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Nutrient check list

Nutritional factors are often suspected as a prime cause of shell-quality problems. If such problems occur, check the following list of nutrients which play an important role in shell quality:


Calcium intake should be between 3.8 and 4.2 g per bird and per day, and be maintained by adjusting the diet formulation or by the use of calcium ‘icing’ (sprinkling large particles of a calcium source on top of feed in troughs), starting 2 weeks before lay.


Total phosphorus intake should be below 0.8 g per bird and per day. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be as near 6:1 as practical.

Vitamin D3

Most custom-made premixes are adequate (2500–3500 IU/kg feed) in this vitamin, but high storage temperatures, long periods in storage and poor mixing may result in deficiencies. Products such as ROVIMIX® Hy•D® might be considered to complement the vitamin D3 supply of laying hens.


Problems can arise if intakes are greater than 0.7 g per bird and per day. Calcium sources that contain magnesium, particularly dolomitic limestones, can result in magnesium levels that are too high.


An excess of chloride in hot weather may increase shell-quality problems. Dietary chloride should not exceed 0.25%.

Saline water

Relatively low levels of excess salts in drinking water can increase the incidence of cracked and broken eggs within one week of exposure. For example, the ability of the bird to produce normal egg shells is permanently affected by levels of sodium chloride from as low as 200 mg/L.

Note that the actual intake of the nutrient is important, not just the proportion of a nutrient in the diet. For example, if calcium is included in a diet at 4.0%, but the hen is consuming only 90 g of feed per day, its actual intake is 4.0/100 x 90 = 3.6 g of calcium per day. Intake can be affected by the energy level of the diet, the breed of hen, the stage of production, and the environmental temperature. (High shed temperatures can also decrease the efficiency with which the hen uses the nutrients she does consume.)

© The State of Queensland, Australia (through its Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries) and DSM Nutritional Products Ltd., 2007. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with prior written permission of Director, Intellectual Property Commercialisation Unit, Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries, GPO Box 46 Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 4001, and DSM Nutritional Products Ltd.
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