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Factors that may affect laying cycle of flocks

By Dr Watson Messo

Dear Dr Messo, 

I bought some commercial layers. Feeding is done in the morning and afternoon. Today, they are a year old and have stopped laying. What could be the problem?

Regards,

Noor, Isiolo 

Dear Noor

The dream of any commercial layer farmer is always to have flocks that lay more eggs, have a prolonged persistence and longer production cycles. These levels of good performances can only be achieved if the breed is of high genetic potential coupled with good animal husbandry practices and robust nutrition.

That said, it's shocking to learn that after one year of rearing and production, your brood has stopped laying. Let’s look at the most probable factors that may have contributed to this scenario.

1.      Water restriction or deprivation

Water is the single most important nutrient in life, and chickens are no exception. However, it is the most ignored. An egg is made of 80 per cent water. If there is any unintentional or accidental deprivation of water, egg production will be the first to be compromised. If this continues for too long, feed intake will drop, and you will experience mortality.

This is very common in flocks raised in cages with automatic drinking system. If the water is available but is extremely unpalatable by addition of too much chlorine, antibiotics or anti-deworming drugs, birds may reduce intake. There will be a transient drop in egg production until corrective measures are implemented. Ensure your water is readily available, fresh, wholesome and portable all the time.

2.      Sudden nutritional imbalance or reduced feed intake

A complete diet must be well balanced in carbohydrates, proteins, lipids or fat, minerals and vitamins for a specific requirement of the bird. Nutrient intake must match set requirement. During milling process, feed bags are numbered by batches, if one or several batches have less energy or amino acids (methionine), production will drop. A chat with your feed miller on any recent changes in formulation will be very crucial.

3.      Liver Health

Liver is a key organ charged with ensuring long production cycle, egg weight, laying rates, eggshell quality and feed conversation. Factors like overweight, extreme temperatures and caged bird fatigue may lead to liver diseases like fatty liver syndrome, which causes drop in egg production. Seek a vet to advise. 

Dear Messo,

I have one-week-old chicks. Their feaces are stained with blood. What is the probable cause and cure?

Regards Wambugu

Dear Wambugu,

The first seven days of a chick is the most critical period in the life of a bird. This is the time for organ development and growth and more so the period for gastro-intestinal elongation. At this time, thermoregulatory system of the chick is completely immature and nonfunctional, so the chick cannot regulate its body temperature.

We therefore must create conducive or optimal climatic conditions for the chicks to thrive, otherwise you will see signs of extreme suffering.

At 30-32 degrees celsius the chicks are quiet and are relatively huddled together, feed intake may slightly be high, but water intake is low. At 32-35 degree celsius, is the ideal temperature for one-week-old chicks. They will be very active, some will be feeding, others drinking water, while a few will be running around, walking and playing.

Feed and water intakes are good and generally one will not see any sign of discomfort. From 35 degres celsius, the chicks will start to pant, you will notice some with open beaks and experience a bit of noise. At 37-39, they become extremely noisy, with fast breathing, open beaks and some will be spreading their wings on the floor.

There is high water intake and less feeding. If the temperature exceeds this, birds go into panic mode, will lay down with stretched neck and few will lapse into coma. High temperature in the brooder is the main cause of pasty vents and bloody stains. The solution is to manage brooder conditions closely and keenly.

Please contact me for more information.

[email protected] or [email protected]

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