Published 21.02.2022

Read time: {0} minute[s]

Organic egg layers: Follow the checklists to ensure a successful start of the laying period

Ensuring a proper start for organic egg-layers requires special attention which can be divided into three main phases. This article reviews the most important pieces of advice within each phase.

There has been an increase in feather pecking incidents in organic poultry in recent years. This indicates reduced welfare which can negatively affect the health of the animals and, in the worst case, result in cannibalism in the flock.

Therefore, it is important to take preventive measures. Pay close attention to how the pullets are kept in the rearing barn. The more similar the conditions are compared to those in the laying barn, the better. 

No mistakes should be made during the transfer process. If the process is lacking or takes too long, it may stress the pullets and waste the energy invested in the rearing period.  

When the hens subsequently start laying eggs, it is important to monitor the flock closely. There is a lot to be gained by spotting any problems at an early stage, so that the proper feed or management adjustments can be made before feather pecking occurs.

In the following, checklists are presented for the three phases: "before the laying period", "during transfer" and "at start-lay".

Before the laying period

Before transfer and the laying period, it is important to plan how the rearing will proceed regarding barn layout, feed, light, vaccination, and disease control in detail. The aim is to ensure that the pullets are prepared for the conditions they will be living in during the egg-laying period.

Make agreements before the rearing period starts and follow up by planning a visit by the pullet producer or send a consultant to assess the rearing facilities. The pullet producer should immediately report any unforeseen variations from the agreed rearing process, so that corrective actions in the rearing or laying barn can be made.

Make sure that the pullets are well-developed and ready for the laying period. The hens must have the appropriate body weight and be uniform, free from disease and parasites as well as properly vaccinated against any pathogens they may encounter after they are relocated.

Below is a checklist of steps to take to ensure good quality of your organic rearing facilities. If a stable and continuous egg-laying period is the goal, the list can be used to check of whether the pullet is well prepared for life as an organic hen.


  • The layout of the rearing barn, feed system, water system, flooring system, perches, etc. must resemble the laying barn as much as possible.
  • Supervision and human contact are essential for welfare.
  • The feed should include a very finely pelleted and nutrient-rich feed in the initial phase (0 – 3 weeks). In the later rearing phase (4 – 8 weeks), a slightly less concentrated feed with a coarser structure is recommended.
  • The light program (day length and light intensity) should be adapted according to genotype, season, and the egg producer's preference for large or small eggs.
  • The standard vaccination program should be followed as recommended by the poultry vet.
  • Intestinal worms and flock health are monitored by asking the pullet producer to submit manure samples for examination for worm eggs (EPG) 14 days before the transfer to the laying barn. 
  • It is recommended that the producer or a consultant visits the breeder to ensure that there is consistency between the rearing and laying barns.
  • Make proper arrangements with the carrier concerning the transfer date and procedure, including how many animals and kilos of animal are to be transported, to ensure the preparation of sufficient equipment.

During transfer

The transfer process can easily become a stressful experience for the pullet if it is not planned thoroughly. This can cause a poor start in the laying barn. It is a shame if a good flock is negatively affected by transfer.

All details of the transfer must be planned and executed well, and the moving process should also transpire as quickly and stress-free as possible. Excessive changes in the lighting period should be minimized, and the pullets should not experience prolonged thirst or hunger.


  • Prepare the barn for the arrival of the pullets. Make sure to clean the facilities and set up bedding, temperature, feeding, watering, and light according to the regulations.
  • Make sure that the work processes during the arrival are secure so that the pullets are not harmed or become infected with disease.
  • Involve enough people for the task. Catching and transfer must take place with an appropriate number of helpers, as the entire flock should preferably be moved on the same day.
  • Be attentive in the days after transfer. Immediately after receiving the flock, ensure that all pullets enter the system every evening and find feed and water.

At start-lay

A well-executed rearing and a successful transfer procedure, as described above, is a prerequisite for achieving good welfare during start-lay – and throughout the egg-laying period.

Another prerequisite is "due diligence". There must be no mistakes in the management of the chickens. Good planning and attentive workers are required in a successful laying barn.


  • Set up a good lighting system. It is required that hens have sufficient light so that they can navigate in the barn and find feed and water as well as see each other and the foraging material in the form of bedding and roughage.
  • Create a detailed feeding plan.
  • Supervise the animals’ behavior and plumage condition.
  • Dim the lights significantly if cannibalism is detected.
  • Focus on proper hygiene.
  • Monitor egg weight and -production. Sometimes future welfare problems can be spotted when notic-ing a drop in productivity.
  • Ensure regular feeding times.
  • Ensure that cleaning can be executed efficiently.

More information

More information is available in the catalog "A good start for organic egg layers" (PDF, 20 pages, Danish)

The article and catalog are produced as an activity of the project “Den gode opstart”, which is financed by Fonden for Økologisk Landbrug.