The Chook Feed (Blog)
Show current content as RSS feed

The Chook Feed (Blog)

Bellsouth Chicken and Poultry Blog. Information on keeping Chickens, also available at The Chook Feed (Farmer Little).

Published on by

Improving Egg quality

Geneticists can help improve cage-free production, welfare

Genetic selection has changed over time to adapt to the needs of the egg industry, customer demands, housing laws and animal welfare improvements.

Meredith Johnson

May 5, 2023

Genetic selection has changed over time to adapt to the needs of the egg industry, customer demands, housing laws and animal welfare improvements.

An overview of the geneticist’s role in supporting the egg industry’s future goals and requirements was given by David Cavero Pintado, of genetics company H&N International, at 2023 PEAK, a poultry production tradeshow held in in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Egg quality

Through the work of geneticists, the productive life of layers has increased, not only in terms of production persistency, but in terms of eggshell quality towards the end of production, explained Pintado.

Specifically, eggshell strength is of interest to geneticists at the end of the laying period because shell quality tends to decrease after peak production. Eggshell strength is of importance to prevent waste and contamination.

Therefore, many geneticists are currently selecting birds with sufficient feed intake capacity (FIC) according to egg mass production because a low FIC may compromise the performance of hens under hot conditions and result in weaker eggshells.

Animal welfare

Geneticists are selecting for a calmer bird that is less prone to feather pecking to help satisfy animal welfare requirements.

“Selecting for better behavior can help lower mortality and improve calmness and feather coverage,” Pintado added.

To help with this, geneticists are selecting for birds with good bone quality to prevent possible fractures that can occur from collisions in cage-free houses, which is an animal welfare concern. Bone stability has a moderate amount of heritability and has been integrated in layer hen breeding programs, he explained.

Alternative systems

Customer commitments and housing laws have forced egg producers to convert to cage-free systems. In turn, geneticists are selecting for bird strains with a higher livability in these environments, compared to conventional systems, explained Pintado. 

Additionally, in alternative systems, issues can arise if birds are eating and drinking different amounts due to their varying activity levels, said Pintado. Therefore, geneticists are selecting for better feed efficiency to help produce a breed that can adapt to varying caloric intakes or activity levels and still perform well.

Read entire post
Published on by

Roll away nest boxes help keep your eggs cleaner

Read entire post: Roll away nest boxes help keep your eggs cleaner

Roll away nests have proved to be a hit in Australia

It is interesting to see how many sheds for small home flocks of just a few layers or a few bantams have a tray sitting on the perches for a nest. Roll away nest boxes help keep your eggs cleaner and safer. The normal rule of thumb for chicken nest boxes is one chook nest for 5 birds. Many backyard poultry keepers will need only one nest box. We can help with rollaway nest boxes to suit up to 50 birds, or indeed more.

Nest Boxes with rollaway eggs allow the eggs to stay clean, stop chooks eating their own eggs, stop crows etc from stealing eggs, keep the egg cleaner. We have a wide range of chicken nesting boxes, and almost all include rollaway egg functions.

This encourages the birds to sleep in the nest at night. The birds excrete 40% of their manure at night and this ends up in the nest. The result: dirty eggs.


Made of thick quality plastic, they are easy to clean, easy to mount, and ideal for the mini flock. When mounting nests it is essential that the nests be lower in height than the perches. This is so hens will be reluctant to sleep in the nests. The nests will be left closed when the birds are young, before they come in to lay. So the birds will learn to perch at night. If the nest is to be placed near the perches, it is a good idea to make an anti-perch plate so birds will not perch on top of the nests at night.

Always mount the nest below and away from the perches (or make sure you lock the nest box EVERY night). Always close the nest when you have young birds before the commencement of lay. Train the birds to perch so they will not sleep in the nest. If the birds might perch on top of the nest, tack a piece of metal or wood above the nest so they cannot perch on the nest.

Perches are higher than the nesting box so it remains clean.


Read entire post
Published on by

Poultry Faring Well

Read entire post: Poultry Faring Well

Some things work in reverse. An idea to improve outcomes, like poultry welfare, can lead to just the opposite. One of the issues I have noticed is the push for better poultry welfare by large shops, or more accurately, the perception of better poultry welfare. Better welfare is a noble aim and one we should all aim for, but when there are blunt rules, the unfortunate and real possibilities are that such rules can badly affect poultry welfare. Added into this are activist groups whose goals are more to do with ending animal ownership, than animal welfare and we have issues.

Consider this: A large shop insists, based on its own version of poultry welfare, without consulting industry, that its suppliers must now supply more perch space for chooks. OK that sounds fine and reasonable. The prices they offer their supplier does not increase to cover the extra costs. Cost free improvements (for the large shop), “guilt” allayed, and a possible advertising moment explaining on how the large shop (not the supplier) is improving poultry welfare! Or has it?

The large shop has not compensated the farmer for the extra costs involved, what can the farmer do? Reduce flock size: Probable Result; slowly go out of business!

  • Drop out and supply someone else, not easy at all! See number 1 results
  • Provide decent perches and wear the cost, possibly see number 1 results
  • Find alternatives, basically low cost compliance to this new rule.

One could suspect number 4 will be chosen, and why not! Adhere to this new rule, keep your flock size, and keep your customer. But what’s the cheap alternative? Salaries make DIY expensive and purpose made perches cost money!

Number 4 lets the chickens perch on the nipple lines, which is opposite to the normal practice. Without much effort, or money spent, we have the perch space!

What about welfare?

The Chooks now have more space to perch, rule followed…but those chooks on the nipple line have a narrow round, mostly metal pipe to perch and sleep on. Bumble Foot anybody? Disrupted sleep anybody?

An increased chance that poo goes into the splash cups, where chickens occasionally drink dribbles and drops from chicken drinker nipples, not great!

One fact is true, welfare costs!

If the large shop doesn’t pay, if the poultry farmer doesn’t pay, and the consumer doesn’t pay, then the chicken pays!

The same equations relate to backyard poultry keepers and the fancy. Faced with rules, and hopefully, a will to do the right thing, there are decisions to make and some compromise as well. Your time manually feeding chickens versus some automation; Automation allows some ease but may stop you observing your flock as much, perhaps! Making a great Chook pen versus buying one that will just do the job, if you’re lucky?

Keeping poultry, and good stockmanship costs time and money, either upfront or over the long run. Doing things well can actually save both time and money in the long run and have better welfare outcomes, but blunt rules made up to satisfy an activist group, the media hounds or perceived guilt are unlikely to save money, or time or have good welfare outcomes for poultry.

This article is also available on the Bellsouth News page, it’s downloadable there as well.

Read entire post
Published on by

Questions and Answers about Incubators

Read entire post: Questions and Answers about Incubators

Questions and Answers about Incubators, Which Incubator is best for me?

We are asked a great number of questions about incubators and incubation, some customers expect us to sell sell sell an incubator to them. We allow you to buy an incubator, when you want to, without pressure,  based on factual information, and which is as objective as we can make it. Given we sell and support certain brands, not all brands of Incubator, Bellsouth also make the Bellsouth 100 Incubator, so we are fairly biased towards it and our other egg incubator machines. We are more biased towards making sure we have provided accurate information.

Questions that don't help

  • Whats the hatch rate of such and such a machine?

​Answer!, How long is a length of string! Whilst this question seems OK and will start a conversation it is very difficult to answer!  Hatch rate with whose eggs? When?. There are too many variables to answer the question properly. A suitable answer is - Whats the hatch rate of your eggs!, but we usually aswer this by saying the machines maintain what they need to maintain to allow a good hatch. All Bellsouth Incubators work and work well, they have a great following, but hatch rate depends upon the stockmanship of the user, that are their observation skills, the care and cleanliness of the machine, the observation skills and proactive attention the owner of the eggs applies to the task. The hatch rate depends upon the breding flock, the diet, the breed and the ambient temperature an Relative humidity. The hatch rate depends also on the Incubator's ability to turn the eggs (or you can) maintain temperature and maintain and alter if need be the Relative humidity. So if someone quotes a hatch rate, it is for them, their birds at that time, with their skills and their incubator.

  • Is this a set and forget incubator?

​Asking an Incubator shop salesperson this question sets of warning bells. Is this customer interested?, is this customer interested enough to engage and make sure they have success?, and how do I answer this customer without simply saying "absolutly not!".  Ok we are dealing with life and death , with an animal in your care being incubated by electromechanic means in order to achieve a lovely live and healthy hatched animal. A Egg Incubator can help and automate, but an incubator is just a machine, the user and controller of the proces is you. If you are, personally, set and forget yourself, then you may well expect an incubator to be set and forget, but people also (you) need input, guidance, monitoring and maintenance otherwise things go wrong, plus things can go wrong anyway. If you are too busy then perhaps you are too busy for the incubation process. Please find a friend to help, please monitor the process, please be prepared for a successful hatch. We have some machines that do a lot but none are set and forget. You will need to clean them as well, so incubation is not over until a machine is cleaned, disinfected and dried and put away, not before the chicks are made comfortable in a brooder with good chicken feed in a good feeder and clean water and brooder for heat.

Questions that help

Incubator capacity: how many eggs do you want to hatch?

Incubator type:  Fan forced, still air, cabinet or bench style? A still air is more like a chook, fan forced allows different sized eggs in the cabinet, cabinet style ( larger, often tilt the eggs), bench style is often smaller and often roll the eggs.

Egg Turning: Does the incubator turn eggs? How?, does it tilt or turn?, do you care? If you have large eggs will the machine turn the eggs well enough for the embryo to have a feed. If the eggs are small, i.e quail, will the eggs turn too much? unlikely but some incubators can adjust the turning amount.For example the Bellsouth 100 Auto turning incubator and the pro versions of Rcom Incubators.

Ease of use: Is the machine easy to use?, can you see the chicks hatch?, do you care if you can see this? Is the machine easy enough to clean?

Features: Some incubators, i.e Rcom incubators nearly all have automatic humidification built into the machine and built into the cost of the machine. Some Incubators have inbuilt water tanks, some have external water pumps (this means tubes and a container somewhere). Some Incubators use evaporation to humidity some, like Rcom incubators actively create humidity in the cabinet. Some featurees have consequences, what are they? Rcom Incubators should have distilled water in use for example, so the humidification element does not corode, some have evaporative pads which are a consumable, i.e Rcom 10 pro incubator.

Consider a hatcher for cleaner incubation: If you hatch in an incubator you are making it more difficult to clean and also more difficult to get great hatching. Consider this when you are buying. For example if you are setting and hatching at the same time and hatch a chick hatched and an egg with some poo on it, then the chaces of cross contaomiation is greater, it is also greator simply during setting if you have dirty eggs. Remember an incubator is perfect for growing bacteria.

Support of the seller: As a seller we are not perfect but we make a lot, I mean a lot of effort to help you. This means training of staff and having staff available to help. We also have technical staff for repairs. Consider this as part of your decision as well.

Cost:  Cost is subjective and personal consideration

Hopefully this helps a litte, for more information please take a look at the following - Choosing an incubator


Read entire post
Published on by

Handy and decent information from Bellsouth

Read entire post: Handy and decent information from Bellsouth

We at Bellsouth have always provided information to Australians trying to encourage people to get into chooks. This ranged from a onsite print press in the 1980's, a backyard poultry club before the internet existed and during a time when keeping chickens was definetly a pastime for farmers, fanciers and poor people, it was definetly not a pastime of urban dwellers at that time. Much has changed but one thing hasn't Bellsouth still provides information. This information is largely solid and doesn't change with trends or whats may be selling online or what people think is a funky new product. Chickens and poultry need the same things as ever.

Good access to clean quality food and water (not just grass and scraps), good accommodation (an ongoing issue), well considered equipment such as feeders and chicken drinkers , installed in the correct places to enable a peaceful flock and clean eggs. Bellsouth is naturally involved with incubation of eggs, from export to China of large scale, Bellsouth made and designed (yes in Australia) incubators in the 1990s to making our own small incubator for 35 years, again here in Australia. We also made an app to help people globally track their incubation batches and understand incubation and chicken raising neccessities more. We also import quality goods from a wide range of manufacturers world wide, we don't tend to buy gear and re-label it, trying to imply we made it. If we do make it we say so, if not, we are clear where things come from. People may notice Bellsouth gear is not the absolute cheapest on the market, that's because it is highly likely it is not the cheapest gear in Australia, that is not our goal, poultry deserve better than this and so do our customers, we focus of gear that does the job and lasts. We are interested in sustainability( poultry being an important part of this) and cheap gear most often does not meet quality and sustainability expectations we have. 

But back, to information we supply, please check it out, most is downloadable and printable but it may not look mega funky, however it is a collection of real information on poultry.

Here we will try a blog on the eshop again, after a rebuild. We have had a Blog before but it seemed superflous given we have a large section on information pages on two websites for example:

Bellsouth Information pages on our eshop


Bellsouth Resources on our information webpages


News feeds in relation to poultry internationally and Australia wide, and a separate Blog.

Thanks, from Simon

Read entire post