Housing Your Layers

The average pullet at the age of from four and one-half to five and one-half months will have reached a period when the comb begins to redden and she assumes the appearance of a mature hen. Such a pullet is just about ready to begin egg production. Up until the time when this stage of development is reached the pullets are better off on the ranges or in the fields or orchards where they have been growing during the summer months, surrounded by shade and green food and an environment that is conducive to steady and continuous growth. But when appearances indicate that the birds have reached egg laying maturity they should be housed and managed in a somewhat different manner. They should be moved into the laying houses in which they are to spend the following season, if possible, as birds are very much creatures of habit and will do better when surrounded by the same environment and not handled too much. This moving into winter quarters should be done about two weeks before many of them have started to lay. This will allow them sufficient time in which to become accustomed to their new quarters before starting the serious program of egg production.

Just before these pullets are transferred from the range or field conditions the houses into which they are to be moved should be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for them. Do this work thoroughly, for sanitary work done carelessly is of no real value. Do this work on a bright sunny day, as sunshine is one of Nature’s best disinfectants. Start early in the morning, by moving out the birds, if there are any old birds in the pens; then by removing the movable fixtures and all the litter from the nests and floor. Sweep the walls and roof rafters down with an old broom in order to remove cobwebs and accumulations of dirt and fifth, which harbor vermin and disease germs. Then spray the whole interior of the house with a disinfectant solution of some good coal-tar disinfectant solution. A five per cent solution of some good coal-tar disinfectant can be used, or a white-wash can be applied which will give a uniform white coat to the interior of the house. Carbola, a commercial product that is in the nature of a disinfectant white paint, is splendid for this purpose (people are using hydrated lime and water now). The interior of the poultry house should be made bright and light, as birds are affected by a cheery environment as well as human beings. Then allow the house to dry out thoroughly, which will be within a few hours, if a good day has been selected for the job.

After the house has sufficiently dried out bring back the fixtures, which themselves should have been cleaned well and disinfected and allowed to stand in the sun for a few hours. Re-bed the nests and floors with good litter. Straw is about the best litter which can be used and which is available on nearly every farm. If this systematic method of cleaning is employed the house ought to be in clean, sanitary condition for the new flock of pullets. If dirt floors are used in the house several inches of the top loose dry earth should be removed and replaced with clean earth. The pullets are usually kept in rather intensive flocks, that is the available house space is usually crowded to its capacity with birds, so that it is especially necessary to see to it that that house is as clean and free from disease and vermin as is possible to obtain before placing them in it. Pullets are easy to keep healthy and free from disease if only given a fair chance. This year an extra effort should be made to keep disease from eating up any of the profits. A little fore-thought is needed. Plan ahead and a big part of this program lies in having the laying quarters sanitary and safe when the pullets are placed in them.

Do not over-crowd the pullets. When working out the size of chicken coop you want to build allow four square feet of floor space per pullet in case of all of the heavier breeds and at least three and a half square feet for the lighter more active breeds. Over-crowding brings on greater danger from disease, and works against efficiency and economy. ~~ Willard C. Thompson