A longitudinal survey was conducted to investigate the presence of Brachyspira species in layer flocks. A total of 66 layer flocks kept in alternative husbandry systems were sampled at three time points: end of rearing, at peak of lay and at end of lay. Content from caecal samples of freshly killed birds was cultured at each sampling time point and processed for further investigations. Gross pathological lesions in caeca were recorded during post mortem investigation. Spirochaetes were isolated from 50 flocks: three flocks were positive at all three sampling points, 25 flocks at two and 22 flocks at one sampling point, respectively. The presence of Brachyspira spp. could not be related to specific gross pathological caecal lesions or antibiotic treatments. The number of positive flocks increased with the age of birds. Furthermore, organic flocks were more often positive than flocks from barn systems. In total 80 spirochaetal cultures were obtained. B. intermedia (43.8%) was the most common species, followed by B. pulli (13.8%) and B. pilosicoli (12.5%). Brachyspira murdochii and B. innocens were found in 5.0% and 2.5%, respectively, whereas 11.3% of Brachyspira isolates could not be identified to species level. In 11.3% of the samples mixed infections were detected. Finally, the longitudinal survey revealed for the first time a possible shift in the Brachyspira species in a substantial number (32%) of layer flocks during their lifetime.