Joseph Kariuki collecting eggs. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Are your laying birds performing optimally? Are you getting enough eggs to keep your operating margins above breakeven numbers? Here are factors that can contribute to poor egg production and possible solutions and management tips needed to remedy the situation.

Poor feed quality

A complete diet must be well balanced in carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, minerals, and vitamins for a specific requirement of the laying bird. Nutrient intake must match nutrient requirement. Insist on top quality feed available in the marketplace. Have you recently changed your feed supplier? Or introduced a new batch? Good quality feed will translate to more eggs per kilogram of feed fed. A good quality feed will give you 6-7 eggs/kg of feed at peak egg production. Cheap, poor-quality feed will never give you peak production targets.

Water deprivation

Water is the single most important nutrient in the life of a chicken and yet one that is mostly ignored. Any unintentional or accidental deprivation of water will result into a drop in egg production. If this continues for too long, feed intake will drop, and you will experience mortality. If the water is bitter or extremely unpalatable due to too much chlorine, antibiotics or anti-deworming drugs, birds may reduce intake and you will notice a transient drop in egg production until corrective measures are implemented. Ensure your water is readily available, fresh, wholesome, and portable all the time.

Low body weights

Weekly weighing of a sample of birds is the single most important activity in pullet management.  Birds weighing below 1.3 kg live weight will not commence egg production. Light breeds start to lay at 16-18 weeks weighing between 1.4-1.6 kg per bird, please remember pullets continue to grow at onset of egg production until week 28-30.

Diseased flock

If the flock is suffering from infection of the gut, ovaries or any other debilitating condition, egg production will be severely affected.  Several poultry diseases are associated with delayed and or cessation of egg production. Some of the common diseases include salmonellosis, infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, mycoplasmas, Aspergillosis, and egg drop syndrome. Fortunately, most of these diseases are preventable by good vaccination program. It is therefore imperative that poultry farmers seek services of a qualified veterinarian to physically attend to the flocks to carry out intensive investigation on health and conditions of the birds to rule out any disease involvement.

Parasitic infestation

Red mites and worms’ infestations can cause severe blood loss, listlessness, poor feeding, and hence poor feed conversion into eggs. Regular deworming using Levamisole will help while dust powders in the market will get rid of mites and fleas.


This is both an important and major economic disease impacting the poultry industry globally. Once chickens are infected, the growth rates are retarded, feed conversion into eggs is distorted and for chickens in lay, infection results into a drop in egg production. Farmers are required to keep the litter dry by continuously turning and removing wet litter. In sever infection birds must be treated with Amprolium.

Lack of photo stimulation

Female chickens are generally sensitive to light intensity and duration as this influences their sexual maturity. Light will encourage feed intake and hence early organ development and growth, after brooding keep your birds on natural lighting. Do not keep lights on at night, this may interfere with sexual maturity of your birds and hence delayed onset of lay.

Extreme heat

Heat stress normally affects individual bird’s feed utilisation by reducing their feed intake. This is a mechanism birds employ to reduce metabolism that is associated with heat generation and inadvertently cause nutrient deficiencies, alkalosis, and poor eggshell quality. At temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius, there will be a complete cessation of egg production. Supplement water with vitamin C and keep the units cool by opening the side curtains. 

Poor air quality

In the tropics, where houses are open-sided, ventilation is managed by opening the curtains from the top when it gets warm. This allows air from outside into the house. When it is stuffy and dusty, birds become uncomfortable and drop egg production. You must always allow minimum ventilation to avoid birds getting suffocated from excessive ammonia build-up.

[For more information, contact Dr Watson Messo Odwako]