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Week by week feeding guide to increase your layers' egg production

Layers will hit peak egg production of 92-95 per cent at 28 weeks of age and maintain that peak performance for a further 14 weeks.

Dear Dr Messo

I am an upcoming farmer facing some challenges. I read your article titled “checklist for building poultry house” and realised I had done several mistakes on my project. I started with 500 layers but now I have less than 450 just over six months with only 4.4 per cent laying this week. I have a few questions a) What quantity of feed for each age group of chicks should I give? b) What type of feed at various age stages should I give? Thank you in advance. [Hesbon Maina]

Dear Hesbon

Thank you for sharing your experience in egg production. Before I address your two major concerns, two things have caught my attention. Your growing mortality at the point of lay was a high of 10 per cent while your egg-laying rate at that same period was a low of 4.4 per cent at 27 weeks. These two traits of livability and production are heritable, that is they are transferable from parents to offspring. The other heritable trait is good egg quality. Having said that, those three excellent performances can only be achieved through good management practices, robust feed, comfortable housing, and good stockmanship. I will address some of the factors that need attention during chicken’s life period:

Between week 1-8 (Starter period)

From placement to eight weeks of age, the chicks are fed chick and duck mash or crumbles, a diet high in energy and crude protein for organ development, skeletal growth, and proper development of immunity. The birds must be weighed weekly to make sure proper weights are uniformly attained. Brooding temperatures must be properly maintained, and chicks reared on 24 hours of light at about 40 lux, brightness. Clean, fresh, and portable drinking water must always be provided while minimum ventilation is maintained. At five weeks of age your body weights must be on breed target of 380 -400 g/bird. If you fail to achieve this body weight, egg production will be lower in later life. In total, one bird shall have consumed 1.8kg of starter diet.

Between week 9-18 (grower period)

The overall objective during this time is to train your birds to have sufficient feed intake capacity for future egg production. This period is important in maintaining uniformity in weight and size among all the chicks. Provide a lower energy and high fibre grower diet which allow chicks to eat more feed. It is important for birds during this period to have a longer feed clearance time, good appetite, and hence proper body composition in preparation for laying cycle. This diet is good for liver health, ensures good feather cover and calmer birds with less cannibalism tendencies. The birds should be weighing 1,270-1320g/bird by week 15 and consuming 92-100g/bird/day on a good balanced feed. One bird should eat on average 5kg of grower diet over this period on a good balanced feed.

19-78 Weeks of age (Preparation for laying)

The birds are still on grower diet but must gradually change into layer diet at start of lay (5 per cent egg production). The weights must be closely watched at this stage as overtly obese birds have poor egg production trends. The diet should be high in energy and amino acids that is required for production, growth, and maintenance (keeping body temperature, body weight, feather cover and general activity). At 19-20 weeks of age the birds should weigh between 1,580 to 1680g/bird live weight and consuming a standard feed at 120g/bird/day.

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Birds will hit peak egg production of 92-95 per cent at 28 weeks of age and maintain that peak performance for a further 14 weeks before it gradually declines to a break-even value at 80 weeks. That time the birds will have given you 320-330 eggs per bird and each consumed 50kg of layer feed.

[The writer is the Head Vet at Kenchic, [email protected]]

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