Guide to Layer Management
A secret to a successful egg production evolves around proper house preparation, a good environment, proper feed and water management and stress free birds.
Chicks must arrive in a friendly and comfortable environment. Before placing the new batch of chicks, it is necessary to remove all debris and dust left by the previous flock and put manure 300m or more from the brooder downwind. Eliminate all rodents and wild birds by fixing all holes around the house. Clean and disinfect the house, feeders, and any other equipment and rest the house for 10 days.
Before the chicks arrive it is important to preheat the house 24 hours before and to make sure that the temperature is being maintained uniformly inside the house. Chicks must have access to clean, fresh and cool water. Put a stress pack in the chicks’ first drink. Ensure sufficient watering space because water intake must not be restricted under any circumstances. On the day of arrival, there is need to be alert to signs of distress shown by the chicks. Note for any of the following
• Listless and prostrate chicks which indicates excessive heat
• Loud chirping indicates hunger or cold
• Huddling indicates excessive cold or drafts
• Pasted vents which indicate excessive heat or cold
Four environmental conditions that need continuous monitoring are space, temperature, light and ventilation. Stocking densities in the brooder should be maintained at about 142cm2/bird in a cage and 22 birds/m2 in a controlled environment. Temperature should be between 34 – 36 0C reducing it with 3 0C each week until heat is no longer needed. Sufficient light helps the chicks to locate feed and water. Adequate ventilation is important to supply fresh air and remove dust and any undesirable gases. Use a thermometer to check body temperature of chicks and an ideal temperature is between 40 and 41 degrees Celcius.
Feeding (The Profeeds way)
Feeding space must be adequate. Chicks start on a chick starter diet which is meant to give the chick a good start to life by developing the essential life support system like the circulatory and respiratory systems. This is fed for the first 8 weeks. In the growing phase, chicks are fed growers feed which is meant to finalize the development of the layer pullet into a mature laying hen. This is fed from the 9th week to the 17/18th week. Pre lay assists in the development of calcium metabolism within the bird and assists to stem the reduced daily feed intake normally associated with early production. This feed when used correctly can also enhance the uniformity of the pullet flock. It is fed from the 18th week to when egg production reaches a consistent 5% weekly production. Layer in production phase 1 mash is fed from 5% production to week 45. This is the production feed, which elicits egg production. Layer in production phase 2 is a low production feed fed from 45 weeks to when production is 60%.
Feed must be of good quality. Weigh the birds every 2 weeks to monitor growth of the birds and see if feed supply has to be altered. During laying, a decrease in feed intake decreases the egg weight and finally egg production. Overfeeding however causes overweight birds and it also affects egg production. Starving the birds automatically stresses the birds and egg production goes down.
Vaccinations and disease control
Vaccination programs depend on your area and disease exposure. It is wise to always ask your chick supplier the correct vaccination program. Always remember to vaccinate healthy birds. Vaccines are not to be diluted as this weaken the vaccine and it fails to stimulate adequate immune response in the bird. A vaccination program goes hand in hand with a deworming program to reduce the worm load in the birds.
Biosecurity has to be observed in all stages to prevent diseases. Good biosecurity practices include
• Placing a foot dip with a disinfectant at the entrance to the house
• Minimising visitors inside the house
• The brooder must be set at least 100m apart from the lay house and avoid traffic between the two.
• Dedicate clothing for the houses only
A layer project cannot be successful without proper record keeping. The following records are essential
• Live weights
• Egg weights
• Amount of feed eaten
• Feed conversion ratio
• Laying cycle records
Brought to you by our in-house expert Brenda Kandiero