Production and Business Guide on Egg Layers, Management Part 2

Miscellaneous Equipment

For large scale farms, a feed mill is usually used to automate the distribution of feeds. Feeds are distributed using an auger system. Egg transporting mechanisms are also used to minimize the occurrence of human egg handling. These automatic egg collectors are also used to place the eggs into plastic trays that will carry the eggs into the processing and sorting facility via a large overhead belt.

Dead Bird Disposal

Disposal of dead birds on the farm continues to be a challenge from the standpoints of cost, environmental safety, biosecurity and practicality. While we, hopefully, have to deal with only a relatively small amount each day, disposal or preservation must also occur daily in order to meet the above challenges.

Burial has been the method of choice for years because of its low cost and convenience. A deep pit with inside framing and a tight-fitting cover can be constructed, or an open trench prepared by a backhoe can be progressively filled as birds die.

Incineration is probably the most biologically safe method of disposal. It creates only a small amount of benign waste that can be easily disposed of and does not attract pests. It is also a serviceable option where a high water table or soil type precludes excavation.

Biosecurity

As a bird owner, keeping your birds healthy is a top priority. Your birds can become sick or die from exposure to just a few unseen bacteria, viruses, or parasites. In a single day, these germs can multiply and infect all your birds. However, by practicing biosecurity, you can keep your birds healthy.

Restrict access to your property and your birds. Consider fencing off the area where your birds are to form a barrier between “clean” and “dirty” areas. The clean area is the immediate area surrounding your birds, and the dirty or buffer area must be considered to be infected with germs, even if the birds appear healthy and disease free. Allow only people who take care of your birds to come into contact with them.

Scrubbing your shoes with a long-handled scrub brush and disinfectant will remove droppings, mud, or debris. Clothes should be washed in a washing machine with laundry detergent. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap, water, and a disinfectant before entering your bird area.

Keep cages, food, and water clean on a daily basis. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings. That includes tools such as feed scoops, shovels, rakes, and brooms. All manure must be removed before disinfectant can work, so clean surfaces with soap and water first. Properly dispose of dead birds by burial or incineration or take them to a landfill.

FLOCK CARE AND MANAGEMENT

Chick quality

Healthy flocks start from healthy stocks. So from the start, choose only healthy chicks for the farm. Do not acquire chicks that have wet vents and dull eyes. Characteristics of healthy chicks are dry, fluffy feathers, bright eyes and alert and active appearance.

Brooding

Sufficient heat should be provided to keep day-old chicks warm during the day or night. Abrupt changes in brooder temperature should be avoided during the first two weeks.

Provide adequate space for chicks as they grow. Overcrowding is one of the factors affecting poor growth. Also provide a good light source, as a well-lighted brooder encourages chicks to start feeding. Also prove good ventilation for chicks to avoid future

respiratory diseases. Egg-type chicks should be transferred from the brooding house to the grower pens at six to eight weeks old. They are then transferred to the laying house when they reach the age 16 to 18 weeks old or three weeks before they lay eggs.

Make sure to provide anti-stress drugs, vitamins and minerals to the birds two to five days before and after their transfer. Also make sure the bird houses are thoroughly cleaned before the birds are transferred.

Commercial layer strains in use today yield high numbers of productive pullets when reared under recommended breeder guidelines to be at target body weights at the desired time of reaching sexual maturity. The only selection in most instances is to remove deformed, unhealthy, and grossly underdeveloped birds when the move is made from the growing to the laying house. In the FFA (Future Farmers of America) judging contest there is a class of pullets evaluated on their production potential using the following guidelines.

The head should be moderately long and well-filled in forward to the eyes to avoid a crow-headed appearance. The face should be clean-cut, smooth and free from wrinkles. The comb should be large and bright red in color. The eyes should be large, bright, and prominent.

The pullet should be fully feathered with plumage of good quality. Shanks should show a good healthy color, but place no emphasis on color intensity with birds of this age. Feet and toes should be completely normal and the bird should be well balanced on her legs.

The body should be deep, broad, and well developed, with a heart girth of ample circumference. The keel should be of good length and the back should be relatively long, broad, and flat.

Sexual maturity should be expressed by size and development of the comb and wattles. Early sexual maturity should not be encouraged and size of development should be preferable to sexual maturity.

Layer hens may start laying eggs at age 20 to 22 weeks. They will reach maximum egg production at age 30 weeks to 36 weeks. Egg production of pullets older than 36 weeks may decline then level off. It is also during the first year that layer hens undergo the process of molting. Poor layers will molt early, and late molters are generally the good layers. Layer may produce 10% to 20% less eggs during the second year of production. However, they will also produce larger eggs.

Author: Carmela Abaygar, Marid Digest

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