Factors affecting egg production

During the production cycle many factors influence egg production; therefore, the cycle must be managed effectively and efficiently in order to provide maximum output and profitability. Poultry systems for egg production need to be aware of the factors that decrease this performance parameter.

The success of poultry production dedicated to egg production is based on the productive performance of the poultry. There are many factors of non-infectious and infectious origin that can impact laying hens. In this article, we are going to discuss about non-infectious factors.

The laying cycle of a chicken flock usually covers a span of about 12 months. Egg production begins when the birds reach about 18–22 weeks of age, depending on the breed and season. Flock production rises sharply and reaches a peak of about 90%, 6–8 weeks later.

Many non-infectious factors can adversely affect egg production which are as follows-

1. Improper Nutrition: Proper nutrition in the rearing period allows the hen to achieve or exceed standard body weights. During the laying period, diet specifications can be used to manage egg size. Energy, methionine/cystine, other digestible amino acids, linoleic acid and total fat can directly affect the egg size and when supplied correctly, help product larger eggs.

If mineral requirements are not met and birds are laying too large eggs, this could result in thinner shells and more cracked eggs. Protein is an essential component of the diet that also needs correctly balanced. Eggs are a high protein food therefore birds also need a good amount of protein in their diet.

Laying chickens require a completely balanced diet to sustain maximum egg production over time. Inadequate nutrition can cause hens to stop laying. Inadequate levels of energy, protein or calcium can cause a drop in egg production.

This is why it is so important to supply laying hens with a constant supply of nutritionally balanced layer food.

a) Calcium: The eggshell is composed primarily of calcium carbonate. Calcium can be supplied in the diet as either ground limestone or oyster shell. The pullet’s requirement for calcium is relatively low during the growing period, but when the first eggs are produced, the need is increased at least four times, with practically all of the increase being used for the production of eggshells.

Inadequate calcium consumption will result in decreased egg production and lower eggshell quality.

b) Vitamin D: Excess vitamin D3 leads to increased calcium absorption resulting in hypercalcemia, which may reduce egg production. Vitamin D is required for normal calcium absorption and utilization. If inadequate levels of vitamin D are fed, induced calcium deficiency quickly results and egg production decreases.

c) Protein: Protein is the main component in laying since eggs are a product with high protein value. Therefore, enough protein must be supplied in the diet to avoid a decrease in egg-laying.

d) Fat: Dietary fat is a source of energy and of linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid. A deficiency of linoleic acid will adversely affect egg production. Dietary fats also serve as “carriers” of fat-soluble vitamins, and some fat is necessary for absorption of vitamins. In fact, impairment of the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) is the most serious consequence of a dietary deficiency of fat.

2. Stress: Laying hens are susceptible to stress states due to their nature as prey animals. Therefore, sudden changes of any kind should be avoided: temperature, feed, humidity, noise, location, flocks, predators. In addition, diseases themselves cause stress in the poultry due to the symptoms they generate. If stress is high, egg production starts to decrease significantly. Therefore, producers should take care to maintain the best environmental and surroundings conditions in the poultry houses where the poultry remain calm.

3. Lighting: Increased light may be needed during winter months when days are shorter and the sun is less intense. It takes a daily dose of 14 to 16 hours to trigger the pituitary gland into signaling egg production.

Light is included among the factors that affect poultry laying. Lighting generates several reactions and hormonal cascades that favor egg production.

4. Water: If a hen does not consume adequate water, it affects the egg size and production. The water quality and temperature are also important. Lower water consumption will mean a reduction in feed consumption too, resulting in smaller eggs. Water consumption in poultry is an important parameter since water is vital for all physiological processes. Egg production depends to a large extent on the hydration status of the hens. For egg formation, water is required, and poultry must consume it according to their needs.

5. Molting: This natural process involves the shedding a regrowth of feathers. In the growth stage extra protein is needed to make sure birds can molt and lay at the same time.

Birds have natural molting periods during their lives to renew their feathers. Feathers are of great importance as they are a physical skin barrier and have a vital thermoregulatory function for laying hens. Molting occurs every year and during that period time egg production decreases drastically. All available nutrients are diverted from egg production to the generation of new feathers.

Therefore, laying decreases for a few weeks while the poultry is being replaced. During this period, it is recommended to increase the protein level in laying hens to accelerate the molting process and restart laying.

6. Reproductive Problem: If you see belly bloat or swollen abdomens, bring your hen to the vet. They’ll need to check for possible malfunctions that can lead to waxy lash eggs or oviduct disease.

Good egg laying isn’t an exact science but it does require a delicate balance of primary physical needs for proper shelter and high quality chicken feed and emotional safety. Get these pieces in order and your egg basket will runneth over.

7. Brooding: Broody hens beget broody hens. Meaning when other members of the flock see one mama hen sitting in attempt to hatch her eggs, others will follow suit.

8. Age: Egg production is closely related to the age of the laying poultry. As a hen ages, her body may struggle to produce proper calcium levels and therefore less eggs. After about two years, you may notice a natural and irreversible decline. In addition to laying comparatively smaller-sized eggs, shells may also be weaker, breaking easily with even gentle pressure.Therefore, as hens age, laying may decrease. Poultry starts laying eggs at about 18-22 weeks of age (5 months of life). Then, this lay can reach peak production of 90% in the first 8 weeks. Subsequently, it starts to decrease to 65% after 12 months of production. On the other hand, as the hen ages, the eggs may have changes at the level of their shell and size.

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