Typically, for a layer bird (chicken that are bred for the sole purpose of laying eggs) production cycle lasts just over a year (52-56 weeks). During the production cycle many factors influence egg production; therefore, the cycle must be managed effectively and efficiently in order to provide maximum output and profitability. The following factors influence egg production.
Breed. The breed of the laying bird influences egg production. Some chicken breeds are have more capacity to lay eggs more than others. However, you must understand that management and feeding practices are more important determining features for egg production.
Mortality rate. Mortality rate may rise due to disease, predation or high temperature. In a chicken farm, the average mortality rate of small chicks (up to eight weeks of age) is about 4 percent; that of growers (between eight and 20 weeks of age) is about 15 percent; and that of layers (between 20 and 72 weeks of age) is about 12 percent. The average mortality rate of a flock is from 20 to 25 percent per year. Anything more than this will definitely affect egg production
Age. Birds typically begin producing eggs in their twentieth or twenty-first week and continue for slightly over a year. This is the best laying period and eggs tend to increase in size until the end of the egg production cycle.
Body weight. In general, optimum body weight during the laying period should be around 1.5 kg, although this varies according to breed. Underweight as well as overweight birds lay eggs at a lower rate. Proper management and the correct amount of feed are necessary in order to achieve optimum body weight.
Laying house. The laying house should be built according to local climatic conditions and the farmer’s finances. A good house protects laying birds from theft, predation, direct sunlight, rain, excessive wind, heat and cold, as well as sudden changes in temperature and excessive dust. If the climate is hot and humid, for example, the use of an open house construction will enable ventilation. The inside of the house should be arranged so that it requires minimum labour and time to care for the birds.
Lighting schedule. Egg production is stimulated by daylight; therefore, as the days grow longer production increases. In open houses, found commonly in the tropics, artificial lighting may be used to increase the laying period. When darkness falls artificial lighting can be introduced for two to three hours, which may increase egg production by 20 to 30 percent.
In closed houses, where layers are not exposed to natural light, the length of the artificial day should be increased either in one step, or in a number of steps until the artificial day reaches 16 to 17 hours, which will ensure constant and maximized egg production. Effective day length should never decrease during the laying period.
Feed. Free-range hens will produce more meat and eggs with supplemental feed, but only if they are improved breeds or crossbreeds. The selection of local hens is done on the basis of resistance and other criteria rather than feed utilization for production. Fresh and clean water should always be provided, as a layer can consume up to one-quarter of a liter of feed per day.
Culling. Culling is the removal of undesirable (sick and/or unproductive) birds, from the flock. There are two methods of culling:
Culling enables a high level of egg production to be maintained, prevents feed waste on unproductive birds and may avert the spreading of diseases.
Climate and Temperature. The optimal laying temperature is between 11° and 26° C. A humidity level above 75 percent will cause a reduction in egg laying. Figure 1 indicates the effect temperature has on egg production.
Temperature and its effects on egg production
|11 – 26||Good production.|
|26 – 28||Some reduction in feed intake.|
|28 – 32||Feed consumption reduced and water intake increased; eggs of reduced size and thin shell.|
|32 – 35||Slight panting.|
|25 – 40||Heat prostration sets in, measures to cool the house must be taken.|
|40 and above||Mortality due to heat stress.|
When the temperature rises above 28° C the production and quality of eggs decrease. Seasonal temperature increases can reduce egg production by about 10 percent.
Management factors. Effective and efficient management techniques are necessary to increase the productivity of the birds and consequently increase income. This entails not only proper housing and feeding, but also careful rearing and good treatment of the birds.
Vaccination and disease control. Diseases and parasites can cause losses in egg production.
Some of the diseases are as follows:
Some of the parasites are:
Vaccinations are administered to birds by injection, water intake, eye drops and spraying. Clean and hygienic living quarters and surroundings may eliminate up to 90 percent of all disease occurrences.
Collection of eggs; Frequent egg collection will prevent hens from brooding eggs or trying to eat them and will also prevent the eggs from becoming damaged or dirty.