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Pecking and prolapse in laying flocks

Pecking and vent prolapse in commercial layer farming is one of the most common causes of mortality. [Anthony Gitonga, Standard]

Dear Dr. Messo

I am a layer farmer in Thika and I keep birds in cages. In the last couple of weeks, I have noticed some weird behaviour in my birds. They peck each other at the vent until there is bleeding. Of late I have started experiencing a rise in mortality. These birds are one-year-old, and production is also declining. The egg market is good, and I intend to keep them for long. What can I do to stop this behaviour?

Concerned farmer.

Dear Farmer,

Pecking and vent prolapse in commercial layer farming is one of the most common causes of mortality encountered during egg production. It starts as a gentle peck on the tail feathers which by the way is a normal social behaviour of birds. It then increases with intensity leading to actual tearing of the skin of the vent or cloaca and even consuming the flesh. This aggravated behaviour or trait can be inherited and acquired. Here are the main causes and how to deal with this condition.

Worm and parasite infestation

The most common parasites associated with this condition are roundworms and tapeworms. Infected flocks tend to bleed through the vent that attracts the attention of fellow flock mates and provokes pecking on the vent, leading to cannibalism and prolapse. In caged birds where we have less worm infection, mites or flea can trigger similar aggressive behavior. De-worming should be done once per month using appropriate chemicals.

Nonspecific Diarrhea

Chronic or acute intestinal infections should be treated as soon as it is noticed. Loose stool causes a pasty vent that attracts pecking behaviour. In the deep litter system, bloody coccidiosis is a recipe for cannibalism in laying flocks. Seek medical intervention as early as discovered.

Poor ventilation

Poor ventilation in caged layer units is singularly the most common stressors that trigger pecking among cage mates. The mount of litter below the cages should be frequently removed once per day during the wet and cold season to reduce build-up of ammonia gases. Hyperventilate the units by opening more windows.

High stocking density

Overcrowding, inadequate feeders, drinkers can cause stress and trigger aggressive behavior in birds. Keep your population at 6 birds per square metre and not more than that.

Sharp-pointed beaks

The ideal situation would be to buy infra-red beak treated birds from the hatchery, if this is not possible, have a well-trained technician to de-beak the chicks at not older than 10 days of age. The top and lower mandibles must both be cut perpendicularly and uniformly.

Bright sunlight or flashlight.

Excessively bright light can excite the birds into aggressive behaviour. Dim your lights as much as possible. One candle light brightness is what is needed in a layer unit.

Poor quality diet

Poor feed quality; low in amino acids, sodium and fibre, is associated with this pecking behaviour. Check with your feed miller on the balance of essential minerals and amino acids in your feed.

For more information, get in touch using the contacts below.

Dr Watson Messo Odwako, email: watsonmesso@yahoo.com

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