Pullets are young hens reared for the production of eggs, either fertile eggs or table eggs, within a period known as the production period. The feeding of pullets, with respect to quality and quantity, determines the onset of lay and the extent of laying. Although the genetic makeup of the bird also plays a prominent in determining when and how long laying bird produce. Ideally, pullets, either noiler pullet, isa brown or the leghorns, lay around 18 to 20 weeks after which they are fit to consume the chicken layer feed to a period of 90 weeks for the end of lay.
Some pullets come to lay earlier than 18 weeks while some lay very late up to 22 weeks; the variation in laying period can be accorded to the type of feed served, the genetic makeup of the birds, overall pullet management condition, and the environmental conditions. Cockerel feeding is the same as the pullets prior to sexual maturity. The cockerel is fed with starter, grower, and finisher feeds while the pullets are fed with starter grower and layers feed.
Over the years, have read and heard farmers asked the best time to feed pullets the layer feed and how to hasten the laying period of the pullets; be assured to get the best answer as you read through the lines. This article is centered on the pullet feeding guide from day old to point of lay.
Pullet Feeding Guide For Early Lay And Longer Laying Period.
Feeding in poultry, especially egg production; takes a greater percentage, about 75 percent, of the total cost of production. Aside from the cost of feeding, the quantity and quality of the pullet feed are very crucial because high-quality feed brings about high production performance. Pullets are fed with 3 types of feed, namely:
- Starter feed
- Grower feed
- Layers mash or layers feed
Some farmers feed their pullets with pre-layer feed and or developer prior to feeding the birds the standard layer feed. The types of feed fed to chickens have different nutritional composition. Layer chicken feed requirements is different from pullet nutritional requirements; These two chicken feed aid their physiological development at different levels of growth.
Now let us look into each of these poultry feeds in relation to the performance of the pullets in terms of onset of lay and length of lay.
Feeding Pullets With Chicken Starter Feed
The Starter diet is a highly nutritious feed; it contains about 20% CP and about 2770 kcal ME/kg. This feed is usually served to pullets from 0 to 6 wk of age and 0 to 4 weeks for broiler chickens. Some farmers feed the pullets starter diet from 0 to 4 weeks of age probably because of the high cost of starter feed. Economically, it is advantageous but considering the performance of the pullets afterward, it is not a good practice.
Starter feed is used during the brooding period which lasts for just 4 weeks in most cases. This feed is highly nutritious and contains all the necessary nutrients needed to aid the physiological development of the birds, especially protein. The six weeks of feeding the pullets with the starter feed must not be compromised if you want your pullets to lay early and longer. This is because, the starter feed helps the pullets to build muscles, bones and their reproductive system to a certain age; feeding the pullets starter diet for just 4 weeks may not fully satisfy this need, hence, the recommendation of six weeks becomes very crucial.
Feeding Grower Feed To Pullets
The grower feed is a pullet feed with a fairly high protein of 16% CP and high energy of 3000 kcal/kg.; it is usually fed during the rearing stage of the birds. Grower feed is a high-energy feed fed to complement the energy use of the birds. It is observed that pullet birds dissipate lots of energy after 6 weeks of age; the birds are bigger in size and want to exhibit their innate behaviors such as ground scratching, flight action, running and other forms of activities. These activities usurp a lot of energy, hence, a high energy diet is needed to commensurate the energy loss during the performance of these activities.
Most poultry farmers do not know when to switch from the grower diet to the layer diet. Personally, I have some reservations in the use of pre-layer and or developer feed. Growers should be fed to pullets from the beginning of 7 weeks to when 5% of the pullets produce eggs, usually between 18-20 weeks, if the starter feed was served up to the ideal period of 6 weeks. The 5% is the representative of the other pullets in the pen; it means all the birds are physiologically ready for lay, and then the introduction of the layer feed becomes an option.
The high-energy content of the grower diet is very important during the rearing stage of the pullets. In ruminant animals, cattle, goat, and sheep, there is a term called “flushing”. This means feeding the female animal, cow, sow, ewe or doe, high energy diet prior to mating to synchronize and stimulate the production of ova (egg) to increase the conception and fertilization rate before mating. The idea is high-energy diet stimulates ova (egg) production and fertilization. This can only be achieved in pullets using the grower feed until the onset of lay.
Feeding Pullets With The Layers Feed.
The layers feed is the standard feed required to stimulate and enhance laying. With or without the layers feed, the pullets will lay but the quantity and quality of the eggs become questionable. The layers feed contains 16-18 % CP and 2750-2850 kcal ME/kg. The layers diet contains relatively low energy and a high protein with lots of minerals and vitamins, especially calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
The layers diet is served when about 5% of the pullets produce eggs. A layer diet helps to supplement nutrient loss due to laying. The energy content of the feed is low because the birds perform fewer activities at this age. The misuse of this feed usually results in egg production problems.
When layers feed are fed to pullets prior to the lay of 5% of the birds, the birds may come to lay faster but the length of laying period is reduced and small-sized eggs are produced. At times, the bird may die as it lays. These problems are experienced because the birds are not physiologically matured during the period of the introduction of the layers feed.
Feeding Pullets Pre-Layer Feed And Developer
Pre-layer mash and developer feed are not necessary as they tend to synchronize the physiological status of the birds to lay faster. When the layers lay faster than their physiological status, they lay small eggs, the length of laying period is reduced and there is high mortality risk.
Feeding pullets for early lay and long laying periods require the use of a pullet feeding guide that clearly states when to use each type of chicken feed. No need to synchronize the chicken reproductive system, give it time to reach its maturity period and you would enjoy the performance of the bird all through the reproduction phases.
Read more: How To Know Good Laying Chickens (Pictures)
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