Egg production: On draughts and egg laying problems

Question: I use batteries for my layer chickens – they’re in a shed that has doors on both sides. The doors are kept open during the day, but closed at night. For the last while it sounds as if my hens have a “cold”. Could this be due to a draught from the doors that stand open by day, or because the doors are closed at night?

There should always be clean, fresh air within the shed, but you should avoid draughts. Remember, too, that when you close the doors at night, you cut off the fresh air and that, especially in winter, ammonia will build up in the shed.

Ammonia damages the respiratory systems of hens and this could result in the hens coughing and gurgling. The cough could also be caused by infectious bronchitis or Newcastle disease.


  • Ensure that the shed is never closed completely and that there are no draughts reaching the hens. There should be air movement at all times.
  • Remember that the hens are well-covered in feathers and can cope with the cold – within reason.
  • Ensure that you vaccinate the hens regularly against infectious bronchitis and Newcastle disease; at least every 6 weeks. The vaccines are available as a combination in one vial.
  • The vaccines can be applied as a spray using distilled water and a clean new garden sprayer, which should be used only for vaccination. This is the best and easiest way to vaccinate layers.
  • The vaccine may also be applied as an eye drop, using distilled water and an ordinary dropper.
  • The vaccine could also be administered via the water, but the water lines have to be emptied first and the hens must go thirsty for about an hour.
  • The vaccine is then prepared in sufficient clean potable water to last about an hour and the hens are allowed to drink.
  • After this, the water supply can be opened again so that fresh water becomes available.

Also read:
Poultry production: Vaccines – Newcastle disease
Poultry production: Why do chickens eat their own eggs?
Poultry production: How to determine the sex of chickens

  • This article was written by dr. Mick Versfeld and first appeared in Farming SA.

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