Layers – Thando Magane, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal
We have just taken the birds off their winter vitamins, which we provide to help them cope with the cold. In winter, chicken production drops without support. Production also drops when chickens get heat stress, so in the coming months we must make sure there is adequate ventilation.
Our chicken houses are manually operated and we don’t have automatic temperature control systems, so we keep the curtains open during the day and close them halfway at night. We have also just received 17-week-old pullets, which will start laying from 18 to 19 weeks.
We buy them from reputable breeders who give us the correct info, especially in terms of the birds’ ages. This is important because if they sell you underage pullets, it takes longer to start getting eggs while you are feeding them.
When the pullets arrive, we keep them on pullet finisher feed for three days before we introduce them to Stage 2 layer feed. We skip the Stage 1 feed, as it is more or less the same as Stage 2 feed. The birds start laying small eggs between 18 and 19 weeks for about three days before laying medium-sized eggs. At this age, not all the birds will lay – it could be anything between 10% and 20%.
At 21 weeks the birds reach full maturity and lay large eggs, then extra large and then jumbos, right towards the end of their laying cycle. We have different ages on the farm because we must have different egg sizes all the time. If you only have birds of the same age, once you cull you may have to wait a few weeks before production starts again. The chickens are fed Stage 2 feed until they are culled. We vaccinate against Newcastle disease on a monthly basis.