Analysing Calcium Absorption in Poultry

Justin Jones, 16, shared a chapter of his intensive research with us as his entry in this year’s Syd Smith Memorial Young Bird Keeper Writing Competition. He won joint first place with this entry.


The main goal in the poultry industry, and indeed aviculture, is to maintain genetic diversity and to maximise yield from the birds while reducing or eliminating health defects and/or illnesses in the birds during and after the laying period. One of the most studied, yet least known-about topics in aviculture is calcium in association with the availability of Vitamin D3 sources from UVB sunlight (EDIS 2015).

Due to consumer awareness of where and how our food is grown, there has been an intensification of the preference for free-range eggs. This is becoming an ever more prevalent aspect of modern society. As a consumer of the 21st Century, choice has become a tool to fight against unethical and immoral practices. According to TNFE 2017, the majority of consumers say that free-range poultry meat and eggs taste much nicer than caged battery hen eggs and bird housed this way appear to have a miserable existence, therefore advertising campaigns encourage consumers to support their local free-range farmers. 

According to Hen Welfare 2017, more than 90% of eggs sold in Australia are free-range. Many poultry farmers say that allowing their birds to have access to grass and sunlight improves their health and that this way of farming is ethical and meets expectations of consumer selection.

To see the whole article, see Australian BirdKeeper Magazine Vol 31 Issue 4.

Meet Justin Jones:

There is simply nothing better than waking up early every morning, boiling the kettle and finally seeing those beautiful birds go about their daily routines—scurrying from shrub to shrub, flying from the small stream to their intricate nests.

Hi, my name is Justin Jones. I am 16 years old and I originate from the beautiful sub-Saharan plains of Southern Africa (a bird-lover’s paradise). 

My love for birds started as far back as I can remember. My great grandfather (an avid breeder of birds of all shapes and sizes) would take me down to a lake with a container full of seed, and we would feed the Guinea Fowl, the ubiquitous Egyptian Geese, and the Glossy Starlings, if we were lucky.

But one moment in my life truly got me hooked on aviculture. When I was about four years old, my dad built me my first beautiful planted aviary; fitted out with some shrubs, a pond and of course birds. I can’t recall having any problems except for the inevitable mice problem that we all seem to combat when first starting. But other than that, there wasn’t any major issue with my set-up.

In South Africa, we were truly blessed with the abundance of beautiful waxbills and members of the weaver family available at dirt-cheap prices. A pair of Violet-eared Waxbills would fetch on average about R140—that is AUD14 for a pair of Violet-eared Waxbills! As well as this, I grew up with Red Bishops, Swee Waxbills and Blue-capped Cordon Bleus, all flying around my garden like Noisy Miners here in Australia.

Of course, I only realised how much I took all those birds for granted when I moved to Brisbane. But just like South Africa, we have absolute jewels flying around the creeks and mountain-to-mangrove corridors here in Australia. Finches and softbills are so beautiful and delicate. I often think to myself, ‘yes, I left those amazing birds behind, but look at what I have come to—Australia, the land of birds!’