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Home / Smart Harvest

Is it worth it feeding birds not laying eggs?

Dorice Ombuna feeds her chicken at her Kionganyo farm in Kisii county on 28/6/2021. [Sammy Omingo,Standard]


I am Hadija Hassan from Mtwapa. I have 500 birds which are a year and two months old and getting 75 per cent production from this lot. My question is, how will I identify the 25 per cent which are not laying, get rid of them and continue to enjoy 100 per cent benefit from the more productive lot.

Dear Hadija

Thanks for taking time to raise this issue of egg productivity in your layer flocks. However, you did not indicate the type of breed you are keeping. Well, this is important because some performance qualities are heritable, that is passed from ‘mother to child’.

For example qualities like egg and body weights, early maturity, livability, and productivity can be influenced by the type of breed. The most common breeds of layers in this region include but not limited to ISA Brown, Hy-line, Lohman Brown, and Shaver with excellent performances. 

Although they may show some distinct differences in body weights, however on productivity, the standards are very close. Your birds at 61 weeks should be producing at 80-82 per cent, weighing about 1.97kg, with feed intake of 130g/bird/day and cumulative mortality of 4.5 per cent.

By this age, one hen should have produced cumulatively 256 eggs, assuming at rearing, uniformity, body weights were all to breed standards.  Before we decide to pick out the birds which are completely not laying, we need to know the factors that contribute to cessation in egg production.

Feed intake level

As the birds age and as they produce more eggs of bigger size, the feed requirements will go up to maintain this level of production and physiological body requirements.

Under feeding, poor feed distribution, poor feed structure will all affect the level of egg production.  

Water restriction will reduce feed intake, so drinkers must be always full. Any recent drop in feed intake must be properly investigated before we decide to remove temporary non-layers which would otherwise resume egg production after correcting feed intake.

Any stressful condition like high or low temperatures may also reduce feed intake. Midnight snack may correct this situation.

Protein (Amino acid) intake/balance

Amino acid, especially methionine is important in egg productivity. In your situation where uniformity is poor, some birds in this flock are performing dismally compared to others.

The high performers may require higher levels of proteins in the diet than is currently supplied. Average laying rate more than often lead to underestimation of the actual requirements of the stellar performers. It is possible that two thirds of the flocks are performing at or above breed standards.

Isolate physically unthrifty birds from the population for supplemental feeding and watch for any recovery in the laying rate. Using the three long fingers, place between the pin bones at the cloacal area, if the space is narrow, the hen is probably not laying, they should be separated.

Energy requirement

Birds use energy for growth, body weight, feathering, temperature regulation, physical activity and egg production in that order. Birds tend to adjust their feed intake based on energy concentration in the diet.

Thin underweight birds and obese birds will not produce efficiently. Weigh samples of birds and segregate underweight and birds weighing over 2.0 kg in separate pens and observe over a period before declaring them non-layers.

 [Dr Watson Messo Odwako email [email protected] or [email protected]]

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