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Make your chicken give you quality eggs sooner

By Dr Watson Messo

Dear Dr Messo

I have 50-day old layer chicks. Let me know how to keep them from dying. I heard that chicks have high mortality especially in cold seasons like we are in now.

Evangelist Takakunda

Dear Evangelist

There are five important aspects of layer poultry farming that any aspiring farmer needs to take into account before jumping into poultry egg production venture.

1. Genetic selection for your market

There are a lot of ‘producers’ of day-old chicks today that one can easily be spoilt for choice. People are busy selling different birds and crossing them in their backyards and selling them to farmers with little information on the source of the parents. The prices range from Sh60 to Sh180 depending on the age of the birds. It is imperative that you choose your layer chicks, also called pullets, from trusted suppliers with track records in poultry breeding. Traits like early maturity, body weights, egg weights are highly heritable and are passed on from mother to daughter.

2. Precision Management

Be precise on your goals and avoid ambiguity in what you want to achieve. Ensure your plan is well understood by everybody involved in your poultry operations. Keep the units clean and disinfected before the birds arrive, have a foot bath with appropriate disinfectant at the doorstep of the coop. Avoid unnecessary visitors in your unit.

Lay down your key performance indicators like this. My aim is to achieve the following results:

a)       Grow my birds with cumulative livability of 95% at 100 weeks of age.

b)      Achieve 50% egg production rate by age 21 weeks.

c)       Achieve peak egg production of 96% at 33 weeks.

d)      Aim at achieving egg weights of 60grams on average.

e)      Strive to have each hen producing cumulatively 500 eggs in 100 weeks of age.

f)        Produce cumulatively 30kg of egg mass per pullet in 100 weeks (important to bakeries) of age.

Brood your chicks properly by keeping 1st week temperatures at 36-31oC, 2nd week at 31-28oC, 3rd week at 28-26oC and 4th week at 26-23oC.

3. Nutrition

Feeding your layers is the single most critical aspect of poultry management. Proper mash feed diet of good texture, right formulation, correct size with recommended feeding rate that will get your pullets to achieve a weight of 300-360grams per bird at 5 weeks of age, feeding at 35g/day/bird is a winning ticket to early egg production and better livability. The first eight to 12 weeks of life is critical for organ development, followed by muscles, body frame and growth in preparation for egg production. Contact your chick supplier for the most recent growth profile and feeding rate to growing your birds for an early maturity. Most farmers call to complain to me that their birds are not producing eggs at 4.5 months despite being fed. Feeding is easy but growing the birds to body standards is the secret to an early maturity. Weigh a sample (5%) of your birds on weekly basis to monitor their growth.

4. Health

The wellness of your birds will determine the rate of production and the livability of your flock. Working with your reputable chick supplier, vaccinate your birds according to the recommended program designed for your area. Provide multivitamins and de-worming agents appropriately and an advised by your local vet. Very close collaboration with a reputable poultry laboratory near you will go a long way in resolving medical issues.

5. Water

My rule of thumb is that if you cannot consume the water in the chicken house, then it is not fit for your bird’s consumption. Treat water by adding chlorine or waterguard on a weekly basis.

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