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Taking free-range brown birds past 100 weeks of lay

Producers interested in extending their free-range flocks past 100 weeks have in recent years tended to go for the Dekalb White – seen as an efficient and docile breed capable of laying up to 500 eggs. A US farm takes Hyline Bron birds beyond 100 weeks.

But now, US-based Egg Innovations, which has 55 laying barns and 5 pullet farms, has tackled the challenge using a Hyline Brown bird. It found that the flock was still laying at 86% at 80 weeks and was maintained fully feathered at 106 weeks.

US-based Egg Innovations has taken its flock past the 100 week mark, not with white birds, but with using a Hyline Brown bird. It found that the flock was still laying at 86% at 80 weeks and was maintained fully feathered at 106 weeks. Photo: Herbert Wiggerman
US-based Egg Innovations has taken its flock past the 100 week mark, not with white birds, but with using a Hyline Brown bird. It found that the flock was still laying at 86% at 80 weeks and was maintained fully feathered at 106 weeks. Photo: Herbert Wiggerman

Anthony Harman, head of farms at Egg Innovations, who has more than 25 years of experience in UK free-range operations, said the birds had entered lay a little under the standards for body weight for the breed. “We prepared the flock for long-cycle lay by adjusting the rations and lighting to control body weight and bringing the birds a little slower into lay to compensate. I spend a lot of time looking at the farm performance with my key staff, making changes to the nutrition and day-to-day management to help keep bird performance at its best.”

Excellent technical support

Mr Harman said he bought Hy-Line because of the excellent technical support provided by the company and a bird that delivers good shell colour, quality and low numbers of floor eggs. He added the birds had good feather cover, good size eggs, great liveability and a calm nature, which he believes will help as Egg Innovations expands its free-range operations. “Feather cover is very important to us, as it is a great representation of the health and well-being of the bird. Good feather cover also helps with feed conversion. One key thing we do is give the birds early access to the range which lowers the stocking in the barn.”

Selling free-range eggs online
New Zealand free-range layer farmer Bruce Greig was faced with a drop in demand due to Covid-19 lockdowns. He immediately started selling his eggs online and saw consumers return and his business boosted to new heights.

Meeting demand for white shell, free-range eggs

As well as having brown birds, Egg Innovations also uses Hy-Line W-36 and W-80 to meet the demand for white shell, free-range eggs. John Brunnquell, Egg Innovations founder and current president and CEO, said the firm was looking at moving forwards: “We are constantly looking to improve what we do here at Egg Innovations. We start early-on with the pullets to give them the best environment possible to thrive.

“Then, with good management, we place them in our layer barn, where we encourage early outside access and the natural behaviour of the birds.”