Management of nesting behaviour in flocks of breeding layers

Partner(s): Novogen
Industry(ies): Laying Hens

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Floor eggs can be a serious issue in modern layers breeder production. These eggs are more likely to be contaminated, it will result in:

  • A decrease of hatchability
  • Risk of contamination in the hatchery
  • And increase the likelihood of chick omphalitis.

In this artcile, we will give you some tips which can help to optimise layer flock nesting behaviour.


Genetics play an important role in layers nesting behaviour. For instance, NOVOGEN company is a pioneer in floor system selection by RFID. This new technology allows selecting layers with the best nesting behaviour reducing risks of floor eggs.

Nonetheless, floor eggs are a multifactorial problem, which can be related to a management issue at the onset of lay or house and equipment design.After transferring the pullets to the production site, the issue of floor eggs could become stressful for farmers. At the early stage of onset of lay, it can happen that pullets do not find the nest to lay the eggs. The origin is very different depending on the type of farm, management & season…

Herebelow, is a list of tips which can help to optimise layer flock nesting behaviour:



It is necessary for the layers to achieve a correct bodyweight at the onset of lay. Small pullets have a tendency to lay on floor as they are prevented from reaching nests by dominant subjects. Therefore, it is necessary to regularly monitor the birds’ bodyweight and flock uniformity in rearing. It enables the management to be adapted in order to reach breeder growth standard. You should also, in rearing, train the pullets to move into the slat or system.


The hens can be blocked in the slats area for a maximum of one week. In this situation, be careful about nest access.


It is very important to collect floor laid eggs frequently. We recommend collecting every hour until the early afternoon. Floor eggs that are not removed become an incentive for other hens to lay in the same place. During this period, the farm attendant should try to identify those hens laying on the floor and place them onto the nests.

  • Fence: when allowed by local regulation, a fence around the outside of the litter or slatted areas and along the walls and partitions may be useful. It should be fixed at 5 cm from the wall and 12 cm above the litter.
  • Litter: depth at the onset of lay should not exceed 2-3 cm (1” max). Too much litter could be used to create a comfortable nest in the litter.
  • Lighting: Use an appropriate lighting management to ensure birds sleep on top of the system and not on the litter. It is very important to walk on the scratching area for 1 week just before the light off, grab the hens that are sleeping on the floor and place them onto the slats or system. Moreover, ensure uniform and sufficient light in the whole house. Any darker area is favourable to floor laying behaviour specially in the litter area.
  • Nest: There sould be a sufficient numbers and with an uniform repartition within the house. (Individual nest = max 6 hens for 1 hole / Family nest = max 120 hens for 1 m² of nest): Hens do not want to fight for space, therefore, if they cannot find room in the box area, they will find room on the floor.
    • Before onset of lay, some eggs can be placed in the nest at the onset of lay to attract the layers onto the nest. Moreover, place a small partition at the nest entrance in order to avoid overcrowding.
    • Comfortable floor: use material such as Astro Turf, rubber floor, litter…
    • Entrance of the nest should be well lighted and the inside of the nest darker. It is possible to usea light nest to switch on 1 hour before the house light switches on. It enables the birds which are laying earlier to find the nest. There should be no draught in the nest area.
    • For automatic nest: It is advise to open the nest 1 week before laying and run the belt at the same time that it will run during collection. To open the nest curtains 1 every 4 or 5. When possible, Open & Close the nest 30 minutes before the light on & 1 hour before the light off.
  • Drinking and feeding systems in the floor system: Feeding system should be located as high or low as possible (according to the system), to allow an easy circulation of the hens. Chain feeders can be directly fixed on the slats. It should not be located more than 2-3 metres from the nest.
  • Use disturbing tools to avoid floor eggs (Soccer balls, empty plastic bottles, pallets…).
  • Specific case of Floor-Slats system:
    • Strictly respect the proportion of 2/3 slats and 1/3 floor. 
    • Ladders can be used to facilitate access to the slats.
    • Install the drinking and feeding system in the slats area.


Nesting behaviour is a multifactorial trait. New innovative breeding technologies used by NOVOGEN improve this trait in the field. Nonetheless, there are also different levers in flock management which ensure a maximum of hens will lay in the nest. It also requires spending time in the farm, especially at the onset of lay to ensure a good starting up of the flock.

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