Floor eggs = downgrades = less value = less profit.
Good early management and sufficient extra labour input will reduce floor egg numbers. Layer flocks should be able to achieve < 0.5% floor eggs at peak. But what are the key aspects of management that will help you reach this target?
Rearing experience: provide access to perches by 4 weeks of age to train birds to jump. Where possible use the same equipment in rear and lay (feeders, drinkers, lighting etc). Avoid rearing in cages.
Laying house design: use the same equipment in lay as in rear (feeders, drinkers lighting etc). Ensure birds have easy access to nests and provide perches/rails. Position drinker lines near to nests (~60-70 cm away); lines must be at the correct height. Provide 1m2 communal nest per 120 hens or 1 individual nest for every 7 hens. Consider blocking off corners, side walls and partition fronts until nesting is well established.
Laying shed environment: nests should be draft free and lighting in the shed uniform with no shadowing. Having dawn to dusk simulation will encourage natural behaviours.
Nest training: transferring pullets from 16 weeks of age will ensure birds have plenty of time to find nests before they start to lay. Do not open nests too early before expected onset of lay. Keep nests clean and start to run the egg collection belt before first egg so hens can get used to the noise. If nests have a closure system, ensure nests are opened 2 hrs before lights on and 1 hour before lights go off.
Early lay management: between housing the new pullets and peak production, walk the house regularly picking up any floor eggs found; for the first 8 weeks after transfer the more this is done the better. During peak egg production the shed should be walked every 30 mins or so. Lift any hens attempting to lay on the floor into a nest. Ensure that the timing of feeding does not create a barrier to laying and consider lifting hens off the litter at night for the first week after transfer to get them used to roosting off the litter and near the nests.