If you are a poultry keeper, chances are that you have had to sit with some loss in egg production or hens that just stopped laying eggs.
There could be several contributing factors and it is necessary to look at each one of these closely to find the cause.
Feed It is important to know exactly what the feeding behavior normally has been, and that is also why it is important to keep record of what the normal consumption of feed is for your flock. Have you recently changed feed supplier? or is the feed you are currently using giving your hen the nutrition she needs? I cannot stress enough that sometimes the dime you are trying to save by buying a cheep feed will be very costly down the road.
A common mistake made is that the phase in between the grower feed and the layer feed known as the developer/pre-lay phase of feed is often overlooked. A hen still needs to get pre-layer feed up to the age of 30 weeks before moving over to the normal layer mash. Feed stores do not normally keep this, and it is quite often because most poultry keepers do not ask for it…….. and in my opinion, it also boils down to a lack of understanding from the feed stores about the proper nutritional needs for our birds. I was lucky to have found a feed store and brand that offered and accommodated me in keeping this phase in the feed on their floor for myself and my customers. Pre-layer feed is used before a hen comes into their peak production phase during the final rearing phase.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time overseeing your hens’ diets, consider purchasing a pre-mixed layer feed. If you do formulate your own layer feed, make sure that it has the protein (16% or less), and calcium levels (2.5% to 3.5%) to ensure that your eggs will be strong enough to make it to the table.
Provide your hens with a bowlful of grit. Grit refers to tiny pieces of stone or gravel that stay in the hens’ gizzards and help to grind down their food. Without a little grit in their diet, your hens won’t be able to digest and use all of the nutrients they’re supposed to be getting in order to produce healthy eggs. Adding grit to your hens’ diets is especially important if your hens are confined and you don’t allow them to roam.
That aside, if your hens are older than 30 weeks and you are using a good quality balanced feed, look for traces in the feed like change in color, mold, and rancidity. Simply giving mixed fowl or crushed maize is simply not enough for your hens.
Also be sure that your hen gets the right amount of feed. a commercial layer typically eats anything from 100-120 grams of feed per day. Your heavier breeds can consume up to 160gr per day. Scarcity in feed will also cause a lower or no production.
Light In cage systems, it is important that the light in the bottom rows are equally distributed and that it is not too dark due to light bulbs or tubes that is not working. A hen also requires 16 hours of day light to produce eggs as normal. This is also another reason why in the winter with shorter day light time, it is necessary to give extra light hours to keep the production according to the breed specifications.And this is mostly ignored in my country by the people who suggest to have long been in the poultry industry not complying but production happens to be as usual. My advise here is, &002;Aho utsoa a mangata empa laho tshoara le leng &002;,that is to say,it&001;s better to comply than waiting to come across a problem that will cost you because you are never sure if you will be able to come back after that big loss or it wil be the end of the road .Never compromise your going Concern.
Water The availability of clean fresh water is vitally important for high producing hens. An egg of 55gr contains approximately 36gr of water that must be consumed over and above that the hen needs for digestion of feed and excreting feces and urine, and is normally twice the amount of the feed consumed.
This is just under normal circumstances and in hot weather, the amounts increase dramatically. That is why constant supply of clean fresh water should always be available.
In the instance that waterlines and drinking nipples are used, the nipples should be checked regularly for blockages and those that are not working or sticky should be replaced immediately. Bacteria in water from contaminated water lines or water sources can cause a huge drop in egg production. It is important to ensure the quality of the water is monitored.
Ventilation and air Quality This includes aspects such as dust, gases such as ammonia, moisture and carbon dioxide. Air quality is one of the most important factors determining the comfort of the birds. Good ventilation is the only way that this can be managed.
Sanitation Clean conditions in the poultry house means that there are less opportunity available for disease causing organism to multiply, and less opportunity for flies to carry viruses to other hens and fewer to no protection to bacteria and viruses. Less exposure to disease causing organisms leaves your hens healthy. Wet bedding and feces should be cleaned out regularly to avoid ammonia development and growth of mold that can hinder egg production. Sanitation also forms part of good Bio Security
Stock Density Overstocking and not giving your hens enough space can lead to behavioral problems like pecking and causes unnecessary stress which can also affect egg production
Parasites; Internal and external parasites like lice, mites and worm will cause deficiencies and will negatively affect egg production. It is important to regularly treat the chicken house, the chickens and environment for lice and mites. Following a good de-worming program is also important.
Seasons; Yes, seasonal temperatures can have an effect on egg production. Mostly as a result of High or very low temperatures on the feed conversion rates. Very low conversion rates especially in the winter and added stress factors due to high temperatures in the summer. I am not going to elaborate to much on the effect of environmental temperatures on production, and have a detailed explanation in our course-rearing pullets
For this purpose, I will explain why the effect of these environmental changes are predominantly noticed with lower productions in the winter months.
In low environmental temperatures (Winter times)the bird will lose more heat than what it can produce. Humans will start shivering. This means that muscles will contract to generate heat. The same happens in hens, although not clearly visible they also shiver. Glucose for those muscle contractions are used to obtain energy and feed intake creases. This is why feed conversion is poor in winter because a lot of energy is used for shivering during the cooler temps. Increasing the energy and protein content in their feed and giving added vitamins rich in amino acid can go a long way.
Molting; With that said, and with older hens, your first tell tale sign that your hens are molting would be that it would look like someone had a feather pillow fight in your chicken coop. So what happens during molt? It normally happens when days starts getting shorter and is often not a pretty sight, as your pretty hen will look anything but pretty during a molt.
A hen typically has their first molt when they are about a year old. Some will have it a bit later or earlier than others. During this process, the hen will loose their old feathers and grow out a new plumage of feathers. This can be gradual, and you will hardly notice it, or it can be drastic and your hen will start looking like her feathers have been plucked.
Because the feather is mostly protein, your hen will use all the protein she consumes to push out these new feathers, leaving little or no protein over for producing eggs. These new feathers are sensitive when touched, and the hen normally would not like to be handled during this process.
Disease; Diseases will definitely have an effect on egg production. Diseases like New Castles, any respiratory disease like infectious bronchitis are just some of the diseases that will cause a decrease production. Check and monitor birds for possible tell tale signs of diseases that might be present in your chicken house.
Stress; this is certainly a contributing factor in a lot of the instances mentioned above. Extreme heat, and cold, transportation, predatory activities around your hens, dogs chasing or barking around your hens, children running around your hens, catching out hens, improper handling, change of feed, vaccinating, new additions to the flock, just to name a few……
Basically anything that disrupts their comfort all cause stress to your hen, and will surely have an effect on your hens ability to keep producing as usual. Identify possible causes of stress contributing factors and try to limit or schedule such occurrence to minimize these contributing factors as much as possible, and supplement their nutrition with a good vitamin with amino acids in before each of the unavoidable tasks like vaccinating etc.
I really hope this helps to get your production back on track.
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