How a Hen Makes an Egg

The laying cycle is an important part of a hen’s life. An egg, or ovum, starts in the ovary, high in the bird’s body, near the spine. The ovary looks like a cluster of grapes, with some ova larger than others. As the ova mature, they are released into the reproductive tract or oviduct. If there is a rooster in your flock, the egg will be fertilized soon after entering the oviduct. The various structures are added to the egg by the oviduct: egg white, chalazae (“twisters”), and membranes. The final step is the secretion of a calcium coating in the shell gland. Then the fully formed egg passes from the body. The whole process takes about 25 hours. Most hens begin laying at between 16 and 24 weeks of age. Their peak productivity is between 1½ and 2 years of age. While they continue laying throughout their lives, their output decreases by about 10 percent per year after they turn 2 years old.

Eggscellent Layers!

Hand picking eggs

You love getting tasty eggs from your hens, so how can you keep them healthy, happy, and laying? There are a number of factors that can influence how many eggs a hen lays in her lifetime.

Breed

The breed you choose is related to the number of eggs you can expect per bird. Certain breeds or hybrid strains can produce large numbers of eggs.

  • Heritage, dual-purpose breeds, including Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, Australorps, and Wyandottes, are bred for both meat and eggs. They produce a good number of eggs over their lifetimes.
  • Hybrids offer high-powered laying ability because they are crosses between two pure breeds that are good layers. They include ISA Browns, Red Stars, Gold Stars, and Amberlinks.
  • Henderson’s Breed Chart online provides more information on chicken breeds and their laying abilities.

Diet

Did you know that egg quality is closely linked to diet? Many people assume that brown eggs are healthier than white eggs, but shell color makes no difference in the quality of the egg. Your birds’ diet influences the content of their eggs.

  • Free ranging helps your birds produce eggs with better nutritional content, including higher levels of vitamins A, D, and E; omega-3 fatty acids; and deep orange-yellow yolks from beta carotene. They also get activity while looking for bugs, worms, and other tasty goodies!

  • A good commercial diet should provide a large majority of what your birds eat. A good layer ration should support egg-laying and supply essential nutrients that are not easy to find in nature. These nutrients include carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins, as well as amino acids.

  • Extra ingredients that benefit your hens include enzymes, probiotics, essential oils, and yeast culture. These additives help keep your birds’ digestive tracts healthy, support healthy growth, and benefit the immune system. You can find these ingredients in our Nutrena Naturewise feeds.

Water

Eggs are 75 percent water, so having a clean, fresh source available to your birds at all times will help keep them happy, healthy, and laying.

  • Clean waterers to prevent disease. This is a necessity, especially in summer, to prevent the growth of toxic blue-green algae and other harmful microorganisms.
  • Prevent freezing in winter. Cold weather and shorter days provide enough of a challenge for your ladies.

Stressors

Your birds should have a stress-free environment to lay their best! Stress can cause hens to stop laying until the source is removed.

  • Know their stressors. Some common stressors include extreme temperatures, a move to a new coop, change in feed, the presence of predators, new flock members, or construction projects.
  • Stick to a routine! Any changes are stressors. Chickens like daily routines, which are dictated by the time of day. It’s best to let them out at dawn and close them in at dusk.
  • Make changes gradually, like switching to a new diet or moving your birds to a new coop.

Give your birds their best lives so they give you great eggs – and make NatureWise layer feeds part of your flock’s diet!

 

NatureWise Feeds with Vitamin D for Healthy, Strong-Shelled Eggs

By Jennifer Murtoff, Home to Roost LLC

At Cargill we’re working hard to help your hens live their best lives—and lay great eggs! Our NatureWise feeds now contain more Vitamin D3. What is this vitamin, and why is it important for your birds—and you? 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps the body absorb calcium. It also aids in muscle movement, strengthens the immune system, and improves nerve function. The two main forms of Vitamin D are

  • Vitamin D2, which comes mainly from plant sources, and
  • Vitamin D3, which is produced by animals (including humans) in response to sunlight.

Although the liver can convert both of these into forms that the body can use, it processes Vitamin D3 more easily. That’s why we’ve chosen Vitamin D3 for our NatureWise feeds.

Human adults should get 800 IUs (20 micrograms) of Vitamin D per day, which is the same amount found in 1 Tbsp of cod liver oil or 3 ounces of farmed trout. Other natural sources of this important vitamin include salmon, red meat, liver, canned tuna, and egg yolks. Because egg yolks are a source of Vitamin D, let’s look at how this vitamin affects your chickens.   

How Your Hens Use Calcium and Vitamin D

Just like humans, hens need Vitamin D, too, and their bodies use it in similar ways. In a chicken’s body, Vitamin D does the following:  

  • Aids absorption and metabolism of calcium
  • Improves quality of bones and eggshell
  • Helps calcium move quickly through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream
  • Decreases early embryo death by up to 30%

The blood carries calcium to the shell gland, which secretes the calcium onto the outer membrane of an egg to create the shell. The blood also transports calcium to the rest of the body, where it contributes to bone health and helps power the muscles, including those that expel eggs.

Vitamin D3 Progress through the Chickens Body

 

 

Appropriate levels of Vitamin D can improve the hardness of eggshells, resulting in less breakage and a longer shelf life for your eggs. In addition, your older hens can benefit from Vitamin D. As hens age, they lay eggs with thinner shells. A little boost from Vitamin D can result in thicker, more healthy shells.

Chickens and Vitamin D Deficiency

So what happens if hens don’t get enough Vitamin D in their diet? A deficiency in this nutrient can reduce calcium absorption, which results in the following:

  • Brittle bones: Hens without enough calcium pull the mineral from their bones, reducing bone strength.
  • Thin-shelled eggs: A Vitamin D deficiency can result in less calcium in the eggshells.
  • Higher feed consumption: Lower levels of calcium in feed lead hens to eat more, resulting in higher feed costs overall.
  • Mineral-deficient embryos: Hens fed a low Vitamin D3 diet produce embryos with low levels of calcium and phosphate.

Because of the close link between Vitamin D and calcium, your birds’ diet should include healthy levels of both of these nutrients.

Find Vitamin D on a Feed Label

You can easily compare the levels of Vitamin D in different feeds. Commercial layer feeds have a Guaranteed Analysis, like the one pictured below, on the back of the bag. Locate the amount of Vitamin D and compare NatureWise to other brands. You’ll find that the NatureWise has 2500 IUs of Vitamin D3 per pound.

 

Vit D eggs Guaranteed Analysis

Get More Vitamin D! Feed Your Hens NatureWise Feeds

If you’re feeding your hens our NatureWise line, eating their eggs can increase your own levels of Vitamin D. In a recent study conducted by Cargill, eggs from hens fed the improved NatureWise 16% Layer feed contained 37% more Vitamin D than hens fed the standard layer feed as a control.

Vit D levels

If you are a backyard poultry owner who values healthy eggs with optimal Vitamin D levels and strong shells, the NatureWise layer feeds are the best choice for your chickens. Learn more about our feeds with added vitamin D3 at the following links:

Top 3 Poultry Myths – HENS

Let’s bust some myths on laying hens. The internet is filled with lots of information on hens, some are true some are opinions. In this video Twain Lockhart, Nutrena’s Poultry Expert, debunks the top three myths on hens.

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