In commercial egg production, every poultry farmer expects to obtain an optimum yield of eggs from laying birds. When this expectation falls short, it becomes a source of concern because a decline in egg production can be one of the first signs of a problem on the farm.
Usually, the laying cycle of laying birds covers 12 months, and they lay eggs commercially from 18-19 weeks of age until their 72-78 weeks of age. Their production reaches a peak of about 90 percent in the sixth or eighth week from the day they started laying and then declines to about 65 percent after their laying cycle.
However, there are some instances where farmers have witnessed their flock suddenly dropping their egg production to even less than 40 percent before the 12 months laying period. Therefore, unraveling the cause of a sudden drop in egg production requires a thorough assessment of the birds by the poultry farmer, as there are checkpoints that often identify the specific cause for low egg production in a poultry farm.
Factors That Cause Low Egg Production in Laying Hen
Poor Quality Feed and Water Consumption
Layers cannot produce eggs optimally without a proper and balanced diet because to be healthy and productive, they require adequate nutrients in the right form daily. Hence, to ensure optimal egg production and maintain egg quality, feed the birds with feed made from high-quality raw materials and proper feed formulation according to the age of the birds. Do not feed them mouldy feeds and avoid too much feed in feeders. Check the feed for rodents and wild bird infestation.
Also, some drugs are poorly soluble in hard water and can deduce the efficacy of vaccines. Always provide clean and fresh water for the birds, as unclean water could cause lower egg production. Sanitize and clean pipelines and tanks with Hydrocare.
Decreased Exposure to Light
Egg production is affected by the length of exposure to daylight, as light triggers a laying hens’ pituitary gland to produce eggs. Hence, laying hens should enjoy adequate lighting for at least 14-16 hours. This means that increased lighting stimulates egg production and decreased daylight hours can cause a drop in or stop to egg production.
To prevent this, provide artificial light to maintain a constant day length of at least 14 hours per day. Lights should be checked regularly so that they do not get dimmer. Also, layers should not be exposed to too much light, as they reach sexual maturity at an early stage and lay very small eggs.
Diseases and Parasite Infestation
Most times, one of the first symptoms of a disease is a decline in egg production. Diseases that result in a drop of egg production include Newcastle, Fowl Pox, Fowl Cholera, Coccidiosis, Bird Flu etc. Egg Drop Syndrome (EDS), which is caused by a viral infection in laying hens, is characterized by the production of soft-shelled and shell-less eggs in birds, leads to a sudden drop in egg production. Also, the infestation of Ector parasites like fowl mite, lice, and fleas, as well as endoparasites like roundworms, tapeworms, gape worms among others, could result in a drop in the production of eggs by layers.
To prevent this, ensure you follow a proper vaccination schedule and deworming programme. Deworm the birds monthly by using Kepromec Oral. Use Ectoblast for delousing and to handle flies in poultry. Manage your litter well to prevent diseases such as coccidiosis.
Also, follow good biosecurity measures and general sanitary precautions. However, if you suspect a disease, contact a skilled veterinarian to examine your flock and get an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Your best protection against disease is to buy healthy stock and keep them isolated from other birds. If you wish to increase your flock, buy chicks from a reputable hatchery or hatch some of your eggs.
A drop in egg production occurs when laying hens are stressed for any reason. For instance, most layers are usually affected by sudden changes in their usual pattern, such as a change of pen location or layout. Other stressors that can trigger egg production decline include being harassed by a predator at night, and severe weather including extreme cold or extreme heat. Therefore, poultry farmers should avoid handling or moving their birds as soon as they start laying eggs, and amend security lapses on the farm.
Moulting is the natural process of feather shedding and re-growth. Hens divert protein and energy away from egg production to concentrate on feather growth. Poorer layers and older hens often moult more and lay less. Supplementing a hen’s diet with extra protein during a moult can aid in feather growth and egg production.
Faulty Cage Design
The improper slope of cage floor could result in egg breakage or egg-eating by birds. Also, space between the feeder and egg tray will allow eggs to roll out for birds to extend their neck and peck or break the egg.
Other management and environmental factors such as time of year, competency of farmworkers, debeaking, and predators consuming the eggs, egg-eating by hens in the flock, excessive egg breakage, could also affect egg production.
In summary, if a drop in egg production occurs, investigate the cause with the following checkpoints;
- What is the age of the birds?
- Is feed available to all birds?
- Has the level of feed consumption changed lately?
- Is the watering system properly and are the birds getting enough clean water?
- Do you adhere to biosecurity measures?
- What is the light source and how much light do the birds receive daily?
- What is the condition of the poultry house?
- Has shell strength and egg size changed?
- Are there any signs of disease?
- Was a proper vaccination schedule followed?
- Is mortality higher than normal?
- Was debeaking done at the right time and was it properly done?
- What’s the flock history? Do the same flock previously have the same or other problem?
With these checkpoints, you can easily recognize when a drop in egg production is caused by a problem that requires your attention and take necessary measures to increase the production of eggs in your farm. Also, remember to consult with your veterinarian. As long as your birds have all they need to be healthy, they will produce as they should.
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