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Starting an egg farm in Queensland

Starting an egg farm requires extensive planning and capital investment.

Before establishing an egg farm you should consider:

  • your market – who will you supply to and in what quantities?
  • the distance between your farm and other poultry farms – it is a biosecurity risk to have poultry farms close together
  • types of poultry housing
  • water quality and supply
  • where you will source your birds
  • the age you will receive your birds – at day old or point of lay
  • the nutritional, health and welfare requirements of the hens
  • proximity to feed supply
  • on-farm biosecurity measures
  • other site selection and environmental requirements for starting a poultry farm
  • food safety requirements for producing safe eggs.

Registration and legal requirements

There are different legal and registration requirements to consider, depending on the size of your egg farm.

If your farm has over 100 birds, you must register with Biosecurity Queensland.

Farms with more than 1000 birds often require:

Poultry farms that supply eggs for human consumption must be registered with Safe Food Production Queensland.

Egg production

The following figures provide a snapshot of the inputs and outputs for egg production in Queensland:

  • Commercial laying hens produce eggs from approximately 18 to 78 weeks of age and usually reach peak production at about 28 weeks.
  • Feed consumption of a laying hen is 105g of feed per bird per day.
  • Water consumption is usually about 1.5 to 2 times feed intake. This will increase when the temperature is high.
  • Feed is the greatest cost in producing eggs and is estimated at approximately 50-60% of total costs.
  • Utilities (e.g. electricity and water) account for approximately 5-10% of costs.
  • Labour costs average 10% of total production costs.
  • Infrastructure costs will vary and are mostly dependent on the housing type and size chosen.

The Poultry Cooperative Research Centre video It all starts with an egg provides an overview of the egg industry and egg production.

Breeds

Many breeds are used for producing eggs. The main commercial egg layers in Australia are hybrids, a result of generations of crossing breeds such as:

  • Leghorn
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island.

The following hybrids have been selectively bred for their high egg production, reduced broodiness and efficient feed conversion. They include:

  • Hyline brown
  • Isa brown
  • Lohmann brown
  • Bonds.

Manuals on bird management are available online for commercial strains of laying hens and their requirements in different production systems.

Day olds versus point of lay

When receiving day old chickens, there are specific requirements for brooding and rearing chicks, including:

  • lighting
  • heating
  • humidity
  • nutrition.

Read the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries fact sheet Small-scale poultry keeping - brooding and rearing chickens (PDF, 85KB) for more information.

Day-old chicks will often receive vaccinations before they leave the hatchery. When rearing from day-old, you will be responsible for continuing their vaccination program until point of lay.

An alternative to rearing your own chickens is to receive point of lay pullets. Pullets are usually delivered about 2 weeks before the start of lay and depending on where you have purchased, they should have all of their relevant vaccinations.

It is important to request a certificate to verify vaccination history when purchasing your birds from a hatchery or rearing facility.

Water supply

Hens require clean, fresh drinking water that is low in salt. You also need water for cleaning, cooling and range irrigation. If the water you use for these activities is from a dam, river or tank, you will need to treat it to ensure it is free of microbial contaminants.

The National Water Biosecurity Manual Poultry Production (PDF, 1.8MB) has more information about treating water for poultry.

Housing

A variety of housing options are available for laying hens. Hens must have access to weatherproof shelter. Fully automated, climate controlled sheds provide the optimum conditions for laying hens.

Other smaller scale options may be available, however it is important to plan your housing so that:

  • there is sufficient nest boxes and space available for the hens to lay
  • there is sufficient perching space available for all hens
  • feed and water provisions are available indoors – with adequate feed and water available for the number of hens
  • there is adequate ventilation and cooling for birds
  • stocking density in the housing adheres to the minimum standards for the production system used.

Refer to the Model code of practice for poultry for specific information on the standards required.

Spent hens

At the end of the hens laying cycle, there are a number of options available for the removal of spent hens. These include:

  • on-farm euthanasia
  • removal of spent hens off-site by a third party contractor
  • composting – this can be an effective option for the disposal of spent hens and other waste product that is generated on-site.

Composting

If you are composting on-site you should erect appropriate pest animal fencing. Check with your local council, Department of Environment and Science or Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to find out if composting is allowed on your property.