Feed nutrient calcium is often associated with eggshell quality issues, which is not surprising considering eggshells are 94% calcium carbonate. An eggshell weighs about 5-6 grams, and at least 2 grams is pure calcium.
In order to preserve the bone integrity of the hen, calcium deficiency will first reduce and then stop ovulation. A direct consequence of insufficient calcium intake is a rapid increase in cracked eggs and eggshell with very thin, and when such problems arise, part of the assessment process involves monitoring factors affecting calcium intake and calcium use in hens.
The following 12 nutritional tips
Can be used to verify that laying hens are getting the calcium they need to maintain high levels of production and shell integrity.
- The calcium concentration of the hen feed must be at least 4%. This should be adjusted according to hen age and feed amount. In general, hens need at least 4 grams of calcium per day at the beginning of the cycle and as much as 4.5 grams or more by the end.
- The main source of calcium in feed is usually calcium carbonate (limestone), which is a 50:50 mix of medium (less than 1 mm) and large (2-5 mm) particles. This ratio can be switched to larger pellets as the hens age.
- The addition of organic acids may increase calcium absorption by hens at the end of the production cycle.
- Oyster shell (coarse) can quickly solve the problem caused by feeding too fine limestone. This feed additive is more expensive, but is favored for its superior quality.
- Hens must receive calcium in the late afternoon (when shell calcification is at its peak and calcium appetite increases) to ensure maximum and sustained shell integrity.
- Chloride content in feed should not exceed 0.4%, as excess chloride can exacerbate calcium deficiency, especially in summer.
- Salt water can lead to excess salt intake (chloride is also a problem here).
- If total chloride intake from water and feed is considered to be slightly excessive, sodium bicarbonate can be used in place of salt to correct any sodium deficiency.
- Excess phosphorus also reduces calcium absorption. Total phosphorus in the final feed should not exceed 0.4%.
- Vitamin D is an integral part of calcium absorption and should be added to feed at adequate levels. In most cases an addition of at least 3,000-4,000 units per kg of finished feed is sufficient.
- Certain mycotoxins (zearalenone) are known to bind vitamin D in feed. Water supplementation with vitamin D is recommended during the acute phase of mycotoxin contamination.
- Larger eggs do not contain as much calcium carbonate as smaller eggs. Regardless of size, hens deposit about 2 grams of calcium per egg.
Other components that affect eggshell quality
While nutrients, especially calcium, are critical to eggshell quality, it’s not the only component. Management, age, environment and health also play a crucial role.
“The biggest neglect of all species is water quality,” where water has a big impact on performance.
Heat stress may also affect a laying hen’s ability to produce the desired product, as increased heat may also increase the hen’s respiration rate.
Of course, health is paramount. While gut health is important for absorption, it is also important to understand the risks that disease may pose to layer performance. “Viral, bacterial and secondary bacterial diseases can be detrimental to the plan, so it is important to have a good vaccination plan” Any type of illness can also increase the stress level in the house.
Age may also play a role in egg production consistency, and may cause thinner shell materials to break more easily as birds age.