What diet for his laying hens?


It seems so normal to us for a hen to lay an egg that we forget how straining this physiological mechanism can be on the animal’s organism. However, it is important to take it into account in order to give your laying hens a good diet, that is to say a quality diet, able to provide them with everything their body needs.

The egg-laying mechanism

You are probably aware that the idea that a hen lays an egg every day is wrong. When you researched the different breeds of hens, you discovered that there were breeds more qualified for laying than others. This is measured by the number of eggs laid in a year. Very good layers like Sussex and Harco can lay up to 300 per year. They therefore do not lay any eggs for a little more than 2 months.

The biological activity of the hen is stimulated by light and heat. In winter, when the days are short, most hens stop laying eggs. Factory farms stimulate laying by exposing them to artificial lighting and increasing the heat in the hen house. But you can imagine that it is a form of cheating with nature that negatively impacts the body of chickens. This stimulation exhausts the body of the hen and leads the breeders to get rid of the hens after a year of service, when they are only 18 months old, quite simply because they can no longer lay regularly. They are sent to the slaughterhouse when a hen in care can live more than 5 years.

The hens that we know today are the result of the work of selection of the man who has chosen to reproduce the most gifted specimens for laying, in order to improve the performance of these animals, generation after generation. In the wild, a hen would start laying for 12 days in a row with the onset of spring, resulting in 12 eggs. As she would have been fertilized (since egg production originally exists only to ensure the reproduction of the species), the hen would start to incubate her eggs for about 21 days. Not all eggs would produce chicks, but there would be a few, which would involve a rearing period that would last 6-8 weeks, followed by a few days off. The hen would therefore not lay eggs for a period of almost 3 months. Until winter, such a cycle could repeat twice, for a maximum of 36 eggs laid in the year, a far cry from the 200 to 300 eggs produced by a laying hen each year for two to three years.

the egg-laying cycle of a hen varies enormously from one breed to another, the weather, the season, the hen itself, but also its diet. This last factor is the most natural and animal-friendly lever that you can promote the laying of your laying hens.

Provide a rich and varied diet for your laying hens

As with all pets, their well-being depends in large part on the quality of their diet.

A hen needs nutrients and energy to make your metabolism work optimally and therefore ensure the production of eggs. On the other hand, if the body of the hen does not feed the chick during its development (unlike what happens during gestation in a woman), the body of the hen produces an egg which contains all the nutrients it needs to form.

Quality food is food that provides the hen with:

  • carbohydrates for energy,
  • proteins for muscle maintenance,
  • lipids for the maintenance of reserves,
  • minerals,
  • trace elements.

We must not forget the fresh water provided every day as much as necessary, because the hen is an animal that drinks a lot.

A hen knows how to regulate the amount of food she needs daily, depending on her needs, age and size.

Composition of the meals of a laying hen

Hens are omnivorous. But how do you compose balanced meals?

The cereals must constitute 60 to 70% of their daily ration. Wheat and corn are usually the most popular food for laying hens. But beware of corn, very energetic, which easily fattens hens and compresses their reproductive system, resulting in limiting laying.

Wheat is very popular with hens. It is rich in fiber, is a good source of iron and vitamins from groups B and E. However, it cannot by itself guarantee the nutritional balance of your hens. Other cereals with complementary benefits should also be offered as a supplement: oats, soybeans, sunflower, rapeseed …

Wheat grains contain 10.5 to 15% protein depending on the variety and year of harvest. The cake, residues from oil mills, provide more protein. Soybean meal provides 45% protein, shelled sunflower meal 37%, rapeseed 34%, and flaxseed 30%.

Cereals generally contain calcium, which is essential for the formation of the eggshell, which contains about 2 g. A hen that lacks calcium will lay eggs with a weakened shell. Oats are particularly rich since they contain 0.75 g / kg, while wheat contains 0.27 g / kg and corn only 0.09 g / kg. In case of hot weather, the hen begins to pant, which increases the loss of calcium from her body. To compensate, you can add a little baking soda to their water at the rate of 2.5g per liter.

On the grassy course, the hens will find earthworms and of small insects which represent as many protein contributions. Depending on the plants available, hens can also feast on dandelions, daisies, clovers and knotweed. If their course lacks vegetation, do not hesitate to compose bouquets that they can consume.

We must also think of the gravel that we call “grit”. It is essential to ensure the proper digestion of all foods consumed. Again, if it is not found in sufficient quantity in the environment, it can be bought in the trade. This grit is often supplemented with broken shell and enriched with vitamins.

Can you give your chickens food waste?

Hens are in the spotlight today for their ability to deal with meal waste, perhaps with a bit of exaggeration. You have to be wary because not all are good for them. You can offer them your vegetable and fruit peels, with the exception of those mentioned below, your leftover salad, as well as previously crushed oyster and egg shells. Melon, watermelon, apples and pears are fruits particularly appreciated by hens.

On the other hand, you should never give them pieces of raw potatoes and leeks, the peels of onions, bananas, kiwis and citrus fruits, celery. Also beware of the salt or sugar content which is toxic for them.

Leftover meals can therefore be given to the hens, without them ever being their main food.

What about pelletized food?

For many people, this is the easiest way to feed their laying hens. The ready-made mixes are made to guarantee a good nutritional balance. The labeling indicates whether the mixture is more suitable for chicks, growing hens, laying hens, etc.

There are also food supplements which have the advantage of limiting the phenomena of deficiencies on your animals and therefore their fatigue and illnesses.

Nettle and its benefits for your chickens

Nettle is a plant with multiple benefits. It is an excellent food supplement to give without moderation to your gallinaceae, especially since nettle is often easy to find in the garden or in the surroundings. Nettle helps the hen to fight against external and internal parasites, then in the latter case, playing the role of dewormer. Its antibacterial power is strong.

Boiled and chopped nettle leaves are said to promote egg laying, but it’s possible that this is more popular belief than truth. Finally, it is not necessary to give your chickens nettle every day. They can find some on the course. Giving it to them for a few days during the winter months may be sufficient.

Moreover, Winter, you can help your hens to fight against the cold and humidity, by giving them lukewarm soups, bread soaked in water.

You now have all the elements in hand to offer a balanced diet to your laying hens. Know how to adapt it according to the season and the weather to follow the evolution of their needs.