Layer poultry farming means raising egg laying poultry birds for the purpose of commercial egg production. Layer chickens are such a special species of hens, which need to be raised from when they are one-day old. They start laying eggs commercially from 18-19 weeks of age. They remain laying eggs continuously till their 72-78 weeks of age. They can produce about one kg of eggs by consuming about 2.25 kg of food during their egg laying period. For the purpose of producing hybrid eggs layer, consider the various characteristics of cock and hen before breeding. There are various types of highly egg productive layer breeds available throughout the world.
According to the nature and color of egg, layer hens are of two types. Short description of these two types are listed below.
White Egg Laying Hens: This type of hens are comparatively smaller in size. Relatively eat less food, and the color of egg shell is white. Isa White, Lehman White, Nikchik, Bab Cock BV-300, Havard White, Hi Sex White, Sever White, Hi line White, Bovanch White etc. are some popular white egg laying chickens.
Brown Egg Laying Hens: Brown egg laying hens are relatively larger in size. They eat more foods, compared to white egg layers. Lay bigger eggs than other laying breeds. Egg shell is brown colored. There are many types of brown layer available. Among those Isa Brown, Hi Sex Brown, Sever 579, Lehman Brown, Hi Line Brown, Bab Cock BV-380, Gold Line, Bablona Tetro, Bablona Harko, Havard Brown etc. are very suitable for commercial layer poultry farming.
There are many companies available throughout the world, which are producing commercial feed for layer chickens. You can buy feed from your local market or make the feed at your own house. You have to be sure that the feed you bought are enriched with essential food value. Protein and mineral are very important for laying hens.
Provide 2% of calcium for two weeks after their birth.
If you notice they are not gaining expected weight, then you have to serve starter feed for eight weeks.
Serve feed two or three times in a day till their 18 weeks of age.
Demand of feed increase very fast when the birds start laying.
Serve them layer poultry feed according to their age and weights.
Don’t decrease the amount of feed while laying (even if their weight increase).
Chickens health depend on the supply of pure, clean and fresh drinking water. You have to provide adequate water according to the demand of your laying hens. For purifying the water, mix 0.3 g bliching per litter. Determine a suitable place to keep the water pot inside the poultry house. Supply cold water during summer season and hot weather, and slightly hot water in cold weather or winter season.
In accordance with the age and species of chickens, food providing can control the weights of chicken. Use sufficient calcium, phosphorus, vitamins, amino acid and other mineral substance in their food. For purifying water use bliching powder or chlorine. If you follow the methods mentioned above, then you can make better profit from your layer poultry farming business.
Feeding Layers for egg production
The simplest way to feed a small flock of chickens is to purchase a complete feed from a feed store. Complete feeds provide nutritionally balanced diets for chickens.
Today’s chickens are descendants of the jungle fowl of Southeast Asia. Mature jungle fowl hens lay about 12 eggs per year, and only during the breeding season, but genetic selection has resulted in the development of a chicken that can lay almost 300 eggs per year and can lay year round. As a result of genetic selection and improved nutrition, hens start laying at a younger age and lay more, larger eggs, all with increased feed efficiency.
Commercial feeds from a reliable feed store have all the nutrients in the right proportions that chickens need. A balanced diet is necessary for optimal growth and production. If you use a good diet that meets the dietary needs of your flocks, supplementing with other items will upset the balance of the diet. The ingredients used in different types of feed are similar, but the proportions vary depending on the particular chickens being fed. Each bag of feed is labelled with its specific use.
Common mistakes made with supplements include the following:
- Providing vitamin and electrolyte supplements for more than 10 days
- Supplementing complete feeds with cracked corn, oats, or other grains
- Regularly adding green chops, lettuce, or other low nutrition ingredients to the diet
- Administering inappropriate or unnecessary medication
A chicken’s daily consumption of feed depends on the composition of the diet. Chickens typically adjust their feed intake in order to meet their energy requirements. As the energy content of a diet increases, feed intake decreases, and vice versa. Environmental temperatures also play an important role in determining how much feed a flock will consume. During hot weather, feed intake decreases. Feed intake increases during cold weather as chickens consume more to supply the extra energy needed to maintain regulation body temperature.
Chickens are compelled to scratch at the ground. They use their toes to mix up litter or scrape the ground in search of various seeds, greens, grit, or insects to eat. Spreading scratch grains (cracked, rolled, or whole grains such as corn, barley, oats, or wheat) encourages this behaviour. Scratch grains are relatively low in protein and high in energy or fibre, depending on which grain is used. When scratch grains are fed with complete feeds, they dilute the nutrition levels in the carefully formulated diets. Scratch grains are like French fries—chickens that eat too many scratch grains have less of an appetite for more nutritious feed. If you are using scratch grains, feed them to chickens in the afternoon after birds have eaten complete feed, and then provide only as much scratch grains as chickens can finish in 15 to 20 minutes.
When feeding scratch grains to chickens, it is also important to provide grit to help the chickens grind and digest the grains properly (since chickens do not have teeth). If chickens have access to the ground, they can typically find enough grit in the form for small rocks or pebbles, but it is helpful to supply commercial grit, which is available in chick or hen size. Fine gravel is an acceptable substitute for commercial grit. Oyster shell should not be used as grit since it is too soft and does not aid in grinding. In addition, growing chickens have a lower calcium requirement, and too much calcium can adversely affect their kidneys.
Grit should also be provided to pasture-raised chickens. Grit is important for breaking down the grass chickens consume. Refer to the article on the avian digestive tract for more information.
Chickens are often fed table scraps (peelings, stale bread, and leafy vegetables) as treats, but excessive table scraps and greens can adversely affect egg production. The total supplementation of table scraps and scratch grains should be no more than chickens can finish in 20 minutes. Make sure that the scraps are not allowed to rot, or botulism might result. It is also recommended that scraps with strong taste, such as onions, not be fed to laying hens because eggs might take on those flavors. Sour milk can also be fed to chickens.
The amount of complete feed consumed can be reduced by supplementing with pasture or lawn clippings. Young, tender plants are a valuable source of nutrients for chickens, but chickens are not able to digest old, fibrous plants. Do not feed grass clippings from lawns if pesticides have been recently applied.
Medicated poultry feeds, which typically contain a coccidiostat and/or an antibiotic, are available. Coccidiosis can be hard to control through sanitation practices alone. Chickens benefit from being fed a coccidiostat at low levels. Mature chickens develop a resistance to coccidiosis if allowed to contract a mild infection of the disease. Chickens raised for replacement can be fed a coccidiostat-containing feed for the first 16 weeks of life. The medicated feed should then be switched to a non-medicated feed.
Medicated feeds are not typically fed to laying hens. Examples of coccidiostats added to poultry diets include monensin, lasalocid, amprolium, and salinomycin. Examples of antibiotics added to feed include bacitracin, chlortetracycline, and oxytetracycline. Be sure to check the feed label for any warnings concerning the medication used in the feeds. Monensin, for example, can be toxic to horses.
Feeding and Storage
The way the chickens are fed is as important as the feed itself. Supply enough feeder space for all the chickens to eat at one time. With limited feeder space, some chickens do not get enough to eat. Place the feeders so that the trough is at the level of the chickens’ backs. This will reduce feed spillage. If bantams and large fowl are being fed from the same feeder, adjust the feeder to the height of the bantams.
Feed should not be stored for more than two months. It is also important to keep it in dry, cool place. Old feed can lose its nutritional value and is susceptible to mold.
The manner in which a pullet is raised to sexual maturity will have a lasting effect on the productive life of the hen. Pullets are grown to reach a certain body weight at a specific age. Many of the problems that occur in a laying flock can be traced back to insufficient body weight during the growing period.
Commercially raised pullets receive three diets during the growing phase: starter, grower, and developer. Most feed stores sell only one or two types of feeds for raising replacement pullets.
|Feed||Protein Level (%)||Age Of Birds||Feed Intake/10 Birds/ Age Period|
|Chick starter||20-22||0-6 weeks||20-29 lbs|
|Pullet grower||14-16||6-20 weeks||120-130 lbs|
|Layer||15-18||20 weeks on||18-24 lbs/week|
|All purpose*||16||All ages|
* Feed if only a single feed is available, and use during the entire growing period.
Once your chickens start laying eggs (around 20 weeks of age) they should be switched to a layer feed. Layer feeds are formulated for chickens laying table eggs (those used for human consumption). Broiler feeds are formulated for those chickens producing hatching eggs (breeders). The diets are basically the same, but the breeder diets typically have slightly more protein and are fortified with extra vitamins for proper embryo development.
Laying hens require large amounts of calcium for eggshells. Laying mashes typically contain 2.5% to 3.5% calcium. Growing chickens require only 1.2% calcium in their feed. If you feed high-calcium diets to growing chickens, kidney damage can result. It may also be necessary to supplement the diet of laying hens with ground oyster shell on a free-choice basis. Some high-producing laying hens may require the extra calcium that the oyster shell provides. Monitor the quality of eggshells to determine whether or not you need supplemental oyster shell. If hens produce eggs with thin shells or shells that are easily cracked, oyster shell supplementation might help.
Layer diets should contain at least 14% protein to ensure continued egg production. Layer diets that contain 16% protein are more common.
Each year chickens molt (lose older feathers) and grow new ones. Hens typically stop egg production until after the molt is completed. There is considerable variability in the timing and duration of a molt. “Late molters” lay for 12 to 14 months before molting, whereas “early molters” can begin to molt after only a few months in production. Early molters drop only a few feathers at a time and can take up to six months to complete the molt. Late molters shed feathers more quickly, over two to three months. With late molters, the loss of feathers and their replacement take place at the same time. This enables hens to return to full production sooner.
There are many physiological changes in a chicken during the non-productive molting period. There is a significant loss of body weight, 25% of which is due to the regression of the reproductive tract to the pullet state. The remainder of the weight loss is attributed to loss of body fat, feathers, liver tissues, musculature, and skeleton. The regression of the reproductive tract plays a significant role in the improvement of egg quality in the second production cycle: egg production levels, shell thickness, and egg quality improve after a molt.
In past practices, a producer would induce a molt in a flock by removing feed. Some refer to this practice as fasting, but because of the perception that feed removal is equivalent to starving the chickens, many countries now prohibit fasting as a means of initiating a molt. In the 1960s, researchers studied “low nutrient” molt diets. The diets were meant to be full-fed, but the reduction of dietary protein, calcium, or other critical nutrients reduced egg production to less than 5% and induced a molt. After the molt, the improvements to egg production appeared to be comparable to those of chickens induced to molt through fasting.
Possible methods for inducing a rest without withholding feed include feeding wheat middling, a diet that combines wheat middling and corn, a corn-gluten feed, soy hulls, or alfalfa. The postmolt production levels achieved when using these alternative feeds is lower than those achieved after inducing a molt through feed withdrawal, but they are nonetheless acceptable. Any molting procedure should cause the entire flock to rapidly go out of production, keep the flock out of production until it has had an adequate rest period, and rapidly bring the flock back into production after the rest.
Layer Hen Selection
You have to keep in mind some essential information before selecting the layer hens for your poultry farming business. You have to select those breeds which are suitable for your layer poultry farming business and can produce well in your area. Read below for selecting proper breeds for your business.
For commercial eggs production, you have to choose highly productive laying hens correctly.
All type of hens does not produce equal number of eggs.
The chosen breeds must have to have good production capability.
If your chosen breed contains the desired characteristic and have a reputation for egg production, then that breed is suitable for your business.
Always purchase healthy chicks from a famous and popular hatchery. You can see their catalog before purchasing.
During the first weeks after birth, many chicks do not want to drink water due to transporting them from one place to another. So you have to make adequate water drinking systems in their brooder house, and you have to train them for drinking water. Mix 5% glucose with water, so that they can easily get energy. Provide them any types of high quality multivitamin by mixing with water (suggested by electrolyte production companies instruction). Multivitamin and electrolyte are very effective when you transport chick from a long distance. It reduces tiredness and lack of water, and help to make the chick normal.
- Vaccination and its Importance
Vaccination program is a must for chicks for keeping them free from all types of diseases. The main advantage of poultry vaccination is listed below.
- Timely vaccination makes disease resistance power in the body of chick.
- Help to keep the hen free from infective poultry diseases.
- Disease prevalence will be less.
- Mortality rate will reduce.
- And low mortality rate = more production = more profit.
There are many types of poultry vaccines are available for layer hens. Marex, Ranikheth, Gamboro, Bruchaities, Bosonto, Salmonela etc. are used for layer chickens.
You have to maintain some rules before vaccination.
Hold the chickens very carefully.
Vaccinate the chickens without any strain.
There is no need to vaccinate the ill hen.
Wash the vaccination equipment with hot boiled water or germicide medicine/antiseptic.
Do the vaccination program in cold weather condition.
Preventive vaccine is always applicable to healthy bird. Never vaccinate an infected bird.
Keeping Growing Chicks
You have to maintain the suggestion listed below for keeping growing layer chickens.
You have to provide the growing chicks special care until they reach 4-5 weeks of age.
After brooding serve them good quality pellet feed. It will make good results in the future. They will produce egg highly. High quality pellet will make the chickens healthy and increase their body weight.
So it is very important to provide them quality pellet feed during growing period.
Egg Production from Commercial Layer Farm
Egg production from a commercial layer farm depends on the care and farm management. If you take good care of your birds and manage them properly, then the production and profit will be high.
Within the first 20 weeks of age, about 5% of hens start laying eggs.
About 10% birds start laying at their 21 weeks of age.
When they reach 26 to 30 weeks of age, they produce highly. Although, it may be different depending on their strain.
After laying a maximum number of eggs, they usually stop laying for a few days.
And after this period, their egg production might reduce slowly.
Egg laying rate and size of eggs increases gradually.
The hens grow till their 40 weeks of age.
Weight and size of eggs increases till their 50 weeks of age.
Method and Importance of Lip Cutting
Cutting the lip of laying hens is very important. The main benefits are listed below.
Lip cutting help to reduce mutual fights.
It helps to prevent food waste.
You have to cut your chick’s lip at their age of 8 to 10 days.
Cut the lip of growing chicken at their 8 to 12 weeks of age.
Cut the lip of chicks 0.2 cm from their nose.
Cut 0.45 cm in case of growing chickens.
Cut the both upper and lower lips.
Don’t cut the both lip together. Cut one after another.
Use block chick trimming machine to cut the lips.
Don’t cut their lip two days after or before vaccination, after or before using some medicines like sulfur. Don’t cut the lip if the hen in a strain, and during adverse weather conditions and if the hen start laying eggs.
Serve the chicken water mixed with vitamin “K” three days before cutting lips. Wash the lip cutting instrument with antiseptic. Test the edge and temperature of blade. You have to be careful, and don’t damage their eyes and tongue. Choose cold weather for cutting their lips. Lip cutting process should be observed by an experienced technician. After cutting lips, serve them water in a deep pot. Provide them some extra energy enriched feed. http://www.roysfarm.com/layer-poultry-farming/
Types of laying houses
Housing for hot – arid climates
Open house type
Moveable type housing
Sources: Kekeocha, 1985; Oluyemi and Roberts, 1979
Age. Birds typically begin producing eggs in their twentieth or twenty-first week and continue for slightly over a year. This is the best laying period and eggs tend to increase in size until the end of the egg production cycle.
Body weight. In general, optimum body weight during the laying period should be around 1.5 kg, although this varies according to breed. Underweight as well as overweight birds lay eggs at a lower rate. Proper management and the correct amount of feed are necessary in order to achieve optimum body weight.
Laying house. The laying house should be built according to local climatic conditions and the farmer’s finances. A good house protects laying birds from theft, predation, direct sunlight, rain, excessive wind, heat and cold, as well as sudden changes in temperature and excessive dust. If the climate is hot and humid, for example, the use of an open house construction will enable ventilation. The inside of the house should be arranged so that it requires minimum labour and time to care for the birds.
Lighting schedule. Egg production is stimulated by daylight; therefore, as the days grow longer production increases. In open houses, found commonly in the tropics, artificial lighting may be used to increase the laying period. When darkness falls artificial lighting can be introduced for two to three hours, which may increase egg production by 20 to 30 percent.
In closed houses, where layers are not exposed to natural light, the length of the artificial day should be increased either in one step, or in a number of steps until the artificial day reaches 16 to 17 hours, which will ensure constant and maximized egg production. Effective day length should never decrease during the laying period. An ideal artificial light schedule is shown in Figure 1.
Feed. Free-range hens will produce more meat and eggs with supplemental feed, but only if they are improved breeds or crossbreeds. The selection of local hens is done on the basis of resistance and other criteria rather than feed utilisation for production.
Fresh and clean water should always be provided, as a layer can consume up to one-quarter of a litre a day.
Figure 1 – Lighting schedule
Source: Smith, 1990
Culling. Culling is the removal of undesirable (sick and/or unproductive) birds, from the flock. There are two methods of culling:
mass culling, when the entire flock is removed and replaced at the end of the laying cycle; and
selective culling, when the farmer removes individual unproductive or sick birds.
Culling enables a high level of egg production to be maintained, prevents feed waste on unproductive birds and may avert the spreading of diseases.
Climate. The optimal laying temperature is between 11° and 26° C. A humidity level above 75 percent will cause a reduction in egg laying. Figure 2 indicates the effect temperature has on egg production.
Temperature and its effects on egg production
|11 – 26||Good production.|
|26 – 28||Some reduction in feed intake.|
|28 – 32||Feed consumption reduced and water intake increased; eggs of reduced size and thin shell.|
|32 – 35||Slight panting.|
|25 – 40||Heat prostration sets in, measures to cool the house must be taken.|
|40 and above||Mortality due to heat stress.|
Source: Kekeocha, 1985
When the temperature rises above 28° C the production and quality of eggs decrease. Seasonal temperature increases can reduce egg production by about 10 percent. http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/Y4628E/y4628e03.htm#TopOfPage
Factors affecting egg production
Typically, a layer’s production cycle lasts just over a year (52-56 weeks). During the production cycle many factors influence egg production; therefore, the cycle must be managed effectively and efficiently in order to provide maximum output and profitability. The following factors influence egg production.
Breed. The breed of the laying bird influences egg production. Management and feeding practices, however, are the key determining features for egg production.
Mortality rate. Mortality rate may rise due to disease, predation or high temperature. The mortality rate of small chicks (up to eight weeks of age) is about 4 percent; that of growers (between eight and 20 weeks of age) is about 15 percent; and that of layers (between 20 and 72 weeks of age) is about 12 percent. The average mortality rate of a flock is from 20 to 25 percent per year.
Effective and efficient management techniques are necessary to increase the productivity of the birds and consequently increase income. This entails not only proper housing and feeding, but also careful rearing and good treatment of the birds.
Diseases and Vaccination
Diseases and parasites can cause losses in egg production.
Some of the diseases are as follows:
bacterial: tuberculosis, fowl typhoid
viral: Newcastle, fowl plague
nutritional: rickets, perosis
Some of the parasites are:
external: lice, mites
internal: roundworms, tapeworms
Vaccinations are administered to birds by injection, water intake, eye drops and spraying. Clean and hygienic living quarters and surroundings may eliminate up to 90 percent of all disease occurrences.
Collection of eggs
Frequent egg collection will prevent hens from brooding eggs or trying to eat them and will also prevent the eggs from becoming damaged or dirty.