A high number of floor eggs – or any egg laid outside the nest – can be a serious problem for egg producers. Eggs laid in the nest have the best chance of getting to the hatchery clean and free of excess contamination. The result is a higher hatch rate, healthier chicks and better broiler stock. “Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to reducing floor eggs. Many times a producer will do an excellent job of providing exactly what a hen requires to lay her eggs in a nest, but she will continue to lay eggs on the floor,” said Pete Sbanotto, Cobb500 Product Manager. “However, the technical service team members at Cobb share many of the best practices we’ve learned with farmers to help them produce more viable eggs and increase their profit.” Here, we provide the Top 10 Management Tips for reducing floor eggs, in order of the birds’ life stages: 1. Train pullets to jump up to the slat level. Place non-functional slats or perch rails in the rearing house when pullets are between three and 10 weeks old to teach them how to jump up as early as possible. 2. Ensure that the slatted area is the proper height. Make sure slatted areas are not too tall; 8-10 inches is a good height. Anything taller will discourage birds from jumping from the floor (“scratch area”) to the nest area. 3. Encourage pullets to move off the floor and onto the slats. Walking slowly down the scratch area several times during the first two to three days after transfer to the production house is an excellent technique to drive birds up onto the slats while causing very little stress on the flock. 4. Reduce floor shavings. Reduce the amount of shavings on the floor to less than two inches deep to discourage the birds from laying their eggs anywhere other than in the nest. 5. Allow pullets to explore nests before they start to lay. Open the nests at least a week prior to the first egg, giving the pullets time to try them out and feel comfortable using them. 6. Provide the proper number of individual nests or community nest space for hens during peak production. Aim for a maximum of 5.5 hens per “nest hole” when using standard nests to make sure each hen has a place to lay her egg when it is time. Once a hen lays her egg somewhere, she has claimed that spot as her own and will return to it to lay all her subsequent eggs. Community-type nests can accommodate up to 48 females per meter (length) of the nesting chamber. 7. Remove floor eggs early and often. Walk through the house to remove eggs from the floor. Place floor eggs in empty nests to entice hens to lay their eggs next to the other eggs. Most nests today use a mechanical system to collect eggs, gently rolling them out of the nest box, onto a fabric or plastic belt and into a central gathering place. For farmers using mechanical systems, the following steps help pullets adapt to this technology: 8. Gradually acclimate pullets to egg-gathering belts. Early on, the belt’s vibration may scare pullets off the nest. Gradually increase the frequency and speed of operation to acclimate the birds. 9. Maintain the flap separating nest areas from the belt. With time, the thin canvas flap separating the nest area from the belt tends to curl up, exposing the moving belt and scaring the hens. Replace the flaps as necessary to keep the birds calm. 10. Regularly clean the belt to remove odors. As the nest system ages, dirt, dust and broken egg residue collect on the belt, which creates an unpleasant odor. It is best to thoroughly clean or replace the belt between each flock. Replace belts when the edges get frayed. Manual-gathered nest systems used in houses without slats (“floor operation”) require an entirely different hen house layout. In this layout, nests (“nest boxes”) are located directly on the floor at the beginning of the production period. There should be no gap beneath the nest box and the floor where a hen could lay her egg. The nests are raised off the floor in a slow, programmed way over several weeks to reduce the number of floor eggs. Lighting should be located in such a way as to eliminate shadows. “The floor egg conversation is also evolving to include factors such as ventilation and lighting. We’re learning more about how nest temperatures or drafty areas affect the hens while in the nest. Lighting intensity and light distribution are also important for eliminating shadows and potential alternate nesting sites,” noted Sbanotto. Steps taken early go a long way in minimizing floor eggs, but proper management throughout the life of the flock is very important. For more information on proper egg handling, visit Cobb’s Management Guide library.