Why your 9-month-old chicken are yet to start laying eggs

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

Dear Dr Messo

My improved Kienyeji are now 9 months of age and are laying eggs, my problem is that only about 30% are laying going by the number of eggs I am collecting. What could be the problem and what is the remedy?

Thomas from Muhoroni, Kisumu

Dear Thomas

Thank you for bringing this topic once again in this forum, it rarely passes a week before a farmer asks for my opinion on the causes of poor egg production, why their hens have stopped laying, which egg formula should be given to chickens to boost egg production, why some eggs are smaller than others in the same flock, and the list goes on and on. First, we need to exactly establish what kind of improved Kienyeji are in our market. The main ones are Kenbro, Sasso, Kuroiler and Rainbow roosters sold by established hatcheries as first-generation chicks, what we refer to as F1 chicks. Then there are farmers who cross breed F1 chickens with others to hatch inferior F2 or F3 chicks which they sell to unsuspecting farmers. F1 chicks are the ones that will give you predictable performances in terms of egg production rates, prolonged laying periods, high peak production, high eggs per hen placed, good egg weights and eggshell colour just to mention the important traits. Here are the main causes of poor performance.

  1. In-breeding

It is only fair that poultry regulators in this country allow the sale of commercial F1 generation pullet chicks to farmers and save them from unnecessary losses. In-breeding is the single most cause of poor or inferior egg production that I have seen in most informal chicken farming. Make sure that you only buy chicks from well established hatcheries for purposes of commercial egg production.

  1. Poor growth and development

The best predictor of future laying performance is squarely on two parameters, 1) body weight and 2) body type. The birds which are laying must be sexually mature and have attained the correct body weight and size for egg production. Any bird which is underweight i.e., below 1.2kg will not produce any eggs no matter how long you keep it. A pullet flock entering egg production at the correct body weight (1.35-1.40 kg) with uniformity higher than 90 per cent performs best in the production period. Likewise, excessive abdominal fat will result in the cessation of egg production.

  1. Water deprivation.

Fresh clean potable water is a prerequisite for egg production. provision of adequate high-quality water has been a bone of contention in most poultry establishments, yet it is extremely vital. Healthy birds are known to consume twice as much water as feed intake and this must be adequate and available to all birds.

  1. Poor flock uniformity

At 5 months of age, laying birds should attain > 85 per cent flock uniformity in terms of weight, body conformation and sexual maturity easily identified by signs of red well-developed combs and wattles. This uniformity is attained by provision of adequate flock density, enough drinkers, feeders, and even feed distribution.

  1. Lack of photostimulation

Female chickens are generally sensitive to light intensity and duration as this has an influence on their sexual maturity. Light will encourage feed intake and hence early organ development and growth. In our hot tropical climate, control of sexual maturity is very difficult as we rely 100 per cent on natural daylengths. You should not keep lights on after 8 weeks of growing, birds should be in natural darkness and light till the end of production. Do not keep lights on at night, this may interfere with the sexual maturity of your birds and hence delayed onset of lay.

  1. Diseased flock

And finally, if the flocks are attacked by mild infections running in the population un-noticed, it may delay or interfere with egg production. The most common diseases are infectious bronchitis, fowl typhoid and mycoplasmas which may affect the reproductive system and contribute to non-layer conditions. If any abnormality in chicken behavior should occur or if mortality exceeds 1 per cent in a week, all management factors should be re-checked, and arrangements made for a veterinary examination as soon as possible.

Dr Watson Messo Odwako: email [email protected]

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