CARE OF GROWERS
Definition of Growers
Chickens are referred to as growers when they are between 8 weeks and 18 weeks of age. During this period they are fed Growers’ Mash.
Negative Effects of Over-Feeding
It is necessary to guard the feeding of chickens (particularly pullets) during this period. Over-feeding of growing pullets tends to lead to excessive deposition of fat in various parts of the internal organs, including the ovaries. Such deposition of fat on the ovaries delays ovulation and subsequently such pullets do not come into lay as early as expected. Moreover, when such pullets eventually start laying their production is low.
So, while the farmer that over-feeds his growing pullets rejoices that his pullets look bigger than their counterparts of the same age in the other farms, he will be disappointed to discover later on that his heavy pullets have refused to lay even at the 26th week, while their counterparts not excessively fed, have been dropping from their 20th week.
Remedies for Over-Feeding
Should a farmer suddenly discover that his pullets have been over-fed and thus have refused to lay, the remedy lies in taking measures that will enable them to shake off and lose those excess fats. Some of these measures include:
Providing a Run for Exercise
Attaching a ‘run’ (a playground) to the poultry house and letting the birds out into this run every afternoon for about one or two hours. The playground can be provided by simply fencing the adjacent field to the house with I1 (I inch) or 2″ mesh wire. A height of 4ft (or 1.4m) is usually enough for the net. Even if the height is less than 4ft, they will not usually jump out of the fence, unless they are light or nervous breeds like the white leghorn. In this run the pullets busy themselves with running after insects and pecking on the green vegetation. The area of the run should be at least 2 or 3 times the area of the floor of the house or pen. These activities of the pullets done under the heat of the sun will gradually shake off some of the unwanted fat.
Cutting Down Feed
Cutting down their feed; Added to this, go into the pen every afternoon with some grains of maize. Throw these maize seeds on the floor. They will usually run and scramble for them. Thereafter they will busy themselves scratching all over the litter in a bid to search out for more grains.
Whichever of the above two steps is chosen should be continued daily until the pullets have lost enough fat and commenced laying.
Feeding Schedule for Growing Chickens
Growing chickens are preferably fed two times a day. The first feeding is done in the morning before 9 a.m. and the second round is given six hours later. The calculated amount of feed required each day should then be divided into two equal parts for these two rounds of feeding. It is good to have the chickens completely consume all the feed in the trough before the next round of feeding. If however, some feed is left perhaps due to the attendant putting more feed than is necessary, the remaining feed in the trough is gathered into a basin or tray, and the trough is cleaned with the trough-cleaning brush. The fresh ration is poured into the feeding trough. On top of this fresh feed, the old feed collected in the basin is sprinkled. Prior to this sprinkling. all dirt in the feed like feces or litter materials is removed by hand as much as possible. By this measure, it is ensured that as much as possible of the older ration is first consumed before fresh ones. This minimizes the length of exposure of the ration to air.
Water is preferably served twice daily at the same time as the feed is served. This ensures that the water is maintained in a clean state for a long period. Where however it is possible to maintain their water clean all through the day, a single serving of water for the day will suffice provided that during this serving enough water to satisfy their daily water requirement is served.
CARE OF LAYERS
Transition to Laying House
Pullets should be transferred to the laying house or battery about one month before the time they are expected to start laying. This measure enables them to -get accustomed to their new environment before the laying commences. Egg production is very sensitive to changes and stress factors of all kinds.
For example, if a flock of layers producing say 1000 eggs daily, is transferred from one house to another, the next day their production could be as low as 700. The same thing happens with- layers given some vaccination or subjected to a sudden change in the ration.
Importance of Nesting Boxes
The nesting boxes in which the eggs will later be laid should be in this house at this time so that they see them for a month before they start using them. If nesting boxes are brought into a layers’ pen after they had started laying on the litter, it might take some time before they resort to using the boxes, and besides, some of them are bound to continue laying indiscriminately once used to it. The importance of laying boxes will be more appreciated when a farmer is faced with an egg-eating problem in his flock.
Sanitary Practices in Deep Litter Houses
In deep litter houses, it is a good sanitary practice to have waterers and feeders suspended from the roof. This helps to secure them against spillage. The rule is to place them at a height the same level as the back or top of the bird. As the birds grow the heights are adjusted accordingly.
Layers should have water and feed 24 hours a day, since the more they eat, the more they lay. If it is possible, they should be encouraged to eat even at night by having the pens well-lit.
Whenever feed is to be added to the trough, it should not be poured on top of the old one. Rather, the feed remaining in the trough should be poured out and a new one poured in at the bottom. The older feed in the trough is then spread all over the top so that they are consumed first before getting at the new feed. As soon as the attendant is able to determine the consumption capacity of a flock, he should serve just enough feed to leave only a scanty amount in the trough before the time for the next feeding.
Frequency of Egg Collection
Egg collection in a laying pen is done three times a day. The more frequent the better. It is bad practice to leave eggs for too long in a deep litter house- before collection, as the eggs tend to become dirty, and could absorb moisture if contaminated by fecal droppings.
Concerns with Delayed Egg Collection in Layers Chicken Farming
If a battery system is in use, eggs could be collected only two times a day, since neither the hens nor fecal droppings have any contact with the eggs. In the case of batteries where the sun’s rays get directly to the eggs, more collections should be done in the afternoon as the heat of the sun affects the quality of the eggs.
Collection Times for Different Housing Systems
The ideal egg-collecting times for deep litter houses are 10-11 am, 1-2 pm, and 4-5 pm. For battery, the collection times are 10-11 am and 4-5 pm. Eggs when collected are stored in a cool place to avoid deterioration of quality.