 2 weeks and then increase +1 hour each 2 or 3 weeks until reaching 15 hours of total light.

Adjusting photoperiods when there are more than 13 hours of natural light. If there are more than 13 hours at the expected time for transfer it means that the batches must already be perfectly prepared when the birds are 147 days old in order to be photostimulated by the age of 147-154 days.

In these cases, light may be increased to 12 hours with an intensity of up to 50 lux in the breeding barn, to move the birds to the production farm at day 154.

Avoiding bird over-stimulation is crucial to avoid reproductive problems.

In production barns having solid walls. The transfer may be done at any age if light intensity in production may be reduced with a rheostat (“dimmer”).

Time for photostimulation still depends on female condition. After photostimulation, feed increases must be slow and in the order of 2-3 g per week until reaching 5% production/hen/day (5% daily production).

Afterwards, a feeding plan is applied based on production and increasing consumption every 3 days approximately (see Table 2 page XXX).


Female preparation must be concluded before the first light stimulation and not after it, since over-stimulation with feed may lead to increased mortality due to internal layer and the resulting peritonitis, and even prolapses may occur. Another possible consequence is the negative affectation on the lay peak and egg production persistence during the lay curve.

The correct preparation of the female breeder flock consists of:

Attaining body weights recommended by the gene selection enterprise at the right age

Reaching a good uniformity since the bird is 8 weeks old

Achieving a correct breast muscle development and appropriate pelvic fat accumulation as energy supplies when the birds are 16 to 21 weeks old

Apply at the appropriate time light stimulation and with the right intensity and duration

Provide the feed amount increases and the necessary nutritional density in order to achieve good production peaks and egg production persistence as well as a good viability in flocks of breeders.




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