Egg production is one of the important aspects of poultry. Hence, finding the right breed of layers is very vital. Layers are primarily kept for the purpose of producing eggs. Identifying good quality layers helps in monitoring the production of your flock and in minimizing economical risks.
Features of Good Quality Layers
Below are some of the key features to look out for when selecting good quality layers.
1. The eyes of a good layer should be large, bright and sparkling. Poor layers often have small, sleepy/dull and sunken eyes.
2. A good layer has flexible pubic bones, wide apart to allow three fingers to fit between them while those of a poor layer is rigid and narrow, hence they do not allow that amount of fingers to fit in. The essence of this wide pubic bone space is that it normally facilitates the easy passage of eggs.
3. The feathers of an active laying hen should be dirty and ragged looking, the reason being that they use much of their energy on producing eggs and so, therefore, have the tendency to play in the dirt or be followed by roosters. Most times, a hen that looks clean and perfect could be a poor layer.
4. Good layers have clean-cut, strong, refined heads while poor layers have coarse, meaty/thin, blocky, weak-looking heads.
5. A good layer has an abdomen that is deep and soft while a poor layer has a hard and shallow abdomen. The space between the breast bone and the pubic bones is used to measure the depth of the abdomen.
6. The vent of a good layer should be wide, oval, moist and warm. The poor laying bird will have its vent dry, small/tight, round and cold. The vent can be inspected when you pull back the tail feathers of the bird.
7. Poor layers have dark-pigmented or dull skins, earlobes and shanks, while good layers are generally bleached or bright, though sometimes it depends on when you check them. The bleaching is due to the diversion of yellow colour from the body portions into the egg yolks. The loss of colour is easily seen in yellow-skinned chicken on diets with sources of the colouring agents. This bleaching effect is less pronounced in white-skinned breeds, thus, more difficult to detect.
8. A flock of good layers would have a laying percentage of over 80 per cent, after which it would drop to 50% after moulting. This results in an average of five eggs per week. A poor laying hen’s lay is below 60%, and after moulting, they hardly go above 10%.
9. A good layer is normally alert to her surroundings and is not lazy. The chicken is active and exhibits normal behaviour like scratching litter and running around with others. On the other hand, poor layers look dull and are most of the time droopy.
10. Moulting in good layers starts late and is quite rapid while in poor layers, it starts early and is slow, making the latter appear better groomed.
When dealing with pullets otherwise known as young hens, be careful so you don’t rule them out as poor layers because of their size. Some good laying hens mature late, therefore, allowing the pullets to mature and show characteristics that suggest their laying potential. They may develop into good layers.
In general, certain features or indicators will help you do away with the unproductive part of the flock, this practice is known as culling. Ideally, culling should be a continuous exercise throughout the entire production period until the whole flock is no longer productive.
With careful observation and consideration of these characteristics, quality egg production is assured.