Ready-to-Lay pullets are production-type females that are 18-20 weeks of age and have laid their first eggs. The birds have maximized their development in the growing barn and are able to easily adapt to life in the laying facility, whether it is cage-type, cage-free or free range. They should weigh 3.5-4 pounds.
Over the years, poultry producers have developed criteria to evaluate pullets based on characteristics that predict future production. The American Standard of Perfection is never used to evaluate production birds!
It is known that early maturing pullets produce more eggs and are productive longer than “late bloomers.” The judge assumes that the birds in the class are representative of an entire flock that is 18-20 weeks of age and are ready to be moved into the laying facility.
Therefore, young birds will be place down because they are too immature to be placed in a laying barn. Birds that are older than 20 weeks of age are down-graded because they represent a flock that will not adjust to placement in laying facilities very well.
Pigmentation, handling qualitied and abdominal capacity, vigor and vitality, and head and head parts govern the placing of egg-type pullets and will be discussed in further detail.
The percentage is determined by the impact of the characteristic on future production.
Pigmentation is the term used to describe the presence or absence of yellow pigment (xanthophyll pigment) in the skin, shanks, and feet of the egg-type hen. Hybrid layers exhibit yellow pigmentation in the skin and other parts of the body. In addition, the color of the yellow pigment may be exhibited in varying degrees of intensity.
Yellow pigment fades (bleaches) from body parts as a hen lays eggs. Therefore, the order of fading and the rate at which pigment fades are important considerations when evaluating hens. The judge will “read” pigmentation as an indicator of number of eggs a hen will lay. The further into the sequence of bleaching a pullet is at her age, the greater her laying potential.
Although pigmentation is a reasonably good indicator of egg production, it may not be entirely accurate. Factors such as body size, health of bird, feed composition, amount of pigmentation prior to laying, and environmental temperature affect rate of fading. Therefore, other selection factors may supersede the pigmentation factor.
The pigmentation in the vent, head parts, and leg parts are evaluated by the judge.
The chart below can also determine the length of past production. This is useful for culling layers that are not productive. Pigmentation returns in the same order once a hen stops laying.
The Rate at Which Body Pigments Fade
|Body Part||Total Number of Weeks to Bleach||Total Number of Eggs Laid|
|Vent||0 to 2||0 to 10|
|Eye Ring||2 to 2.5||10 to 12|
|Earlobe (white hybrid only)||2.5 to 3||12 to 15|
|Beak, 1/3 bleached (base)||3-4||15-20|
|Beak, 2/3 bleached||4-5||20-25|
|Bottom of foot||8-12||68|
|Hock and top of toes||20-30||180|
Handling Qualities and Abdominal Capacity (35%)
Handling qualities refer to the general condition of the abdomen. It is a good indicator of egg production. The abdomen of a layer is wide, soft (lacks fat), and expanded. Her pelvic bones are thin and flexible. Her vent is moist, large and oblong in shape. In contrast, the abdomen of a non-layer is narrow, hard (fatty), and contracted. Her pelvic (pubic) bones are thick and ridged. Her vent has some moistness but is small and round in shape.
Abdominal capacity of a hen is measured and expressed by one’s fingers’ width. A hen for example having a 3 fingers’ width between pelvic (pubic) bones by 4 fingers’ width between pelvic (pubic) bones is a much better than a hen that is 1 finger width by 2 fingers width.
Plumage Conditions (15%)
Production pullets should show healthy plumage, not necessarily the feather quality that exhibition poultry are required to have. The feathers that production pullets have at county fair time should be clean and well grown out. Broken, stained, and dirty feathers demonstrate lack of proper care and over-crowding. Just like a dairy cow or market hog that is shown at the fair is cared for much more intensely than an animal in the herd. Bathing your birds before the fair and oiling the legs, comb and face will show your birds best qualities.
Constitutional Vigor and Vitality (10%)
A healthy and vigorous egg-type hen produces eggs for a long time. A high quality hen is alert and has quick movements. In contrast, a non-productive pullet has a dull look in the eyes and sluggish in its movements. Birds that are cared for properly when young will be vigorous though out life. Unthrifty young birds never catch up.
Head and Head Parts and Body Type and Shape
The pullet’s eyes should be bright, alert, and round. Her beak should be short. Her skull is round and flat from side to side. Her comb and wattles should be large, bright red and glossy. They should feel velvety soft and warm when touched. A non-productive pullet’s head is oblong with eyes that are dull and sleepy. Her comb and wattles are shrunken and dull and feel rough and cool when touched.
Unlike exhibition pullets, production pullets’ type generally slopes downward from shoulders to a narrow base of the tail. Also the tail placement of production hens is typically 90 degrees or more.
Examples of High Quality Hybrid Production Type Pullets
Note the body carriage and tail placement are different from purebred exhibition pullets. Also production pullets may have been “debeaked” when young. This i the process of removing the tip of the beak to prevent cannibalism and feed waste.