Dear Dr Messo
I bought 336 layer chicks at some point this year. They are now 22 weeks old and still not a single egg, what could be the issue? Regards Polizena
I will share possible causes of delayed onset of lay or complete inability of a chicken to produce an egg when it has reached biological point of lay (POL). POL period ranges between 16 and 18 weeks. Rearing is the investment phase for future egg production and the productivity of a flock depends to a large extent on how successful key performance targets are achieved during this period. In this article, we will look at 10 factors that contribute to delayed or lack of egg production.
1. Low energy level in feed
Energy is the single most important component of any good feed. It is needed for physical body maintenance, growth and egg production, in that order. The main source of energy in poultry feed is maize or wheat depending on what is readily available. So, if your feed is of low energy level (less than 2,600 kilo calorie) these birds will struggle to produce an egg. A quick change of feed could just be what you need to kick start the process.
2. Protein and amino acid deficiencies
Eggs are made of proteins and amino acids and any deficiency in the diet will result into no egg production. Any feed deficient in methionine and Lysine will compromise on egg production. Crude protein level in feed should be between 17 and 20 per cent of the complete diet.
3. Lack of calcium and phosphorus in the diet
These two minerals are important for egg shell 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.
4. Lack of premix in the diet
Premixes (a ready-mixed substance) 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. This is called empty feeder technique.
5. Low body weight
Weekly weighing of a sample of birds is the single most important activity in pullet management. Weighing done at the same time, same position every week will give you a growth curve of your flocks that can then be compared with breed standards. Light breeds start to lay at 16 to 18 weeks weighing between 1.4 and 1.6 kg per bird.
6. Low feed allocation, poor uptake
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. Birds still grow until week 31 while in production. Ensure your birds are getting around 90-120grams of grower diet per bird/day.
7. Poor Flock uniformity
Please provide enough feeders and waterers for your birds all the time. This will ensure that 90 per cent of your birds are growing within the standard curve and hence will come into production at relatively the same time.
8. Sexual immaturity
At 22 weeks, your 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 to 8 weeks of age, don’t supplement light after this period otherwise you compromise light stimulation and egg production.
9. 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. You need to call a vet for health checks.
10. 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 will get rid of mites and fleas.
-The writer is Head Vet at Kenchic