Floor egg percentages are always a point of attention in hatching egg production with floor housing systems. Although with floor housing we cannot totally avoid them, the level of floor eggs can vary significantly between farms, houses, systems etc, based on factors as training of the birds, house lay out and laying nests.
Although the percentage of floor eggs will differ from house to house and from flock to flock, we usually see that some systems and equipment have a tendency to produce more floor eggs then others. Obviously the birds accept some systems and nests better than others. Without going into the differences between systems on the market, the question is always what an acceptable general floor egg percentage is, and at what level corrective actions as investments in other systems should be considered.
In my perception, a floor egg percentage up to 2% is still acceptable. We know that with good nests which are placed properly and with a good drinking, lighting and training systems average percentages below 1% are possible, but as long as a long term trend of a maximum of 2% floor eggs is achieved, I do not consider corrective action to be necessary. 2 to 4% floor eggs can incidently happen (bad luck), but if the floor egg percentage is structually higher we should consider corrective actions. This is not so much due to the extra labor involved in collecting, but its more an economical feasibility.
From research and practical observations we know that approximately 25 to 35% of the floor eggs are lost. The eggs that do survive have a lower hatchability due to contamination. Approximately 20-30% of the floor eggs do not hatch, due to an increase in early, middle and late deads as well as in percentage of culls. On top of that the contaminated eggs (bangers) will have a negative influence on chick quality of the other eggs, due to the increased bacterial load. This results for instance in more leg problems and more omphalitis (navel/yolk sac mortality).
It is therefore reasonable to estimate the value of a floor egg to be not higher than 50% of a clean nest egg. That is actually rather optimistic, as not only the loss of eggs and poor hatchability should be taken into account, but also the poor chick quality and increased mortality on the broiler. Also the number of dirty eggs and cracked eggs in the nests itself will depend on the quality of the nests, but we don’t take this into account at this moment.
But if we take the 50% value as a starting point, it means that with every floor egg we lose 8-10 euro cent (value of a hatching egg 16 to 20 cents, depending on the market). An automatic (mechanical) laying nest costs approximately 4-5 euro investment per bird, and with an economical life span of 10 years the costs will be 40-50 eurocent per bird per year.
A good laying nest will give approximately 1% floor eggs (if the set up and lay out of the house is correct). If a bird produces 180-200 eggs per year (so not per flock, as a flock is only in production for 40 weeks and we have to calculate with 52 weeks minus down time is approximately 48 weeks production), it means that every extra percent floor eggs costs 2 floor eggs with a loss of 10 eurocent each, which means 20 euro cent in total. It means that an increase of 2% in floor eggs costs 2 x 20 cent = 40 euro cent per bird, which is equal to the cost of the nest per year per bird. So with 2% extra floor eggs, the nests has to be for free to make it economical feasible, every level higher than 2% extra will cost money even if the nests are for free (for instance after the economical life span).
So the maximum acceptable level of floor eggs is 2-3%, because above 3% the nests has to be for free to make it economically feasibile, if 1% is the standard and we do not calculate with loss of performance of the broilers. As the broiler is losing performance, 2% floor eggs is the absolute maximum level that we can consider economically acceptable.
That means that nest systems that can be expected to give more than 2% floor eggs should not be considered for broiler breeders. Which nest systems that will be depends of course on design, personal opinion, set up of the house, training in rearing etc. But it is important to realize that the choice for a nest system should be based on economical parameters, in which saving of labor and purchase price are probably the least important ones.