Florida Cooperative Extension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville
* i'ql 1* r
Managing the Small
By L. W. Kalch
To be successful with small laying flocks,
members of 4-H Clubs and other owners of small
flocks should know and practice good manage-
The 25 to 50 hens in a small laying flock re-
quire the same proper management practices that
are used in managing large commercial flocks.
This circular describes the basic management
practices and requirements for a successful lay-
Types of Layers
Well raised pullets of a good egg production
strain are needed to get a laying project off to a
good start. How well the pullets were managed
during their first 6 months of life will to a large
degree determine livability and rate of lay.
For a laying flock use only birds bred for pro-
duction. Such birds include Rhode Island Reds,
White Leghorns and Leghorn-type crosses. The
Sex-Link cross is also a good layer. Never use
pullets from broiler stock for a laying project.
For the most part dual-purpose birds (meat
and eggs) are desirable for a small laying flock.
Dual-purpose birds include Rhode Island Reds and
the Sex-Link crosses. These birds are quiet and
easier to handle than the Leghorn types and their
meat is of excellent quality.
It is a good idea to replace the laying flock
every year. Layers do their best when between
6 and 20 months of age.
The primary purpose of the poultry house is to
protect the birds against rain, hot sun and preda-
tory animals and to provide a dry, clean area for
feeders, waterers and nests.
In most of Florida, poultry housing need only
consist of an area covered by a roof, to keep out
the hot sun and rain, and enclosed by poultry
wire, to confine birds and exclude predators.
Siding may be needed in some parts of the state
for protection against cold winds and blowing
Your poultry house should be:
1. Adequate in size. Allow 3 to 4 square feet
per bird. For example, a house 10 feet wide and
12 feet long has 120 square feet, or enough space
to accommodate 30 to 40 laying hens. The house
should also be at least 7 feet high to provide for
2. Kept clean and dry. Provide 4 to 6 inches
of litter on the sand floor. Wood shavings, saw-
dust, peanut hulls, straw, etc. all are good litter
material. If litter gets wet, remove it and re-
place with dry litter. Floor litter that is wet can
help bring on diseases. Wet litter also results in
If the poultry house is located in a well-
drained area it is not necessary to have a concrete
or wood floor-a sand floor is adequate.
Use a good commercial all-mash laying feed
and keep the feed before the birds at all times.
Do not feed scratch feed because the all-mash
laying feed is a complete diet.
Feeders should be sufficient in size. One 5-foot
feed trough will serve 25 laying hens.
Allow the birds to eat all the feed from the
troughs to prevent accumulation of dirty, dry and
stale feed. Fill feeders about one-third to one-
half full. This will help prevent feed wastage.
Protect feeders from the hot sun and rain.
Each laying hen should consume about 11/ to
2 pounds of laying mash per week. Guard against
feed wastage. (Leghorns use about 11/2 pounds
feed per week, while dual-purpose breeds use
about 2 pounds feed per week.)
Plenty of cool, clean water is one of the most
important requirements of laying hens. Provide
suitable watering equipment to insure that the
laying hens have water at all times.
Automatic watering founts are best. It is
important, however, to check all automatic water-
ing equipment periodically to see that the equip-
ment is in good working order. Automatic water-
ers require that water be piped to the laying
A 3-gallon water fount will supply the water
requirements for 50 laying hens for 1 day and is
a good investment when automatic equipment
can't be used. Extra waterers may be needed
during hot weather.
Clean all waterers, automatic or otherwise,
daily as an aid in preventing diseases.
Place waterers in the shade so the water will
Keep the area around the water founts as dry
as possible. Avoid leaks and spilled water. A
platform with a hardware cloth bottom placed
under the water fount will help keep the water
clean and the floor litter dry.
It is a good practice to remove any litter that
becomes wet and replace it with dry litter.
Provide one nest for every 5 laying hens.
Therefore, 25 laying hens will require at least 5
nests, 30 laying hens 6 nests, etc.
Each nest should be about 14 inches wide, 14
inches long and 15 inches high and should be
located in a cool, dry and shaded area of the
Provide clean and dry nesting material, such
as shavings, excelsior, peanut hulls or straw.
Place the nests at a height from the ground so
that gathering eggs will be made easy. The bot-
tom of the nest about 3 feet from the ground is
about right for most pepole.
Good nests reduce the number of broken and
Apple boxes or orange crates can be made into
Roosts are not necessary. However, the fol-
lowing is recommended for those who desire them.
Small poles 1 to 2 inches in diameter or lengths
of 2" x 2" make ideal roosts. Roost poles should
be placed 12 to 14 inches apart and about 2 feet
above the ground.
Six to 8 inches of roost space is needed for
each layer. Thus 25 hens would require 12 to 16
feet of roost space. (Two poles 8 feet long, placed
14 inches apart and 2 feet above the ground, will
serve 25 laying hens.)
The use of lights in the laying house during
the long nights of the fall and winter months will
do much to maintain high egg production.
When an automatic time clock is used, a 40-
watt light bulb is sufficient for 25 to 50 laying
hens. Set the time clock to turn on the lights
early in the morning and turn them off at dawn.
Turn on lights at a time to provide the birds with
a total of 14 hours of light per day. (Example:
If sun sets at 6:00 P.M., lights would have to be
turned on at 4:00 A.M. to provide 14 hours of
light.) Adjust the time clock about every 15 days
to compensate for the changing times that the
If an automatic time clock is not available,
production can be increased by use of all-night
lights. When using all-night lights, one 25-watt
bulb is sufficient for 25 to 50 laying hens. The
bulb and reflector should be situated to allow the
light to concentrate on the feeders and waterers,
leaving the roosting area relatively dark.
Place all lights 6 to 7 feet above the floor, fit
them with a reflector (aluminum pie pans will
suffice) and keep them free of dust.
Once started, lights should be used every
night. Sporadic use of lights can result in lowered
The condition of the litter in a poultry house
is closely related to good sanitation. The floor
litter, composed of shavings, straw or peanut
hulls should be about 4 to 6 inches deep and kept
dry but not dusty.
Remove any litter that becomes wet or caked
and replace it with dry litter.
Stirring the litter occasionally may aid in
keeping it dry.
All the litter can be removed from the laying
house once each year or as often as is found neces-
The best defenses against diseases are good
management and sanitation. These include such
things as purchasing chicks and pullets from
reliable sources, feeding a good feed, providing
clean water and washing water founts daily, keep-
ing floor litter dry but not dusty, keeping the
poultry house cool and well ventilated and pro-
viding birds with ample space. In addition, you
should keep the poultry house and area free of old
trash, boards, dead birds and manure piles.
Some of the more common poultry diseases oc-
curring in Florida are:
Fowlpox, also called chickenpox and sorehead.
-This disease is contagious and can be spread
from bird to bird and farm to farm by infected
birds and by mosquitoes. This disease can be
prevented by vaccinating the chicks when they
are about 8 weeks of age.
Chickens having fowlpox will have a number
of wart-like scabs appear on their comb, face and
Once the disease occurs in a laying flock, little
can be done except wait for the disease to run its
course. Few if any laying birds will die of fowl-
pox. However, the birds will quit laying for a
period of 2 to 4 weeks. The drop in egg produc-
tion will be the heaviest loss.
Birds with fowlpox can be fed a high level
antibiotic feed to help keep down other infections
and thus allow the birds to recover more quickly.*
Respiratory Diseases.-There are a number of
respiratory diseases that have similar symptoms
such as sneezing, gasping for air, and discharges
from the nose and eyes. Feeding the birds a high
level antibiotic feed will help them recover.*
Enteritis.-This is an inflammation of the in-
testines caused by a number of different organ-
isms. Affected birds usually appear weak, slug-
gish and have poor appetite. There may be cases
of diarrhea. Egg production slows down.
Failure to keep waterers clean and allowing
birds to gather in wet, muddy areas will contrib-
ute to the disease.
Feeding the birds a high level antibiotic feed
tends to rid them of enteritis.*
When using any feed containing antibiotics, fol-
low feeding directions of the manufacturer.
There are 2 types of parasites, external (lice,
mites, fleas) and internal (worms).
Lice.-The body louse is the most.common and
is usually found on the skin just below the vent.
Body lice spend their entire life on the birds.
Presence of lice can cause lowered production and
even death of chickens.
Mites.-The red mite is most common. It is
very small in size and is usually first seen crawl-
ing on eggs in the nest. This mite spends its
nights feeding on the bird and its days hiding in
the cracks of roosts and between boards of the
The northern fowl mite is also common and
usually stays on the bird all the time but may be
found on eggs and in litter. These mites congre-
gate near the vent, tail and neck where they suck
Fleas.-Fleas usually attach themselves to the
area of the face of the chickens. They are com-
monly found around the eyes and under the wat-
Control.-For the latest approved method of
control of external parasites, refer to Circular
302C, "External Parasites of Poultry".
Large Roundworms.-These worms are com-
monly found in the intestines of chickens. Chick-
ens obtain the worms from wet or moist areas
where chickens have been kept before.
To rid chickens of roundworms, add piperazine
to the drinking water. Follow directions on the
bottle. Piperazine can be purchased from your
local feed dealer.
Cannibalism occurs when birds start picking
one another until blood is showing. It is a bad
habit birds develop when they are overcrowded,
overheated or left without feed for lengthy pe-
Once started, cannibalism is difficult to con-
trol, especially in white-feathered birds on which
blood is more noticeable. Birds can be easily
killed by cannibalism.
As an aid in controlling cannibalism, treat
pecked areas of birds with red salve (called stop
pick, anti-pick or no-pick). Upper beak of all
chickens can be cut back 1/4 to 1/2 inch with elec-
tric debeaker. Give hens more room and plenty
Remove birds that are out of production from
the flock and sell them or use them for home con-
Hens that are out of production usually have
small, pale and dried up combs and wattles. The
beak and shanks will be yellow in color rather
than white, as in a good layer.
Hens not laying will have a narrow space
(width of 2 fingers or less) between the 2 pubic
bones, and a narrow distance (width of 3 fingers
or less) between the 2 pubic bones and the keel
Care of Eggs
Gathering.-Gather eggs a minimum of once
each day and place them in a wire basket to cool.
Cleaning.-Clean all dirty eggs with a piece of
sandpaper, emery cloth or steel wool. Many dirty
eggs can be prevented by keeping plenty of clean
nesting material in the nests and keeping floor
Holding.-Store eggs in refrigerator until
Selling.-If eggs are to be sold, weight and
candle them and place them in egg carton (large
end up) according to weight, and store them in
refrigerator until sold. Sell eggs before they
reach 4 days of age.
For more information, ask your Extension
Agent for a copy of Circular 157B, "Nest to Con-
By following recommended management prac-
tices, you should have good results with your lay-
ing flock. How well the flock performs will de-
pend on you as its manager.
To know how well your flock performs, keep a
complete and accurate record on your flock. Ask
your Extension Agent for a 4-H Poultry Record
Single copies free to residents of Florida. Bulk rates
available upon request. Please submit details on
request to Chairman, Editorial Department, Institute
of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
This public document was promulgated at an
annual cost of $280.00, or 2.8 cents per copy
to provide information on the production of
eggs for home flock owners.
COORMATIVE MrfENSWON WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Ad.In s dJ8 .oJ 30,1914)
Coop-Ini EoI,...i. S-io. IFAS. Uoio...ty of Flonda
and United Sn.1. Dop,=t., of Aoldtur. C-p-tng
Joe N. &"yb. N..
IrsitY of Florid