Can you keep broiler chickens for eggs?
Broiler chickens are a breed of chicken that is specifically bred for meat production. They are raised for a short period of time, usually around 6-7 weeks, before being processed for their meat.
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Broiler chickens are known for their rapid growth, and they are usually much larger and heavier than other breeds of chickens and it is this size and weight that stops them from being good layers.
Do broiler chickens lay eggs?
All broiler hens are capable of laying eggs, it is just that many of them never do because they do not get the chance. Broilers tend to be slaughtered for meat before they ever get to egg laying age.
I tried rearing a few broiler hens and a cockerel on to egg laying age a few years ago as I wanted to try and produce my own flock of meat chickens.
Egg production decreases with obesity and keeping broilers at their optimal weight is very hard work. To top it all I discovered that broilers lay eggs far less frequently than other breeds and because the birds are so big and heavy they often break their eggs in the nests.
You will not be able to keep them free range or mix them with your other chickens. Broilers have no chance of getting away from any predator and will eat ad lib until they get fat if given enough food.
Broilers often get picked on and bullied by other chickens as well as suffer a higher mortality and injury rate.
It got worse when I tried to hatch broiler eggs, fertility is really bad and you need to keep a high percentage of cockerels to hens and because the chicks grow so fast they seem to struggle when hatching.
You will need to keep your broilers on a strict diet to prevent them becoming obese. You have to be careful not to let birds you plan to breed grow too quickly, but other than that the mechanics are just like any other chicken.
Good reasons not to keep broilers for egg purposes:
- The large heavy hens are clumsy and often break the eggs,
- Feed efficiency is terrible in broilers making them expensive to keep,
- Broilers are slow to mature and rarely begin to lay eggs before 26 weeks of age,
- Meat chickens have considerable health issues as they age and grow,
- They stand no chance of ever getting away from a predator,
- Fertility is really bad, often less than 50%,
- You can not keep them free range,
- You can not mix them with your other chickens,
- The birds are dirty and often soil the nests and eggs,
- The size of the cockerels means they are almost never able to fertilise the eggs,
- Nests have to be bigger and on the floor,
- Hatch rates are often as low as 20%,
- Meat chickens never live more than 3 years, even under ideal conditions,
- Broilers kept for egg need special feed to stop them getting fat,
- They never lay a decent number of eggs, the most I have ever had is 140 a year,
- Broilers like the Cornish cross are poor foragers.
Chicken breeds that are raised for their eggs typically lay between 250 and 350 eggs per year under ideal condition and begin laying at 20 to 24 weeks of age. It costs nearly three times as much to raise a broiler to egg laying age as it does a layer.
Broiler chickens are not bred for egg production and unlike other chicken breeds that are specifically bred for egg production, broiler chickens are bred for meat. Therefore, they may not produce as many eggs as other breeds.
Broiler chickens may have health issues: Because broiler chickens are bred for meat, they are often prone to health issues such as heart disease and obesity. These health issues can affect their egg production and overall health.
Joint and bone development is a problem when keeping broiler chickens to laying age, these birds are not bred to grow that big and struggle to get around. They also injure themselves easily.
Can you eat broiler eggs and what do they taste like?
Eggs from broiler chickens are edible and taste like any other egg from chickens. The yolks are often quite pale.
I have eaten quite a few broiler eggs over the years as they often crack them in the nests meaning they have to be consumed immediately.
Broiler eggs are a little rounder and less pointed than ordinary chickens eggs but otherwise look and taste the same.
Backyard broiler chickens usually enjoy longer lives and do not suffer in cramped quarters like commercial broiler chickens, but they are still typically not allowed to live out their full lives before being killed and eaten.
Factors affecting broiler chicken egg production:
Genetics: Broiler chickens are bred specifically for meat production, not egg production. As a result, their genetics may not be optimised for egg-laying capabilities.
Diet: Like all chickens, broiler chickens require a balanced diet in order to lay eggs. If they are not receiving the proper nutrients, their egg production may suffer.
Lighting: Chickens require a certain amount of daylight in order to lay eggs. If they are not receiving enough light, their egg-laying capabilities may be reduced.
Stress: Chickens, like all animals, can become stressed under certain conditions. If broiler chickens are experiencing high levels of stress, their egg-laying capabilities may be reduced.
Make sure your broiler chickens are receiving a balanced diet that includes all the necessary nutrients for egg production.
Make sure your chickens are receiving enough daylight in order to lay eggs. You can use artificial lighting to supplement natural light if necessary.
Try to create a low-stress environment for your chickens. This can be done by providing adequate space, minimising disturbances, and keeping their living conditions clean and comfortable.
If you're interested in maximising egg production, consider cross-breeding your broiler chickens with other breeds that have stronger egg-laying capabilities.
You could use Bresse or Orpington cockerels to breed with your broiler hens, the result would be a better layer while still having the qualities of a meat bird.
In summary, broiler chickens do lay eggs, but their egg-laying capabilities are generally lower than other breeds of chickens. There are several factors that can affect their egg production, including genetics, diet, lighting, and stress.