Emmanuel Ragot, a 29-year-old poultry farmer at his farm in HomaBay County. [Courtesy]

Under good management, layer pullets come into production at 16-18 weeks of age, they may start egg production at 5-15% and achieve an average egg production of 95-96% peak with livability of 92% at 100 weeks of age and body weight of 1.92-2.00 kg. They will stay at peak for another 10 weeks before a gradual and steady decline by 0.3% per week till they are sold. Here are 10 possible causes of delayed onset of lay or complete inability of a chicken to produce an egg when it has reached the biological point of lay.

  1. Low energy level in feed

Energy is the single most important component of any good feed. It is hugely needed for physical body maintenance, growth, and egg production in that order of priority. The main source of energy in poultry feed is maize or wheat. So, if your feed is of low energy level (less than 2600 kilo calorie) these birds will struggle to produce an egg. Poorly formulated feed with low dietary energy levels will not meet nutrient requirements for egg production.

  1. Protein and amino acid deficiencies

Eggs are made of proteins and amino acids and any deficiency in the diet will result in no egg production, the little available will be reserved for body growth, cell renewals and feather production. Any feed deficient in methionine and Lysine will compromise egg production. Your feed should have enough Soya or fish meal.

  1. Lack of calcium and phosphorus in the diet.

These two minerals are important for eggshell formation and bone marrow development, any deficiency may delay egg production. All feeds need supplementation with the right Limestone to ensure the minerals are available.

  1. Lack of premix in the diet.

Premixes contain trace minerals and vitamins that are important in growth and egg production. Allow birds to completely eat all the fine particles that contain premix or else you may cause artificial deficiency.

  1. Low body weight

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.

  1. Underfeeding

Good feed quality but of low quantity will completely curtail egg production. It is natural for birds to channel the little feed they get for physical maintenance and growth. Ensure your birds are getting around 90-120grams of grower diet per bird/day.   Are you giving enough feed for the right population of birds? Are the feeders sufficient and easily accessible to the birds? Underfed birds will appear small, show poorly developed combs and wattles.

  1. Poor Flock uniformity

Please provide enough feeders and waterers for your birds all the time. This will ensure that 90% of your birds are growing within the standard curve and hence will come into production at relatively the same time.

  1. Sexual immaturity

At 16 weeks of age, mature hens should be showing prominent red combs and wattles an indicator of sexual maturity. Birds should be accustomed to natural darkness and light by the time they are 6-8 weeks of age. Lighting stimulates sexual maturity; birds should have not more than 13 hours of lighting to stimulate egg production. Anything less or more will compromise light stimulation and egg production.

  1. Presence of disease

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 egg production, drops and poor eggshell quality. It is therefore imperative that poultry farmers seek the 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. Diseases like Newcastle, Infectious bronchitis, Egg drop syndrome, mycoplasmas, etc. can all contribute to this problem.

  1. Presence of mites and worms

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