Layers Production and Business Guide(Part 1)
Learn the easy way of jumpstarting your own layering business.
Chicken egg production in the Philippines is a minor industry compared to the broiler production sector that takes center stage in the Philippine chicken trade. But the chicken layer sector had the most growth between 2001 and 2002 because of the increase of chicken layers in the country.
In 2002 alone, chicken egg production contributed 3% of the total value of agriculture in the Philippines.
With the current socio-economic problems in the country, the chicken egg is one of the cheapest food products that are vastly available in the market. The chicken egg is also considered as one of the most complete food sources with high nutritional value.
Chicken egg production in the Philippines mainly serves the domestic market.
MANAGEMENT OF THE LAYER FARM
The success of the egg-production business greatly depends on successful management of the layer farm. Each factor discussed below contributes to the success of your egg production business.
Housing and bedding
Poultry housing and equipment can be as simple as a shed roof with chicken wire fencing, nests, water fountains and hand-filled feeders to an environmentally controlled fully automated cage layer house. Make sure that the birds are given adequate floor space. A maximum of three birds per square meter is recommended. Provide birds with up to 100% (depending on severity of conditions) more floor space than is recommended for temperate climates.
In the laying house, supply at least 1 nest per 4 females or at least provide one 10″ x 10″ nest for every 5 hens in your flock. Place nests 24″ above the floor and away from the roosts. Keep the nesting material clean and dry.
Lighting, heating and ventilation
Heat stress is one of the major risk factors that one must consider in layer farm management. The ideal temperature for laying hens is between 18 degrees and 29 degrees Celsius.
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 louvers which can direct moving air directly on to the birds at floor level.
In shade houses, natural daylight must be supplemented with artificial lighting in order to obtain desirable lighting patterns which 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.
Poultry housing should provide clean, dry, comfortable quarters for birds throughout the year.
To brood chicks, you need adequate heat and space. The house and equipment should be clean and in good repair.
Set up and warm the brooding area before the chicks arrive. Chicks will need a warm, draft-free location with proper ventilation and access to clean water, appropriate feed and protection.
The normal brooding period, when heat is required, is from the time chicks hatch until they are about six weeks old. Chicks may be brooded many places on the farm. The main requirements are adequate space, a reliable source of heat and proper ventilation.
A brooder house measuring 10 by 12 feet will take care of 120 chicks to eight weeks of age. The chick guard ring is 12 inches high arranged in a circle 6 feet in diameter around the brooder stove. The feeders are placed in a spoke like arrangement radiating outward from underneath the outer portion of the brooder canopy. This provides chicks access to feed and allows them to move freely in and out from the heat source.
The mechanics of feeding are nearly as important as the feed itself. Supply enough feeder space so that all the birds can eat at the same time. When space is limited, some birds don’t get enough to eat. Keep feed available for the birds constantly. Meal feeding (giving a limited amount of feed several times each day) can reduce productivity if not managed carefully.
Place feeders so the trough is at the level of the birds’ backs. This practice reduces feed spillage, which encourages rodents, wastes feed, and costs money.
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.
Whenever possible, use a water supply such as well which provides cool water. Bury or insulate water pipes to maintain the original coolness. Additionally, supply troughs in which breeders may dip their combs and wattles so that evaporation of water cools the blood supply in the combs and wattles. In extremely hot weather, do not place drugs or other substances in the water which might decrease its palatability.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Nutrition and formulating feed for the layer flock
Nutrition and feed are very important factors in ensuring the good performance of hens. Make sure you provide the flock with proper feeds and nutrients to get quality eggs during harvest.
Feed newly hatched chicks a starter diet until they are about six weeks old. Starter diets are formulated to give proper nutrition to fast growing baby chickens. These feeds usually contain between 18% and 20% protein.
It is not necessary to feed “meat bird starter” to young layer chickens. Diets formulated for starting meat chickens are higher in protein (22% to maximize growth, which is not necessary or desirable for egg laying chickens and is higher in cost. Once the birds reach about six weeks of age, substitute a grower feed for the starter. Grower feeds are about 15% or 16% protein and are formulated to sustain good growth to maturity.
After about 14 weeks of age, you can substitute the grower feed with developer feeds if they are available. These feeds are lower in protein than grower feeds (14% to 15%) and are formulated to prepare young chickens for egg production. Remember, these two feed types are virtually interchangeable; either one can be fed to chickens between six weeks of age and the beginning of egg production.
Once your chickens begin laying eggs, you can choose between layer and breeder feeds. Your choice of feed at this stage depends on how the eggs will be used.
Layer feeds are formulated for chickens that are laying table eggs (those used for food). Layer feeds contain about 16% protein and extra calcium so the chickens will lay eggs with strong shells. Start feeding layer feeds at about 20 weeks of age or when the first egg is laid, whichever occurs first.
Breeder feeds are formulated for chickens that are producing eggs for hatching. These feeds basically are layer feeds containing slightly more protein and fortified with extra vitamins for proper chick development and hatching. However, use of breeder feeds is somewhat questionable for the small flock producer, since the increased cost may not be justified by the potentially slight increase in hatchability.
What we feed our chickens is very important. Chickens use feed for two main purposes: as an energy source to maintain body temperature and to carry on activities such as breathing, walking, eating and digesting the feed and as building material for the development of bone, flesh, feathers and eggs. The feed that chickens eat is made up of water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Each nutrient serves a special need.
Carbohydrates make up the biggest share of the poultry diet. In the form of starches or simple sugars, that are needed for body maintenance and energy. Important sources of carbohydrates in poultry feeds are corn, milo and various other grains.
Proteins are complex compounds made up of amino acids. Feed proteins are broken down into amino acids by digestion and converted into boy proteins. Body proteins are used in the construction of body tissue. Tissues that mainly consist of protein are muscles, nerves, cartilage, skin, feathers and beak. The albumin (white) of the egg is also high in protein.
The mineral portion of the feed is inorganic matter. Minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, help build bones and make them strong and rigid. Laying hens also require minerals for eggshell formation.
Grains are low in minerals, so supplements are necessary. Calcium, phosphorus and salt are needed in the greatest amounts. Bone meal and defluorinated and dicalcium phosphates supply additional calcium and phosphorus. Ground limestone and oyster shell are good calcium sources. Trace levels of iodine, iron, manganese and zinc are also included in mineral supplements.
Vitamins occur in feeds in small amounts, but they are absolutely necessary for growth, reproduction and the maintenance of health. They occur in feedstuffs in varying quantities and in different combinations Vitamin A is necessary for the health and proper functioning of the skin and lining of the digestive, reproductive and respiratory tracts. Vitamin D plays an important role in bone formation and the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus. The B vitamins are involved in energy metabolism and in many other metabolic functions.
to be continued…
Conclusion –> Layers Production and Business Guide (Conclusion)