Layers are egg laying poultry birds for the purpose of commercial egg production. Layer chickens are a special highbred hens, which need to be raised from when they are one day old. They start laying eggs commercially as early as 18 weeks of age. They remain laying eggs continuously till their 72-78 weeks of age. Popular Commercial layer breed reared in Kenya is Isa brown.
Housing for Layer Birds
- Ideal house for layers should be spacious enough allowing 2 birds per square feet, should be well ventilated, draught free, the roof should be leaf proof.
- The house should be rectangular in shape and walls higher than 3ft on the longer side. The wall can be made from off-cuts, iron sheets, silver boards or bricks. The rest parts of the walls can be made of wire mesh. The roof should have a reflecting surface.
- Cement floors are the best as they are easier to clean. There should be a foot-bath at the entrance to the house for those entering the house to disinfect their foot ware.
- To reduce the risk of rodents gaining entrance into the flock house, clear all the vegetation in an area 3-4 meters around the flock house. The feed store should also be separate from the house.
Hygiene and sanitation of Layer Birds
- All-in all-out system is the best management practice as it prevents the build-up of diseases and disease outbreaks. If one chose to keep flocks of different ages, then each flock MUST be housed in its own house, and have a distance of 10m between the units.
The flock house should be constructed in isolated areas to decrease the risk of contamination. Fence the houses to exclude stray animals and visitors, keep the door always closed.
- Poultry workers should always wear clean, disinfected foot ware and clothing. When visiting birds of different ages, start with the youngest flock and always visit sick flocks last, irrespective of their age.
- Avoid introduction of materials and / or equipment into the poultry house without thorough cleaning and disinfection as these items can be carriers of disease- causing organisms.
Rearing From Day One Old Chick
Preparing the house
- As soon as the old flock has been depopulated, clean and disinfect the layer house and equipment.
- Remove all the old litter to avoid re-contamination of the house.
- Wash the house with water and soap, starting from the roof, walls and then the floor. Allow the house to dry before disinfecting it (roof, walls and floor).
- Wash and disinfect all the equipment.
- Allow the house to remain empty for at least 2 weeks after removing old stock to reduce the build-up of diseases and parasites.
- Place 4 inches of litter material (wood shavings, straw, rice husk or coffee husks). The litter helps in insulate the floor and absorb moisture from chicken droppings.
- Prepare the brooder area at least 24 house before the chicks arrive.
- Check the brooder temperature before introducing chicks, ensure feed and water troughs are at the right place (with clean water in which glucose has been dissolved and clean feed on newspaper before the chicks learn to feed from the troughs)
Brooding and brooder management of layer chicken
- Collect chicks that are healthy with no signs of infection and free from deformities.
- Transport chicks in well ventilated boxes; avoid wind and direct sunlight or rain. Transport should be from hatcheries to the farm without any unnecessary stops
- On arrival at the farm carefully remove the chick boxes from the transport vehicle into the flock house. Carefully remove the chicks from the boxes into the brooder ring.
- Once the chicks are introduced in the brooder, provide them with clean feed and water. Add glucose, vitamins and liquid paraffin in water. The glucose provides the chicks with ready source of energy and help overcoming stress while liquid paraffin assist in passage of faeces.
- For the first 48 hours spread feed on a paper placed on the litter, the papers with feed should be well distributed in the brooder area.
- Maintain proper temperature in the brooder temperature. The temperature should be monitored by installing minimum-maximum thermometer in the brooder at a height of the chicks
- Excessive chick noise during brooding is an indication that the chicks are uncomfortable. This is commonly due to improper temperatures, water or feed stress.
- The brooding area should be enlarged progressively to avoid overcrowding. The birds should be allowed to occupy the whole house by the time they are 3 weeks of age.
- During brooding it is essential to maintain proper ventilation regardless of the cost of maintaining the brooder temperatures. Ventilation is important in removing the ammonia from the house and ensuring that the litter is dry thereby reducing disease challenge. Layers also require fresh air to grow and produce eggs.
Temperature requirement in the brooder for Layers
|Chick age (weeks)||Temperature at chick height||Temperature in the house|