Rearing of the Growing Stock
- Broilers are marketed when they reach 45-60 days of age depending on strain.
- For the egg type, chicks are transferred to the growing houses or pens at 6-8 weeks old. They are kept in these quarters until they are 16-18 weeks old at which time then they are transferred to the laying house.
- Birds are given anti-stress drugs, either in the feed or in the drinking water 2-5 days before and after they are transferred to the growing houses.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect the growing houses prior to the transfer of the growing stock. Transfer birds only during good weather.
- During hot summer days, the appetite of the birds diminishes but this may be sufficiently restored by wet mash feeding or by taking appropriate measures to lower house temperature like spraying, misting or sprinkling the roofing with water.
- Provide clean fresh drinking water at all times.
Management of the Layer Flock
- Pullets are transferred to the laying house at the age of 16-18 weeks or at least 3 weeks before the onset of egg production.
- A few days before and after the transfer, the bird’s ration should be fortified with antibiotics and vitamins to minimize or counteract the effects of stress.
- Cull those birds that show little or no promise of becoming potential layers.
- Birds will start laying when they are 20-22 weeks old. Generally, pullets reach maximum egg production when they are between 30-36 weeks old, after which egg production tends to decline and then levels off.
- After the first year of laying, the layers undergo a physiological process called molting. Early molters are poor layers while late molters are good ones.
- During the second year of production, the layers usually average about 10 to 20 percent fewer eggs as compared to the first year but the eggs are bigger.
- Provide layers with calcium supplements like limestone and ground oyster shell and insoluble grit.
Tips on Layer Management on Hot Climate
Air movement around birds at floor level has a beneficial cooling effect. In shade houses, take full advantage of natural breezes using paddles or circulating fans in periods of still weather and particularly during the heat of the day. In controlled environment houses, use inlets with moveable louvres that can direct moving air directly on to the birds at floor level.
In controlled environment houses, over-ventilate during the cool part of the day in order to cool down the whole house. Birds experiencing a cool period each day are better able to withstand hotter-periods with no adverse effects on performance.
Provide birds with up to 100% (depending on severity of conditions) more floor space than is recommended for temperate climates. Three birds per square meter is an absolute maximum. In controlled environment houses, rearing males with females makes the most economic use of expensive floor space.
Maintain only a very shallow layer of litter on concrete floors. This will maximize any cooling effect that the concrete floor may have on the birds through absorption of body heat.
Dry, dusty litter can cause severe irritation and damage to the eyes of chickens. Avoid dustiness by sprinkling water generously on litter at regular intervals. This spraying can, during extremely hot, dry spells, be advantageously extended to the birds themselves and the feed.
Whenever possible, use water supply such as well which provides cool water. Water consumption can double in very hot weather.
Bury or insulate water pipes to maintain the original coolness.
Supply troughs in which breeders may dip their combs and wattles so that evaporation of water cool the blood supply in the combs and wattles.
In extremely hot weather, when water consumption may be doubled to prevent heat prostration, do not place drugs or other substances in the water that might decrease its palatability and, therefore, its uptake. The distribution of waterers should be such as to minimize the distance any bird has to move in order to drink; ideally, both feed and water should be distributed so that no bird has to move more than 1 1/2 meters to get its requirements.
In shade houses, natural daylight must be supplemented with artificial lighting in order to obtain desirable lighting patterns that are necessary to adequately control sexual maturity. A constant or decreasing lighting pattern during rearing is essential to prevent too early sexual maturity. An increasing or constant light pattern is necessary after 22-24 weeks of age.
Supply at least one nest per four females. Ensure free circulation of air round the nest areas to discourage broodiness.
Collect eggs more regularly than in temperate areas and transfer immediately to the egg cooling room which should be located on the farm site. Transport eggs to the hatchery in an insulated van.
Practice daily fumigation of eggs.
In hot climates, poor production, small egg size, and thin shells are generally the result of an inadequate daily intake of the required nutrients.
Where feed consumption is lowered merely by depression of the appetite and because of high temperatures during the period of bird activity, there will be an inadequate intake of ALL nutrients. This can be corrected by allowing the feeding activity to occur during the cool part of the day, when appetite is stimulated. Additionally, if facilities allow, advantage can be gained by feeding damped or wet mash, as can the substitution of mash by crumbs or pellets.
Generally, in hot climates, the energy requirements of the hen are much reduced; because she eats to meet only her energy requirements, this results in an inadequate daily intake of protein, vitamins and minerals. In this situation, the correct daily intake of nutrients can only be achieved by correct feed formulation based upon a denser ration in which particular attention should be given to increasing vitamin levels well above temperate climate levels.
The correct formulation of feed depends upon local conditions. It requires knowledge of the relationship between energy content of the feed and the amount of feed consumed daily. With correct formulation the latter will contain the correct daily allowance of protein, vitamins and minerals. Some vitamin supplementation can be done via the water and a continuous level of vitamin supplementation is virtually essential during all periods of heat stress.
Feed intake is the main method of controlling sexual maturity in open houses and very careful attention must be given to controlling quantities very often to levels much below those used in temperate areas.
Where intake levels are severely controlled, check weighing of the birds is absolutely vital. It is also essential to ensure proper ration formulation particularly in respect of any drug inclusions such as coccidiostats.
Download Laying Nest Structure diagram here
Culling Poor Layers
Consider the following pointers in culling poor layers:
Characteristics = Description
- Comb, wattle, earlobes = Small pale, cold, shrunken and dry.
- Pubic bones (2 small bones extending along the sides of the vent) = Close together, only one finger can be placed between them, thick and hard.
- Vent = Small, dry puckered and round.
- Abdomen = Hard with thick skin, contracted.
- Span (distance between end of breast bone and ends of pubic bones) = About 1-2 fingers in width.
- Pigmentation (yellow beak and shanks) = Remains yellow even after months in laying pen