Laying hens should produce excellent quality eggs if they are in good condition and receive the correct care. Poor egg quality can be a sign that something is wrong with the laying hens.
Eggshell quality is one of the most important parameters layer farmers monitor. Laying hen farmers therefore take great efforts to prevent cracked / broken eggs or dirty eggs.
Eggshell Quality Improvement: Calcium
An egg has approximately 2,3 gram of calcium in the shell and a laying hen needs to consume around 4 gram of calcium per day to maintain good shell quality and restock calcium lost from their bones.
A lower calcium intake may mean that there is insufficient calcium available for a good eggshell, which can result in cracked and broken eggs. Keep in mind that older hens require more calcium for eggshell production. Proper layer diets should supply sufficient calcium to the laying hen.
Different sources of calcium, can be utilized more / less efficiently by laying hens. Calcium carbonate (= limestone) is often the most economically attractive source of calcium. It may not always be the best source of calcium, but when used correctly it can certainly make a good contribution to the calcium supply. At Champrix, we pay a lot of attention to the choice of calcium levels, calcium sources and the way to use them in layer feeds to optimize calcium uptake in the intestines, which improves the quality of the eggshell.
Eggshell Quality Improvement: Health
Calcium absorption takes place in the intestines. Intestinal health is important to create the conditions for a high calcium absorption. Champrix rations are designed to support intestinal health and to prevent damage to the gut wall. A healthy and well-developed gut wall improves the absorption of nutrients and ensures that the nutrients in the feed become available for the laying hens.
More generally, health is important for a high eggshell quality. Health challenges are more likely to use the nutrients in the laying hen’s metabolism to cope with the challenge, rather than in the production of quality eggs.
Outer Shell Abnormalities
The first thing a consumer sees when buying an egg is the outer shell. Therefore, the quality of eggshells is important. Consider the weight, colour, shape, strength and cleanliness of the shell.
In general, laying hens are easily affected by stress or disease. Laying hens are not egg-laying machines. They are animals with needs that need to be tended to. Stress, disease or challenges will have a negative impact on shell quality.
Most common eggshell abnormalities are:
- Dirty eggs;
- Blood spots;
- Ridged/ wrinkled eggs;
- Cracked / Broken eggs;
- Eggs without a shell;
- Pink / purple eggs.
Each abnormality has its own influence factor. Th most common causes of abnormalities are:
- Wet droppings (salt water);
- Intestinal disease / health problem;
- Sudden large increase in daylight;
- Poor hygiene in cage or trays;
- Newcastle disease;
- Calcium too high;
- Too low copper;
- Age of the hen;
- Stress (heat stress);
Inner Egg Abnormalities
Eggs arrive at the consumers directly from the hen without any processing. This means that certain internal egg qualities are important, such as flavour, residues, germs, inclusions and album viscosity.
The consumer would like to have fresh eggs. To avoid rapid aging, eggs must be stored properly. The best storage condition is 18ᵒC, however if stored for ten or more days, a temperature of 10-12ᵒC is better.
Blood and flesh specks: Flesh specks are pieces of the layer that come loose in the oviduct. It occurs naturally and does not necessarily indicate poor health.
Blood in the egg means that the yolk has come loose at a place with blood vessels. This can happen naturally in healthy birds. However, be alert if you notice it happens often. Blood specks can also be caused by stress or Avian infectious bronchitis. Blood specks can be seen by candling if they are not too small.
Besides the eggshell, the colour of the yolk is also an important parameter for the quality perception of eggs by the consumers. Champrix also has supporting information available for you regarding egg yolks.