Depending on the breed, a pullet would have to be about 4-5 months old from the day it hatches before it starts laying eggs. A farmer must be well-prepared to meet the costs of rearing pullets throughout the brooding to growing period. One challenge many poultry farmers have is feeding the young birds. Many farmers underfeed their birds during the growing (pre-lay) period to beat down production costs.
Normally, a poultry farmer shouldn’t have any problem buying feeds when his/her birds have started to lay because, at this stage, the birds should be generating revenue/profit from the eggs laid by them to cover their feeding costs.
The way pullets are managed during their brooding and growing phase influences their performance at the laying period. Indicators of performance must be available, and these indicators are to be monitored in the brooding, growing, and egg laying phases of layers. One of these performance indicators is “body weight.” Any underfed pullet will inevitably become underweight and will also experience late maturity. Pullets in this category will lay small eggs, and their eggs production will reduce more sharply after getting to the peak.
Overfeeding leads to the production of overweight birds. The disadvantage of overweight pullets is that they can never attain or sustain high egg laying production. Pullets that are raised under good management produces eggs at the highest peak, and they are less susceptible to problems of egg production.
Common management problems in layers production
The problems associated with management of layers, which are encountered by poultry farmers are discussed below. Most of these problems can be averted by farmers having good information about them. One thing about these problems if not addressed early is that they could result in critical economic losses.
Hens have a natural tendency to incubate their eggs. This trait is not found in commercial layers because it was bred out. Nonetheless, some hens still become broody occasionally. Any broody bird is always unproductive and it inconveniences other birds by sitting in the laying nest. Broody hens should be separated from the flocked and kept on a bare floor till broodiness is lost. After, they can be taken back to the laying house to continue laying eggs.
Cannibalism is a situation where chicken pecks and injures another chicken. It begins when a bird is injured and other birds start to peck the injured area or part. Most times, an injured bird bleeds to death. Cannibalism can be prevented through beaks trimming. If any injured bird is sighted, it must be removed from the flock before it results in serious injuries. Overcrowding, underfeeding, proteins or amino acid deficiencies, and boredom are major factors that lead to cannibalism.
3. Egg Eating
This vice may occur when a bird lays soft-shelled eggs. It happens when birds are deficient of certain nutrients such as calcium. As a result of this, the layers mash must be of a balanced ration. A hen is tempted to peck at an emerging egg if it sees an egg coming out from the cloaca of another hen. When the egg is pecked, it breaks, and the hen starts to eat it immediately. To avoid this incidence, farmers must construct proper laying nests. Each nest should accommodate one bird at a time. The nests should be partially covered to become dark if the nests are the communal type.
Due to infertility and a poor state of health, some birds stop laying eggs. This kind of birds must be culled (removed from the flock). All things being equal, all your birds should start laying eggs in their 25th week. After the 25 weeks, a farmer should start looking for unproductive birds, and any found should be culled to prevent feed and labour loss.