HOW TO RAISE THOSE PRECIOUS CHICKEN LAYERS - FARMERCIST 254

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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

HOW TO RAISE THOSE PRECIOUS CHICKEN LAYERS

POULTRY FARMING: CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF LAYING BIRDS

Layers are the type of birds that produce eggs. There are basically two classifications of poultry birds, namely
Egg producers; that is, the laying birds or layers
Meat producers; these are broilers and cockerels
Egg production is a very lucrative agribusiness; it is a short-term investment with quick turn-over. Laying birds are of different breeds, the white and brown leghorns are the best egg producer; the brown leghorn is common in Africa.

Layers, unlike the meat producers, are vulnerable birds that require proper management practice for them to reach and maintain the peak of their production potential. It is imperative a poultry farmer knows how to take care of egg laying chicken; the care is the only success factor in poultry business, a poorly managed farm records loss and low productivity always. Most farmers accord their losses to the genetic make-up of the birds; however, lack of proper management crumbles an egg producing venture.

Management of laying birds is a very dicey task that needs a hackneyed attention; it starts right from the brooding stage till when the birds cease production. Layers are brooded for about 3-8 weeks and fed with chick mash; after 8 weeks, they should be fed with grower till about 18 weeks before introducing the layer diet. Normally, egg production commences at about 17 weeks; the birds should be evacuated to the laying pen at about 16 weeks to get them acclimatized to the environment before the commencement of egg production. At 20 weeks, debeak your birds to prevent egg pecking.

There are two housing systems for layers, they are:

.Deep litter system
. Battery cage system

In the deep litter system, the laying birds are kept on a concrete floor with litter covering. A nest should be provided at a corner in the pen for the layers to lay their eggs. These nests are supposed to be placed in the deep litter pen at about 2 weeks prior to the onset of lay to help the birds get used to the nest. The nest should be spacious, dark, cool and well ventilated.

There are some reservations on the use of this system, it has managerial advantages and disadvantages. Birds kept under deep litter system are prone to cannibalism, feather and egg pecking. The eggs are usually stained, though are often cleaned. Also, high contamination of feed and rapid spread of diseases among the flock are peculiar to this system. However, it maximizes the use of resources such as the land; also, facilitates the management of large flock of birds under one roof and easy identification of sick birds. When constructing a deep litter poultry cage, the direction of wind and sunshine are usually considered. The longest side of the pen should face these directions. Also, the use of litter material is very important; wood shavings, groundnut husk, kenaf stem, etc. should be used. Avoid the use of saw dust because of its tiny particles; it can cause respiratory disease and can as well blind the birds.

The battery cage system is the common method used in commercial egg production. In this system, laying birds are confined in cages. Each cage accommodates 2-4 birds depending on the size of the cage. This system saves labour and space as the battery cages are set up in tiers. It controls cannibalism and egg pecking as eggs stray away immediately after dropping; also, it controls infection of parasitic diseases and rapid spread of disease. However, it is expensive and birds get bored, thus, inducing cage fatigue. This system requires effective management as the layers nutrient requirements have to be met, especially calcium, to ensure optimum production.

Layers feeding schedule

First thing is, the layers nutritional requirements, these have to be met. Feed layers in the right quality and quantity to ensure adequate production. Feeds are fed through the feeding trough; either in the linear feeding trough or hanging feeding trough. The linear feeder should not be filled more than one-third of the trough to avoid feed wastage; a hanging feeder of about 50cm diameter can accommodate about 20-25kg of feed for 100 layers.  Layers diet is fed at about 20 weeks, they are usually high in calcium (3%); the feeds should be of larger particles. Feeding should be done during the cool hours of the day.

Water should be provided at all times, it is essential for egg production. Starving the birds with water is very detrimental as it can decrease the productivity of laying birds greatly.  Addition of vitamins, probiotics, and electrolyte in drinking water helps to mitigate the menace of heat stress. Coconut water is a natural electrolyte.

Light management for laying birds

After feeding, another parameter that should be managed optimally is the length of light per day. Lightening stimulates egg production; daylight length should be increased gradually as the pullets come into egg production. Artificial light in form of florescent bulb should be used to lengthen the daylight. Daylight of 16 hours per day should be activated at the beginning of egg production to ensure optimum production. After 6 months of production, the daylight should be increased to 17 hours per day.

The issue of pest and diseases need serious attention; adequate preventive measures have to be put in place to mitigate these threats. The primary pests of layers are lice and worm; they make the birds uncomfortable, thus, reducing productivity. Layers should be dewormed once every 3 months. Antibiotics and vitamins should be given through drinking water at least every 3 days to boost the birds’ immunity. The feeders and drinkers should be cleaned every 2 weeks to prevent the emergence of pathogens.

Biosecurity is another effective way to prevent the incidence of pest and diseases.
Lastly, heat stress is another great threat to poultry production; to ensure successful farming experience, serious measures have to be adopted to curb the effects of heat stress. These are precautions you can adopt to reduce the effects of heat stress on your birds:

-Provide clean and cool water at all times; if possible ice should be crushed in the water.
-Plant shade trees around the poultry house to enhance good ventilation.
-Change litters every two weeks.
-Provide artificial light during the early hours of the day so that birds eat and drink more during the cooler hours of the day.
-Provide lots of soluble grits to enhance calcium intake, thus, reducing cracked or soft-shelled eggs.

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