Poultry farming is regarded as a highly profitable livestock venture due to the needed demand for its protein by man. Because of this, there has always been a massive investment in poultry business both for meat and egg production (in which both food products are rich in protein and other important nutrients). Therefore, to meet the demand for eggs by farmers, it is important that farmers meet the optimum nutritional needs of their layers (that is, chicken bred solely for the purpose of laying eggs) and maintain a conducive and healthy breeding environment. It is equally important that for farmers to make profit, their layer chickens consistently lay quality eggs which are sold to the public for consumption. However, for any animal production or agribusiness like this, it is quite the norm to encounter farming cycles where there are intermittent decreases in egg production and general productivity. This may be due to certain diseases or specific management factors that the poultry farmer needs to investigate and correct. While diseases of different causal agents are important factors that are responsible for drop in egg production in a poultry farm, it is imperative to note that the management factors are usually the major causative factors.
These management factors that may be responsible for reduction in egg production include the following:
- Nutrition and Feed-related problems: The feeding components in a poultry facility is very important because an imbalance can interfere with the rate and quality of egg production negatively. While it is important to adequately feed laying birds with rich feed constituents, it is also necessary to provide laying birds with clean and adequate water as this tends to maintain the metabolic activities of its body while also notably, reducing heat stress (which is induced by the high environmental temperature). Also, any abnormal or erratic protocol that is employed in feeding the birds causes an abrupt change in their egg production which might be a reduction or complete stoppage in the production of eggs. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that a daily and fixed protocol is adhered to so as to get the best from the laying birds.
- Lightening: Lightening is one of the major management factors that can have negative effects on the production of eggs, if not well managed. Presence of light allows laying birds to lay more and it also prevents broodiness. Therefore, it is expected that farmers should make provision to illuminate the poultry pens during periods of shorter days as it tends to stimulate the laying bird to lay more.
- Housing: The poultry pen should be very conducive for the layers to be at their optimum productivity. In our tropical climate in Nigeria, the poultry pen should be in the east-west direction with an asbestos roofing that generally helps in reducing the effects of heat on the laying birds. It is also important to have a well-ventilated poultry pen as temperature is being regulated. Furthermore, foot dips should be provided at the entrance of each poultry pen to prevent the introduction of pathogens to the birds that could result in a diseases.
- Overcrowding: Layer birds in a poultry pen should be adequately spaced to prevent overcrowding within the poultry pen. Overcrowding could result in a reduction in egg production as it usually has an uncomfortable psycho-effect that affects laying birds. Also, overcrowding may lead to cannibalism among the layer birds.
- Noise: the environment of a poultry facility should be quiet and serene as noise tends to induce a reduction and stoppage in the production of eggs. Poultry facilities should be situated away from noisy environments, roads and the likes as frequent disturbance in the form of noise prevents laying birds from laying more.
Other management factors that could results into a reduction or a stoppage in the production of eggs in poultry facility include, stress, moulting (period of feather and weight shedding) etc.
Generally, once management factors have been ruled out as the cause of decreased egg production in the poultry farm, evaluation of diseases and parasitism should be next as these have far reaching effects in stopping and reducing the production of eggs within layers. In our next article on poultry, we will discuss on these diseases and parasites that cause a reduction or stoppage of egg production among layers in a poultry farm.