What is the cause of the sudden or progressive reduction in egg production?
Let’s examine the causes and the correction measures together step by step.
Decreased egg production is a major problem in laying hens that result in a smaller profit to egg producing farms and less money in farmer’s pocket.
It is very important to have the essential knowledge to distinguish and diagnose what is really happening in each case. If you know what is the cause (or causes) you know how to prevent or correct the factors that affect egg production.
Nutrition and feed related problems
- Not enough drinking water: Clean and cool drinking water must be at their disposal at all times especially during the summer months to avoid heat stress. Lack of water results in reduced egg production.
- Feed shortage or decreased feed intake: Chickens tend to eat less when the feed is not tasty or when they are stressed because of environmental temperatures, especially when it gets too hot. Feed should be available at all times.
- Low calcium in their ration: This results in few and smaller eggs, soft shelled eggs, shell less eggs & cracked eggs. Commercial rations have calcium already included. When mixing your own ration make sure that calcium percentage in it is 3,5 % or provide oyster shell ad libidum in a separate feeder.
- Low salt in the feed: This results in a sharp decrease in egg production. It is also possible to develop cannibalism. Take care when mixing your own chicken ration at home. The required percentage of salt is 0, 4 %.
- Newcastle disease (NCD): NCD is a viral infection that can result in a mortality rate of 100 % in acute form in chickens. But sometimes the subclinical form of the disease leads to a drop in egg production and egg quality. Prevention: only by regular vaccination of the flock.
- Infectious bronchitis (IB): IB is a rapidly spreading viral infection of the chickens characterized by respiratory signs. It also causes drop in egg production (up to 50 %) and egg quality reduction. Egg shells are deformed. Prevention: by vaccination.
- Egg drop syndrome (EDS): This is a viral infection that affects the reproductive organs of the chickens. The symptoms are a drop in egg production, thin shells, soft shells and shell less eggs. Prevention: by vaccination of the layers on the sixteenth week of age. The vaccine is given intramuscularly
- Other diseases: causing a drop in egg production are salmonelosis, mycoplasmosis, infectious laryngotracheitis as well as internal parasites.
- Lighting: Chickens should be exposed to light for a minimum of 14 hours and a maximum of 17 hours per day in order for the egg to be formed. Exposure to light for less than the minimum time required, results in a drop in egg production. Lights should be checked regularly and cleaned so that they do not get dimmer.Bulbs should be changed when necessary.
- Freezing: layers stop laying when environmental temperature drops below 5 degrees Celsius
- Heat Stress On very hot and humid summer days, egg production can decrease this is mainly due to declined consumption of feed. That’s why the summer ration should have at least 18% protein.
Chicken related factors
- Molting: layers are usually kept for 52 weeks. After this period, they undergo a stage called molting where they lose their feathers and stop producing eggs. Egg production will start again about 4-6 months later in the second laying period after molting, but the eggs will be bigger, shells thinner and production lower. Older birds usually produce eggs with thin shells.
- Broodiness: Once a hen goes broody, her focus is on hatching her eggs and raising her chicks and stops laying eggs.
Always contact your Veterinarian when there is a drop in egg production in your flock.
Michael J. Mavridis D.V.M
CEO / Founder of Mavridis Zootechniki Ltd.