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In the past 11 years that Vet Okuta Ngura has been in the livestock industry has received so many calls from poultry farmers in Kenya and East Africa with some complaining about low egg production in their flock of chicken.
Here is a typical conversation between Vet Okuta Ngura and a client
Client:Hello Mr. Okuta my chickens are no longer laying eggs what could be wrong?
VET:When did the drop in production start?How many birds do you have in total?
VET: I think the feeds are a problem:Drop in production can be caused by several factors among them lighting conditions and shorter days,moulting,broodiness,egg eating,predators,overcrowding,change in nesting area,diseases and parasites,extreme weather fluctuations,poor ventilation,poor nutrition,overfeeding or underfeeding,lack of water,stresSamong others.So which of the factors do you think caused the drop in production?
Client:I think you may need to visit my farm. I am confused because I am experiencing most of the things you’ve mentioned.
VET: Ok. I will visit your farm tomorrow.
Dear farmers,friends and colleagues drop in egg production don’t just happen.There are a myriad of reasons why a farmer could face a drop in egg production.It’s not always feed quality that is the sole cause of a drop in production be it in meat birds or layer birds.Now let’s see the reasons for the drop.
Causes of decreased egg production include:
Conditions and shorter days.Laying birds require 16 hours of light for them to effectively lay.4 more hours of light should be added by using artificial light.The lighting stimulates their ovaries failure to which production goes down.In rainy seasons a farmer will mostly experience this.
It is the shedding of feathers in birds.It is a phase of growth in which egg laying stops and new feathers start growing.Normally happens when a bird is one year old in some breeds.Production goes down as the protein used for egg production is channelled towards feather growth.During this time farmers should ensure that high quality feeds rich in protein are provided and birds are kept as comfortable as possible.The feather grows back after a month or two.
It is a situation whereby a birds sits on the egg until it’s hatched.Normally takes 21 days.A bird will usually spend most of its time sitting on the egg and will only leave for a short time to feed.This can be stopped by separing the broody birds from the rest,introducing cockerels to broody birds to distract them or placing the broody birds in a wire cage and hanging it to make them uncomfortable due to the airflow that will reduce the temperature needed for brooding.
This happens when birds lay soft-shelled eggs which breaks on impact with the floor.The birds eats on the contents and other birds join in.This becomes a trend and the whole flock begin eating eggs.This will lead to loss of eggs .This behaviour can be prevented by early collection of eggs,keeping the laying nests darker,ensuring the feed has enough nutrients e.g protein and also ensuring that the birds are distracted by placing golf balls for them to peck.They will get tired and their beaks become sore.Some farmers trim the birds’ beak as a last option although stressfull for the birds.
Laying birds have a variety of predators who steal and eat their eggs.The result of this is low production and stress from being frightened hence lowered egg production.Some common poultry predators include snakes,rats,foxes,mongoose,feral cats,dogs and humans too.To stop predators the poultry house needs to be properly secured and no cracks or crevices or any entrance should be left as this are the entry points of some predators.Proper security needs to be in place like hiring watchmen and keeping fierce dogs in the compound.
This limit their movement inside the poultry house and is stressful.It will often lead to competition of feeds and water and this will negatively impact them in terms of egg production due to less feed and water intake.Overcrowding can also lead to hygienic problems leading to disease spread hence affecting egg production.
7.)Change in nesting area
Birds like humans love their homes and nesting area.Switching the nesting area can break their routines and patterns of laying.Farmers should maintain the nesting areas to stop drop in egg production.
8.)Diseases and parasites
Diseases and parasites will often lead to reduced egg production.Some diseases such as newcastle disease,chronic respiratory disease,egg peritonitis,infectious bronchitis and egg drop syndrome usually affects the egg laying.This diseases normally cause drastic drop in production and even egg defects such as very small eggs,weak shells,shell less eggs,erosions on the eggs and eggs with odd colours.This leads to rejection of eggs by buyers.External parasites such as lice,mites,fleas and ticks and internal parasites such as roundworms and tapeworms utilise the cause discomfort to the birds by utilising the nutrients meant for the bird’s body and sucking on the blood.This negatively impacts the bird and will lead to drop in egg production.
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9.)Extreme fluctuations in weather
The optimal temperature range for a bird to lay the most number of eggs is usually 11-26°C.Anything beyond or below this causes discomfort and eventual drop in egg production.Higher temperatures can lead to a reduction in feed and water intake and also heat stress which can lead to death.A humidity level above 75% will cause a reduction in egg laying.To counter higher temperatures in the Poultry house proper ventilation needs to be put in place and fans installed.Incase of low temperatures some parts of the poultry house can be covered to keep away cold and even heaters installed in very cold areas.
Poor ventilation often leads to accumulation of ammonia gas which results from chicken litter and high moisture content caused by water spillage.The high levels of ammonia are harmful to the birds and may cause irritation of the respiratory system leading to respiratory diseases.Poor ventilation will also cause dust to accumulate which is a sure source of bacteria and other disease causing organisms.Ammonia accumulation and dust will cause discomfort and illnesses in birds and this will lead to low egg production.Farmers should ensure that their poultry houses are constructed in such a manner that ensures that there is a free flow of air and litter should also not be allowed to accumulate.Spillage of water on the floor should also be avoided.
Poor quality feeds often lower egg production .For a bird to lay eggs it needs enough proteins,carbohydrates(energy),fats,vitamins and minerals.Low quality raw materials from feed millers and some unscrupulous individuals who don’t include these essential nutrients when mixing feeds are the leading cause of poor performance in laying birds.Farmers should ensure they buy feeds from reputable suppliers and for those mixing their own poultry feeds ensure that high quality raw materials are used.Testing of these feeds should also be done to ensure their quality.
12.)Overfeeding or underfeeding
Overfeeding and underfeeding can cause low egg production.Overfeeding the bird will normally lead to obesity as a result of fat deposition below the skin and other vital organs oviduct included.If fat deposition occurs in the oviduct negatively affects the birds and leads to regressed ovaries thereby leading to reduced egg production.Underfeeding leads to less availability of the required nutrients needed by the body for egg production and other body processes hence drop in production or no production at all.The correct amount of feed that should be given to laying birds is 120-140gms of high quality layer’s mash.And the best time to start feeding them is early in the morning and ensuring that they don’t stay without feeds.
13.)Lack of water
An egg is 70% water in total mass.Lack of water for a few hours leads to decline in egg production.Clean water should be available at all times.Drinkers should be filled with water at all times.The water should be fresh and not salty.Rate of water intake depends on environmental temperature,relative humidity,feed composition and rate of production.It is assumed that the amount of water taken by birds is double that of feeds but this depends on environmental temperature.
Birds on free range have a tendency of hiding their eggs on fences and hedges and also bushes.This becomes difficult to track their eggs leading to losses on the part of the farmer.It is important that farmers track this eggs whenever they are laid or wait until they lay their eggs before releasing them outside.
Stresss is anything that affects the well being of a bird.Examples include extreme weather conditions,vaccinations,debeaking,insufficient space,deworming,rapids rates of growth,high production and diseases.All these can lead to low egg production as the birds try to with the situation as all the body reserves are used to fight stress.Stress can be prevented through minimal handling of birds,avoiding noise,providing enough space and ventilation to the birds and providing an anti-stress in drinking water.
Farmers should be vigilant in determining what causes low egg production in their flocks and should be ready to correct on where they are going wrong. In case of a drop in production check the following before calling in a vet:
-feed quantity-are you giving the right quantity and is it of high quality?
-Check if there has been recent changes in feed intake
-Have there been any change in feed type?
-Is the feed mouldy?
-What’s the lighting duration and have you made any changes?
-What’s the light source?
-What’s the condition of the poultry house?Is there clean water available and are they taking the right quantity?
-What’s the general condition of the birds?Are they active?
-Shell quality and interior of the eggs?
-Any signs of parasites whether internal or external?
Always check the above before calling a vet
Credits VET OKUTA NGURA
For consultations and more Call/WhatsApp +254729568151
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