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Mysterious losses of chickens in Poultry production plus How to tell good and bad layers


Sometimes mysterious looses of birds occur in a flock. These are losses which are not recorded by the attendant because he is unaware of them. Such losses only become known when the birds are counted either during vaccination, or before marketing. Such mysterious losses are often due to nocturnal visits by rodents like mice, rats, rabbits and sometimes by large snakes.

It has been observed that in many farms without adequate fencing, rodents frequently visit the feed store and food fat on the ration. Soon, these big rodents discover a way into the brooder house and feast on the tender chicks. They often carry some away back to the holes where they live

Snakes are also attracted by young chicks. Big ones can swallow a good number of these chicks in one visit alone. If they gain entry into the layers pen they swallow a lot of eggs and often attempt swallowing a layer. When it discovers that the layer is bigger than it can cope with, it leaves behind a dead slimy fowl in the layers pen to tell the rest of the story to the attendant when he comes the next morning. Sometimes, these snakes visit during the day, if they know that the attendants have all gone, and the birds left alone.

This problem can only be solved by ensuring that wire nets with meshes about I inch or less are used in fencing, to screen off these enemies. The space between the roof and the highest point of the wall should be completely covered with wire nets, or completely sealed with roofing sheets, if enough ventilation has been provided. All openings created in the house for the purposes of ventilation or house-cleaning exercise must be covered with wire nets.

Another way of driving away snakes from a farm is by

     Pouring crude oil or spent engine oil round the farm or

      By dropping bitter cola nuts round the farm at intervals of about one meter or two feet.

Soldier ants invasion of a farm is another big problem which some farmers encounter. These ants, once they find their way into a pen, attack the birds and kill them with their painful bites. They can kill all the birds in a pen if not fought against. An easy way of achieving victory over them is to dig a small trench or gutter round the farm, cement it so as to hold water and then pour in water into the trench. All the soldier ants will get drowned on their way into the farm since they must pass the gutter to get in. A trench of even 10cm x 10cm or less can suffice. Bigger trench is merely a waste of labour and cement, but will still achieve the same result.


A very good layer is expected to lay about 250 eggs per year. 180 eggs per year is considered as average. Over 60% of these eggs are laid between the months of September to March or April.

In battery system, it is easy to tell when a layer is a poor layer by the number of eggs picked in front of its cage. But in deep litter houses, poor layers can only be discovered by constant observation and handling. Birds that produce less than 4 eggs a week are poor layers and should be culled. Culling, as has been described, is simply the removal of unprofitable birds. Culled birds are sold and the farmer is saved the cost of feeding birds that will not return enough eggs to pay for the cost of the ration consumed.

Three eggs a week is used as yardstick for measuring the profitability of any layer. At a rate of 3 eggs a week, a hen merely gives enough to cover cost of keeping it and no more. So a hen that gives 4 eggs a week can be said to be bringing in a profit of one egg a week. Wise farmers prefer to use four eggs per week as their yardstick, because the three eggs per week assumes that the ration is bought at the stipulated price which is often abused by sellers.

Any fowl that is still laying well is seen to be well balanced on its feet. It is neither too coarse nor too fine in appearance. A list of some of the qualities of good layer which a farmer can easily observe include:

Well balanced on its feet

Neither too coarse nor too fine in appearance

It is not too fat nor too thin, but is rather seen to conform with the standard weight of that particular breed

It is quite alert

It possesses bright prominent eyes.

Has a short beak

Comb and wattles are red, waxy, and full

Its general conformation is broad, flat and long back, width carried well into the tail

(Layers that show tapering tail-end or narrow tail end of the back are usually not laying well)

A good layer has a good depth of body and a long keel bone, as this provides plenty of room and support for the digestive and reproductive organs of the bird. (Both organs play major roles in a bird’s ability to lay well. Consequently a good layer is seen to have a deep full abdomen with soft pliable skin.

The distance between the pelvic bones and the end of the keel bone should be wide enough to accommodate 3 or 4 fingers. Similarly the two pelvic bones should not be too close together. In a good layer, the distance between these pelvic bones should be wide enough to take two or three fingers.

         Another interesting characteristic of a good layer is the pigmentation of the skin. This is however best observed in yellow-skinned breeds. In such birds, the yellow pigment disappears first from the vent as the bird lays. After the vent, the yellow colour later disappears from the eye ring, the beak, and legs in that order (VEBL). The colour returns in the same order, starting with the return of yellowness in the legs, beak, eye ring, and later vent.

       Other qualities of a good layer include flat shanks, short toe-nails and fairly ragged and worn plumage. Birds that do not conform with the above qualities are known to be poor layers and thus culled. So, the easiest way to tell a bad layer is not to find the above listed characteristics which are associated with most good layers.

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