When a farmer keeps layers, he expects eggs to start coming slightly after the fourth month.
However, according to experts, there are several things that farmers must do if the chickens are to lay good eggs and lay them consistently.
By four months, the genital organs are nearly fully developed and the hen is ready to start laying eggs.
“The transition between rearing the bird to laying is important,” Dr Samuel Ssewagudde, who works with Trouw Nutrition, Netherlands and Champrisa International, says.
“Farmers must note that feeding constitutes over 60% production costs for poultry. So, if they do not apply it well, it causes a big loss,” Ssewagudde says.
The nutritional requirements for layers are different, if the hen is already in full production. In modern poultry, there is a transitional mix that was formulated to stimulate calcium absorption, guarantee intestinal health and overcome the stress of transition.
Experts note that feed intake at the start of production will determine the egg size in week 30. Farmers are advised to feed the pre-layer, until 20% production.
Around this laying percentage, a switch to layer feed is necessary due to the calcium required for egg production.
Ingredients include maize or wheat bran, cotton seed and fish or soya.
“For layers, the feeding schedule is even more important,” Ssewagudde says.
He advises that farmers need to give 50% of the feeds in the first schedule between 6:00am and 7:00am. The second feeding is carried out at around midday and this should be at least 25% of the day’s feeds.
The last feeding should be made at around 4:00pm, two hours before sunset.
He explains that because the egg production process is largely at night, it is important that layers are fed on feeds with ingredients that enable egg shell production, especially calcium.
“Science has proved that eggs are formed at night. It is, therefore, important that layers are fed with feeds that have calcium during the last schedule of feeding. This should be at least two hours before sunset,” Ssewagudde says.
He explains that the hens will then utilise it to make egg shells.
The intake of feeds depends on the availability of water. The water provided must be clean, cool and fresh.
Points of attention:
Keep the water storage cool. Provide a roof above the tank to prevent the water from warming up in the sun. Cool water keeps the chicken cooler and reduces the risk of bacteria and algae developing in water.
Bacteria cause diseases that may affect the chickens.
Keep the drinkers clean. If you use nipples, check each nipple regularly. Dirty nipples may create bases for disease-causing bacteria. Nipples can be checked by unscrewing them from the pipes. A chicken without water will eventually moult. Shortage of water will reduce the feed intake, resulting in lower production.
Clean and regularly rinse the pipes if you are using an automatic drinking system. Check the water quality at various spots in the line. Take samples, put them in a clear bottle and place them in the sun for a few days.
If one of the bottles shows algae growth or becomes turbid, the pipes need to be rinsed. This is done by opening the taps at high pressure and letting water flow through the pipes.
Clean the drinkers every day, and not only when the pipes get dirty. The drinkers are a source of potential contamination.
Remove manure and litter from the drinkers and clean them thoroughly, regularly. Clean them with soap and clean water.
Ssewagudde says it is important to set up the feeders properly if the chicken are to feed well.
Use enough feeders, otherwise chicken with a lower rank will not be able to eat. Feeder to chicken ratio should be around one feeder to 15 chickens.
Make sure that the chickens have feeds in their feeders. The amount of feeds per day depends on the number of chickens in the house.
For example, if a layer takes an average of 140 grammes per day, this amount is multiplied by the number of chickens in the house and served in two shifts in a day.
Make sure the chickens have feeds available immediately after the lights are turned on at around 6:00am, because they will instinctively be looking for something to eat when the lights come on.
Prevent spilling of feeds by using feeders with a curved upstanding border. Spilling of feeds reduces profit and stimulates pests, such as rodents.