How to turn marginal pullets into strong adult layers

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Dr. Ken Anderson, poultry extension specialist at North Carolina State University’s Prestage Department of Poultry Science, explained how farmers can address issues with uniformity in layer pullets in order to maintain healthy flocks performing within breeder standards. Anderson spoke as part of the Organic Egg Farmers of America Symposium on March 14. The event took place in St. Paul, Minnesota, in conjunction with the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention.

Anderson said there are four main issues farmers typically face when dealing with marginal pullets: underweight pullets; overweight pullets; non-uniform pullets which cause poor flock uniformity; and untrained pullets, or pullets not ready to live in alternative housing systems.

Identifying weight issues

When pullets arrive, Anderson said farmers should follow four steps to determine the flock’s uniformity and alignment with breeder weight standards for their age:

  1. Look up the breeder’s standard weight for your breed, strain and age of pullet.
  2. Weigh a representative sample of the pullets upon their arrival to the farm.
  3. Calculate an average pullet weight.
  4. Determine the flock’s uniformity.

Rather than weighing the first few birds off the truck, farmers need to pick a variety of birds from throughout the flock. At least 100 weights should be collected. Anderson said uniformity is derived from the individual weights of the 100 hens sampled. 

“For example, if the average weight is 2.5 pounds then plus or minus 10 percent of the average weight would be the range of 2.25 to 2.75 pounds. If 90 percent of the birds fall…

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