Egg Production on Equator

Paul McWhorter

In the Brooder
Jul 17, 2021
8
74
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I have a flock of 25 chickens on a 5 acre homestead on the equator in East Africa. The chickens are about 8 months old, and look like they are Rhode Island Reds. The birds look healthy and happy, but egg production is spotty. I will get two or three weeks where the girls are laying eggs, then they will go two or three weeks without laying. Being on the equator, every day has 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. The temps at night are mid-60's and temps in daytime are mid-70's. The property is lush green with all types of plants and huge number of bugs, grubs, flies, worms, small lizards and they like to pick through large compost piles. They free range over the entire property during day, and put themselves up in a nice Amish style coop at night. I offer cracked corn as supplemental feed, but they seem happy eating mainly the bugs and grazing on the greenery. Where I am, there is not access to premixed chicken feed or other chicken stuff and medicines you would get at a US feed store. When they are producing the eggs are big and beautiful with nice hard shells. They do not appear to be molting. This deal is very different than my experience over the last many years raising chickens in West Texas, where I had everything figured out. I am not sure what to try. Does anyone have any experience growing chickens in tropical conditions? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks,
Paul

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sourland

Broody Magician
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Hello, Paul, and welcome to BYC. This is an interesting question/situation. Age may be a factor in the sporadic production, and there is the possibility of hidden nests. Feed availability also is a likely factor. Can you access grains in addition to the cracked corn? Since commercial layer ration is unavailable, I would try a mixture of grains containing a pea/bean of some sort. I'm interested in seeing what others have to suggest. Good luck.
 

Pork Pie

Flockwit
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In the absence of commercial feed I’d be inclined to speak with local farmers to see if anyone makes their own feed You could also search the link I gave in your introduction (this resource is also useful - https://infonet-biovision.org/tof_magazine_issue).

If high egg production is not essential, I’d also advise considering ”local” chickens as they are suited to their environment (they also sell for higher prices, in general).
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
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I will get two or three weeks where the girls are laying eggs, then they will go two or three weeks without laying. Being on the equator, every day has 12 hours light and 12 hours dark. The temps at night are mid-60's and temps in daytime are mid-70's.
Fascinating question and I have no experience that I think applies. With those temperatures on the equator I'd think you have to be at elevation but I would have expected a wider daily temperature swing. I can't think of anything regarding elevation that would cause that kind of cycle.

25 chickens is a fair amount. How many eggs do you get when they are laying? In these cycles is it all the eggs and do the cycles start and end suddenly or is it more gradual?

They are only 8 months old, how many of these 2 to 3 week cycles have you seen? I know all of Africa isn't wilderness with prides of lions following herds of wildebeest or zebras everywhere, but you do have some animals pretty exotic to me. I've experiences a snake eating a bunch of eggs and disappearing for a few days to digest them before it comes back for more. Yours isn't a snake but is there some animal that rotates through on a regular 2 to 3 week schedule that would eat eggs but not chickens? Or maybe something that was eating eggs that got itself eaten? I'm stretching for ideas.

When they are producing the eggs are big and beautiful with nice hard shells.
I don't see anything in the way they feed that would cause a cycle. I grew up on a farm in Appalachia where we never fed them anything except when there was snow on the ground. The eggs were not exceptionally big but there were plenty of them.
 

Pork Pie

Flockwit
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Fascinating question and I have no experience that I think applies. With those temperatures on the equator I'd think you have to be at elevation but I would have expected a wider daily temperature swing. I can't think of anything regarding elevation that would cause that kind of cycle.

25 chickens is a fair amount. How many eggs do you get when they are laying? In these cycles is it all the eggs and do the cycles start and end suddenly or is it more gradual?

They are only 8 months old, how many of these 2 to 3 week cycles have you seen? I know all of Africa isn't wilderness with prides of lions following herds of wildebeest or zebras everywhere, but you do have some animals pretty exotic to me. I've experiences a snake eating a bunch of eggs and disappearing for a few days to digest them before it comes back for more. Yours isn't a snake but is there some animal that rotates through on a regular 2 to 3 week schedule that would eat eggs but not chickens? Or maybe something that was eating eggs that got itself eaten? I'm stretching for ideas.


I don't see anything in the way they feed that would cause a cycle. I grew up on a farm in Appalachia where we never fed them anything except when there was snow on the ground. The eggs were not exceptionally big but there were plenty of them.
As mentioned, you have no experience of keeping chickens in East Africa. No need to “stretch for ideas”. Local advice and insight is infinitely more valuable to the OP.
 

Paul McWhorter

In the Brooder
Jul 17, 2021
8
74
41
I want to thank eveyone for the comments and insights.
In the absence of commercial feed I’d be inclined to speak with local farmers to see if anyone makes their own feed You could also search the link I gave in your introduction (this resource is also useful - https://infonet-biovision.org/tof_magazine_issue).

If high egg production is not essential, I’d also advise considering ”local” chickens as they are suited to their environment (they also sell for higher prices, in general).
I have watched the locals. They are pretty much sustenance farmers growing corn on an acre or two using a hoe. They have chickens which are just completely free range with no supplemental feed. Dont see any signs of any type of coops for the chickens. It looks like they are mainly allowing the chickens to raise themselves, and allow the eggs to hatch for more chickens. I dont see anyone raising eggs. They sell eggs in the markets, but seems to be from caged chickens. I have attached a few pics of my coop and garden. I agree that I am not so worried about production levels, since the chickens are feeding themselves, are generating poop for compost. I do wish they would give me a continuous stream of eggs. Perhaps as you suggest, local indiginous chickens would do a little better.
 

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Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
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I have watched the locals. They are pretty much sustenance farmers growing corn on an acre or two using a hoe. They have chickens which are just completely free range with no supplemental feed.
That's basically how my father, his father, other relatives and neighbors handled their chickens in Appalachia. Other than in winter the chickens fed themselves. They had a henhouse where most slept and laid eggs but some might sleep in trees or the barn and hide a nest. They got eggs to eat and would butcher some chickens for themselves with no investment except some corn we grew as a supplement for the winter.

I do wish they would give me a continuous stream of eggs. Perhaps as you suggest, local indiginous chickens would do a little better.
I'm not convinced the chickens are the problem. That's why I'm interested in how many cycles you've seen, whether it's all the eggs or reduced production, and how gradual the change is. They are not going to molt for a couple of weeks then start laying again for a few weeks, then do it again. I don't think they are going to rotate hiding a nest then laying in the coop. It just doesn't work that way. They may slow down laying and pick back up but not in sync as a flock without something external driving that. Some breeds lay better in the heat of summer, some in the cold of winter than other. But you are not having extreme weather and I've never heard of any breed that that lays well for a few weeks then just quits laying for a few weeks, especially in sync. Maybe someone else has.

Stress can cause them to slow down or stop laying. Can you think of anything that may have stressed them during the lull? The only critters here in North America I can think of that might patrol a territory so their presence would be cyclic are wolves and bears. They would be more interested in the chickens than the eggs but I don't know what animals you might have that may be more interested in eggs.

One critter we often don't think about when eggs go missing is the human critter. There are posts on here about thieves and about people playing a practical joke. One story I remember was the eggs were going missing on the weekend. Somebody was visiting the area only on the weekend and bringing a dog that liked to eat eggs. Canines and humans don't leave egg shells behind as evidence.

I agree, local knowledge can be tremendously helpful, especially if you talk to the right person. You can try the indigenous chickens, I don't see how they can hurt and it might help.

Good luck. These things are often not easy.
 

Paul McWhorter

In the Brooder
Jul 17, 2021
8
74
41
Hello, Paul, and welcome to BYC. This is an interesting question/situation. Age may be a factor in the sporadic production, and there is the possibility of hidden nests. Feed availability also is a likely factor. Can you access grains in addition to the cracked corn? Since commercial layer ration is unavailable, I would try a mixture of grains containing a pea/bean of some sort. I'm interested in seeing what others have to suggest. Good luck.
I have not figured out exactly what is accessible locally.
That's basically how my father, his father, other relatives and neighbors handled their chickens in Appalachia. Other than in winter the chickens fed themselves. They had a henhouse where most slept and laid eggs but some might sleep in trees or the barn and hide a nest. They got eggs to eat and would butcher some chickens for themselves with no investment except some corn we grew as a supplement for the winter.


I'm not convinced the chickens are the problem. That's why I'm interested in how many cycles you've seen, whether it's all the eggs or reduced production, and how gradual the change is. They are not going to molt for a couple of weeks then start laying again for a few weeks, then do it again. I don't think they are going to rotate hiding a nest then laying in the coop. It just doesn't work that way. They may slow down laying and pick back up but not in sync as a flock without something external driving that. Some breeds lay better in the heat of summer, some in the cold of winter than other. But you are not having extreme weather and I've never heard of any breed that that lays well for a few weeks then just quits laying for a few weeks, especially in sync. Maybe someone else has.

Stress can cause them to slow down or stop laying. Can you think of anything that may have stressed them during the lull? The only critters here in North America I can think of that might patrol a territory so their presence would be cyclic are wolves and bears. They would be more interested in the chickens than the eggs but I don't know what animals you might have that may be more interested in eggs.

One critter we often don't think about when eggs go missing is the human critter. There are posts on here about thieves and about people playing a practical joke. One story I remember was the eggs were going missing on the weekend. Somebody was visiting the area only on the weekend and bringing a dog that liked to eat eggs. Canines and humans don't leave egg shells behind as evidence.

I agree, local knowledge can be tremendously helpful, especially if you talk to the right person. You can try the indigenous chickens, I don't see how they can hurt and it might help.

Good luck. These things are often not easy.
Thanks for the thoughts and comment. Our compound is secure, and only trusted folks have access. The cycle has been going on for about 4 months. Nothing really particular to stress the chickens, and they are not hiding their eggs as we have been watching them closely. It has been suggested to me that with the lush greenery and variety of things to eat the chickens are eating what they want, not necessarily what is optimum for making an egg. I am told these specialty breeds do better on a finely tuned layer mash, and that the indigenous chickens produce better on a free range pick what you want diet. A guy told me to coop the chickens and give them limited free range area and feed a layer mash, which to me defeats the whole purpose of having chickens. When they are producing, they are big round bright orange yolks, and the best tasting eggs I have ever had. So, perhaps should try the local indigenous chickens.
 

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