Caring for Hens

Building Your Layer Coop

The ideal Layer Coop should allow for proper ventilation, spacing and be situated away from bushes and in an area free from rats and wild birds, additionally, the house should be rat and bird proof.  1.5 square feet of space is required per bird; the dimensions of the house must be built based on the number of birds you intend to grow.


The birds must not be given more than16 hours of light per day.  It is stressful for the birds and expensive for you and should therefore be avoided.  Recent advances in fluorescent and LED Bulbs will reduce electricity cost while having no negative effect on egg production.  You may use incandescent bulbs of 60 watts/150sq.ft, fluorescent of 15 watts/150sq.ft and LED of 9 watts/150sq.ft.

Water Intake & Feeding

Water Intake

Hens must have access to a consistent supply of good quality water.  The term “good quality” means potable water, i.e. fit for human consumption.  If water quality is unknown add 1 teaspoon of bleach to 10 gallons of water.  Any deviation from that standard affects bird health negatively and by extension, flock egg production.  Poor water quality also affects the quality of the egg shell and may cause staining of the shell surface.

Water is also very important in maintaining a stable body temperature.  Water temperature and ease of access to water sources become even more important on very hot days.

Hens will consume 115 grams of feed per day and up to 375ml of water on a hot day.  By extension, 100 birds will drink 10 gallons of water per day.  Farmers must be aware of the amount of water the birds will require based on atmospheric temperature.

Feed & Nutrition

The primary objective when feeding layers is to maintain consistent feed intake and egg production that closely match or exceed the standard for the strain.  Optimal feeding programme for layers provides the nutrients to support the production of 280 to 300 eggs per hen per year with a feed conversion of 2.15 to 2.2Kg. feed per dozen eggs.

  • Give the birds vitamins and electrolyte supplements for 5 consecutive days, if you continue for more days, they might put on too much weight, which could affect productivity.

Feed accounts for 50-60% of the cost of producing a dozen eggs.  It is therefore essential that you follow the feeding guidelines recommended by the feed producers in order to maximize your profits.

Feed Management

Feeding Management plays a critical role in determining shell quality.  Issuing the daily feed ration in the late evening ensures that calcium in the feed is available to the birds at the period when they need it most:

  • During cold spells expect an increase in consumption.  It may be necessary to increase feed to prevent a reduction in production.  This occurs because more feed energy is used to keep the hen warm.
  • During hot spells expect a decrease in consumption.  It may be necessary to follow procedures for reducing heat load in the hen house.
  • Feed hens twice per day, apportion the feed to supply 60% in the late evening (ideally 1 hour before lights out) and 40% in the morning.

Flock Management

  1. Good management and sanitation must be the daily practice in the event of infection
  2. Avoid high ammonia levels, dust, overcrowding, and poor ventilation
  3. Remove infected flocks; then clean, disinfect and rest house for 3-4 weeks before restocking.


Moulting is a natural physiologic process whereby layers’ cease laying eggs, moult or drop their feathers and undergo certain physiological changes that prepare hens for resumption of egg-laying.  Feathers are lost from the head first, followed by those from the neck, breast, body, wings and tail.  Body weight is reduced considerably due to reduction in body fat and the reproductive tract.  Feed intake reduces and as a result the bird does not produce eggs.

Moulting can also take place as a result of stress such as disease, lack of feed or water, improper lighting or any other faulty management practice.


Culling is the process of removing unproductive birds from the flock.  By removing non-productive birds, mortality is reduced and removal reduces competition and provides more space for the remaining hens, usually resulting in less stress and more eggs