University of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE
Types of Layers .....~. ~....... ........................... .-- 3
Housing ............. ---.... -- .... ----- ..... ...... .......... .. 3
Feeding ........--- .. ....... ..-........... .......... ... ... ...............-- 4
Watering ----.........-..-----.---.. -------------......--------...--. 4
Nests .....................--------- ------------. ...... 5
Roosts ..- ......-..............- .................- .. 5
Lights ---...- ----------------.....................--- --- --..-- --..... 5
Litter ......--- --......................--... -....- .. 6
D diseases ......................... -......... ..... .... 6
Parasites ..........--- ----.....--...-- ----------. --............ 8
Cannibalism ..................- -- ------- ...- .... ....... 9
Culling .............. --.... .. ..-- .. --. -- ----..-. ---. ---. ---. 9
Care of Eggs ..............----- ..... -----------.... .. ..... ... .. ... ... 10
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)
Agricultural Extension Service, University of Florida,
Florida State University and United States Department of Agriculture, Cooperating
M. O. Watkins, Director
Managing the Small Laying Flock
By L. W. KALCH
Assistant Poultry Husbandman
To be successful with small laying flocks, members of 4-H
Clubs and other owners of small flocks should know and practice
good management principles.
The 25 to 50 hens in a small laying flock require the same
proper management practices that are used in managing large
This circular describes the basic management practices and
requirements for a successful laying flock.
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 production. This
will include Rhode Island Reds, some strains of New Hamp-
shires and Plymouth Rocks and White Leghorns and Leghorn-
type crosses. The Red-Rock (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
New Hampshires, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks and the
Red-Rock cross. 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, sun and predatory 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 sunshine and rain, and en-
closed 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 rains.
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 good
2. Kept clean and dry. Provide 4 to 6 inches of litter on
the sand floor. Wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, straw,
etc. all are good litter material. If litter gets wet, remove it
and replace with dry litter. Floor litter that is wet can help
bring on diseases. Wet litter also results in dirty eggs.
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
Use a good commercial all-mash laying feed. Keep the mash
before the birds at all times. Home-grown corn can be ground
and mixed with a concentrate to make a good laying mash.
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 on oc-
casion 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 11/2 to 2 pounds of
laying mash per week. Guard against feed wastage. (Leghorns
use about 11/2 pounds feed per week, dual-purpose breeds about
2 pounds feed per week.)
Plenty of cool, clean water is one of the most important re-
quirements of laying hens. Provide suitable watering equip-
ment to insure that the laying hens have water at all times.
Automatic watering founts are best. It is important, how-
ever, to check all automatic watering equipment periodically
to see that the equipment is in good working order. Automatic
waterers require that water be piped to the laying house.
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 remain cool.
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 1 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 poultry house.
Provide clean and dry nesting material, such as shavings,
excelsior, peanut hulls, straw, etc.
Place the nests at a height from the ground so that gather-
ing eggs will be made easy. The bottom of the nest about 3
feet from the ground is about right for most people.
Good nests reduce the number of broken and dirty eggs.
Apple boxes, orange crates, etc. can be made into usable nests.
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
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.)
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 roosts rela-
Place all lights 6 to 7 feet above the floor, fit them with a
reflector (aluminum pie pans will suffice) and keep them free
Once started, lights should be used every night. Sporadic
use of lights can result in lowered production.
The condition of the litter in a poultry house is closely related
to good sanitation. The floor litter, composed of shavings, straw,
peanut hulls, etc., 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 material.
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 necessary.
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, keeping floor litter
dry but not dusty, keeping poultry house cool and well ventilated
and providing birds with ample space. Keep poultry house and
area free of old trash, boards, dead birds, manure piles, etc.
Some of the more common poultry diseases occurring in
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 also by mosquitoes. This disease
can be prevented by vaccinating the chicks before they are 8
weeks of age.
Chickens having fowlpox will have a number of wart-like
scabs appear on their comb, face and wattles.
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 fowlpox. However, the birds will quit laying
for a period of 2 to 4 weeks. The drop in egg production 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 re-
cover more quickly.*
Respiratory Diseases.-There are a number of respiratory
diseases that have similar symptoms such as sneezing, cough-
ing, gasping for air, and discharges from the nose and eyes.
Feeding the birds a high level antibiotic feed will help them
Enteritis.-This is an inflammation of the intestines caused
by a number of different organisms. Affected birds usually ap-
pear weak, sluggish 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 contribute toward the disease.
Feeding the birds a high level antibiotic feed tends to rid
them of enteritis.*
Pullet Disease.-The cause of pullet disease is not known.
The disease usually attacks the healthiest pullets just as they
are coming into production. The disease occurs more often dur-
ing hot weather.
Pullets having the disease are listless, have poor appetite,
suffer a severe drop in egg production, and the comb usually
becomes dark in color (blue comb).
Pullet disease will run its course in about 2 weeks but egg
production may remain low for several weeks. Some birds may
When using any feed containing antibiotics, follow feeding directions
of the manufacturer.
To control pullet disease, feed birds a high level antibiotic
feed and/or add molasses to the feed or drinking water.* One
cup of blackstrap molasses per 100 hens fed 3 times a week is
the correct dosage. The molasses may be spread on top of the
mash or mixed with the drinking water.
Leucosis.-The cause of leucosis is not known and little can
be done for the infected birds. The best known prevention is
to obtain leucosis-resistant chicks and to raise the chicks away
from older birds.
There are several types of leucosis.
1. Visceral (big liver).-You can note upon cutting the bird
open that the, liver is very large, often filling the entire body
2. Neural (fowl paralysis).-Legs, wing or neck of the bird
will be paralyzed.
3. Ocular (blindness).-Outline of pupil of 1 or both eyes
becomes irregular or jagged in appearance.
4. Osteopetrosis (big bone).-Shanks of birds become en-
larged and excessively hard.
Kill and bury birds having leucosis.
There are 2 types of parasites, external (lice, mites, fleas, etc.)
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 bird. Presence of lice can cause lowered pro-
duction and even death of chickens.
To control lice, apply a 40% solution of nicotine sulfate to
the top surface of the roosts about 15 to 20 minutes before birds
go to roost. Apply at the rate of 1 pint per 150 feet of roost.
Repeat treatment 10 days later. Another remedy is to dust the
litter and nests with 5% malathion dust at the rate of 1 pound
to 40 to 50 square feet, or dust chickens at the rate of 1 pound
of the dust per 100 chickens.
Observe birds often and treat whenever lice are found.
When using any feed containing antibiotics, follow feeding directions
of the manufacturer.
Mites.-The red mite is most common. It is very small in
size and is usually first seen crawling 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 poultry
Thoroughly paint roosts with nicotine sulfate or carbolineum,
making sure to get the mixture into cracks and crevices. Repeat
as necessary. Another remedy is to dust litter and nests with
a 5 % malathion dust at the rate of 1 pound to 40 to 50 square feet.
Fleas.-Fleas usually attach themselves to the area of the
face of the chicken. They are commonly found around the eyes
and under the wattles.
Apply a 5% malathion dust to the dry floor, litter and nests at
the rate of 1 pound to 40 to 50 square feet.
Large Roundworms.-These worms are commonly found in
the intestines of chickens. Chickens obtain the worms from
wet or moist areas where chickens have been kept before.
To rid chickens of roundworms, add piperazine to the drink-
ing 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
Once started, cannibalism is difficult to control, 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, no-pick, etc.).
Upper beak of all chickens can be cut back 1/4 to /2 inch with
electric debeaker or fingernail clippers. Give hens more room
and plenty of feed.
Remove birds that are out of production from the flock and
sell them or use them for home consumption.
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 bone.
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 keep-
ing floor litter dry.
Holding.-Store eggs in refrigerator until used.
Selling.-If eggs are to be sold, weigh 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.
By following recommended management practices, you should
have good results with your laying flock. How well the flock
performs will depend on you as its manager.
To know how well your flock performs, keep a complete and
accurate record on your flock. Ask your County Agent or Home
Demonstration Agent for a 4-H Poultry Record Book.
A Lucky 4-Leaf Clover for You
If you are a boy or girl at least 10 and not over 21
years old, living on a farm or in town, 4-H Club Work
can be worth a lot to you. And it doesn't cost a thing
to enroll. Just get in touch with the County Agent or
Home Demonstration Agent in your county, or with a
volunteer leader of one of the clubs, and tell him or
her that you would like to join this great 4-H organi-
Over two million boys and girls in the United States
and over 40 thousand in Florida are now receiving the
training, the fellowship, the experience, the recreation,
the citizenship development which 4-H Clubs offer.
They like it.
And their parents like this 4-H training their chil-
dren are receiving. Here's what one mother says:
"In the seven years he has been in 4-H, Jim has
developed from a shy boy into a young man with confi-
dence and poise enabling him to assume leadership.
I'm glad that he has acquired knowledge he will never
forget and that makes him a better citizen. Through
4-H Jim has had opportunities he would not have had
otherwise, and I would not take anything for the years
of experience and training that 4-H has given him."
4-H Club Work is conducted by County and Home
Demonstration Agents, who are a part of the
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE