Extended laying cycle for laying hens

    Project Details


    Main research question/goal
    How does the physiology, the calcium (Ca) and phosphorous (P) metabolism of laying hens change throughout their production cycle, and what are their requirements of these minerals in the last stages of production? Which management strategies (feeding, lighting schedule, housing system) should be applied to be able to produce more good quality, strong-shelled eggs with fewer birds? This research project focuses on the role of nutrition and management. Its main goal is to define the nutrient requirements of older laying hens and to offer guidelines as an aid for farmers in case they apply an extended production strategy. This improves both the sustainability as well as the economic aspects of egg production.

    Research approach
    A study is conducted to have a better understanding of the current situation concerning egg quality of older laying hen flocks in professional Belgian poultry farms with aviary and enriched cages housing system. On one hand, we want to know the opinion of farmers about the extension of the laying cycle, what their main concern is and what their decision about ending a particular cycle is based upon. On the other hand, we want to see how exactly egg quality changes in the last part of the production from the age of 60 weeks to the end of the production cycle and which factors (housing system, feeding, hybrids), apart from the age of the birds, have an effect on egg(shell) quality. At ILVO’s experimental farm, zootechnical experiments focus on calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D3 metabolism, digestion and absorption and the interactions between these nutrients. The results of the pilot studies are evaluated and tested in large-scale on the site of the Provincial Centre for Applied Poultry Research.  Effects of different management factors  (feeding, lighting, housing) on production and egg (shell) quality will be studied to know more which strategies work best in practice.

    In this project we strive to extend the laying cycle to improve the sustainability and economic feasibility of consumer egg production. Most of the new hybrids are now capable of producing for an extended period (up to 90 weeks) with a high laying percentage (>80%). In order to be able to take advantage of their genetic potential, it is of utmost importance to provide them with the right amount of nutrients. A longer laying cycle also requires adjustments to management strategies.  

    Funding provider(s)
    ILVO - Instituut voor Landbouw-, Visserij- en voedingsonderzoek
    Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderij

    External partner(s)
    Proefbedrijf Pluimveehouderij
    Effective start/end date1/10/1330/09/17