How to raise your chicks (pullet) to be the best producers

The body weight of a chicken and its composition at the beginning of laying are the two main factors that will influence egg size at maturity and the remainder of the laying period.
According to Mr Douglas Malala, the national services manager of Evonix East Africa, chickens must be managed properly and with good nutrition during their adolescent stage. He was speaking during a laying hen and nutrition management seminar in Nairobi.
“The chickens must have the right body weight and composition because weight influences egg size. Pullets that are on target or slightly above target in weight at maturity will be the best producers. Larger pullets produce bigger eggs with little influence from nutrition. If it is small it is small, whatever you do later, will not have an impact on its size,” says Malala.
“At week 18 when they start laying, if the chick will be 1.1kg, the egg weight will be 46.9gms. If it is 1.2kg, the egg will be 48.4 and 1.3kg will be 49 and so on. This shows that the weight of the chicken has a big influence on egg size. The size of the egg keeps increasing with age but the bigger it is at the beginning the better.” Mr Malala was speaking to poultry farmers and stakeholders in the sector, including feed manufacturers during a training seminar organised by his company in September.
It is critical to manage and feed chicks very early because the frame (skeleton) of the bird is developed early in life, he adds. By 12-15 weeks of age the size of the pullet is fixed. At six weeks it is developed 50 per cent. By the 15th week, 90 per cent is developed. The muscles and the organs as well as the skeleton will all be developed by week 18. “It is impossible to rear a bigger pullet after this age no matter what you feed them on,” says Mr Malala.
“Anything else will be adding on fat.” Flock uniformity is important. Where birds are not uniform in growth or have an abnormal variation this could be due to poor housing.
“Some customers buy poor equipment from jua kali and end up causing their birds to develop wrongly,” he explains.
Feeding the birds incorrectly and unevenly with inconsistent feed quality is another issue. “If some of the birds are not getting the same nutrients they won’t mature at the same time. Normally, the smaller ones wait for the bigger ones to eat. So it is important to have enough feed accessible to all of them.”
Uniformity can also be affected during vaccination, beak trimming and handling. Non-uniform birds have varying maturity ages and intakes, which leads to delayed peak growth and reduced overall production. The rule of thumb is to have 80 per cent of your birds within your average weight, 10 per cent below and 10 per cent above.
“If it is more than 10 per cent above or below, then your flock is not uniform,” says Malala. It is necessary to have a good weighing scale and calculator to weigh the birds. At pullet age maintain a good feed structure and habit.
Train you birds on how to eat to help stimulate appetite and feed intake (low energy, low protein, high fibre). Feed them on 5-6 per cent fibre.
“You can train them by emptying feeders once a day for one to two hours, so that they are ravenous when food is brought.” Two weeks before they start laying change the diet based on body weight and increase calcium because of eggshell development, says Malala.
Evonix is one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies dealing in consumer, human and health and nutrition chemicals.
In East Africa, Evonix, which is a global leader in feed amino acids, specialises in feed additives for livestock nutrition both in bioproducts – amino acids from biotechnological processes and methionine, amino acids from large scale chemical processes. The German company has 15 production sites in 10 countries for its feed additives. Its products include MetaAmino, Biolys, ThreAmino, TrypAmino, Mepron and CreAm

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