Egg pro­duc­tion... and light

Country Smallholding - - Poultry -

QOur Marans, Speck­eldy, Wel­sum­mer, Black Rock and RIR hens have stopped lay­ing over the last few weeks. Up to Christ­mas they were lay­ing, al­beit with a re­duced num­ber of eggs as might be ex­pected with the shorter days. Their ages range from POL last March for the Black Rocks to POL in May for the Wel­sum­mers and Marans and last sum­mer we were get­ting 40-50 eggs a week. They get lay­ers pel­lets ad lib with a scoop­ful of mixed corn in the af­ter­noon and ap­pear quite healthy. Also, they perch in the hen­house ev­ery night with­out prompt­ing. Their only change in diet has been fine oys­ter­shell as we were un­able to ob­tain the coarse oys­ter­shell from our feed mer­chant. Are there any dis­eases which could cause this?

VR SAYS: In the win­ter, egg pro­duc­tion will at least slow down with the Black Rocks and hy­brids and likely to stop al­to­gether with the pure breeds. This is en­tirely nat­u­ral due to the short days and, if they are not pro­duc­ing eggs, the ex­cess en­ergy in the maize will be con­verted to fat, mak­ing the re­turn to egg lay­ing more dif­fi­cult. If you wish to main­tain some egg pro­duc­tion, give the birds light­ing in their hut. A 40 watt bulb is suf­fi­cient in a 4ft by 4ft hut. Or­gan­ise a timer so that the light comes on early in the morn­ing, mak­ing the to­tal day length 14 hours. This en­sures that the birds go to bed at twi­light and there­fore get com­fort­able on the perch. If you can only have the light on in the late af­ter­noon and evening, you will need a dim­mer for the last 15 min­utes to sim­u­late twi­light, oth­er­wise the birds will be stranded on the floor and un­able to perch. The hor­mone sys­tem of the birds is af­fected by light lev­els, hence nor­mal lay­ing be­gins in the spring with the length­en­ing days and in­ten­sity of light. If you give win­ter light­ing to your hens, make sure they have a pe­riod of shorter days in or­der for the ex­tra light to be most ef­fec­tive i.e. don’t start the light­ing regime un­til De­cem­ber. The light is sup­posed to be in­creased slowly on a weekly ba­sis, but most peo­ple jump straight in to the 14 hour to­tal and get eggs within a cou­ple of weeks.

A Speck­ledy

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