Predictors of Death and Reduced Performance in Layer Chickens in Tropical Savannah Environment

Elevated mortality in layer chickens may be due to a hot and dry climate as well as disease, according to new research from Nigeria. Birds aged 19 to 38 weeks were most at risk.
calendar icon 19 September 2014
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Layer chickens are exposed to high risks of production losses and mortality with impact on farm profitability, according to Aminu Shittu of Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto, Nigeria and others in a paper in BMC Veterinary Research.

They explain that the harsh tropical climate and severe disease outbreaks, poor biosecurity, sub-minimal vaccination and treatment protocols, poor management practices, poor chick quality, feed-associated causes, and unintended accidents oftentimes aggravate mortality and negatively affect egg production.

The objectives of their study were to estimate the probability of survival and evaluate risk factors for death under different intensive housing conditions in a tropical climate, and to assess the production performance in the housing systems.

Daily mean mortality percentages and egg production figures were significantly lower and higher in the sealed pens and open houses (P<0.001), respectively.

The total mean feed consumption per bird and day was similar for the open-sided and sealed pens but the mean feed quantity per egg produce was significantly lower in the sealed pens (P<0.005).

Seasons differently impacted on mortality with the hot-dry season producing significantly higher risk of mortality (61 times) and reduced egg production.

Other parameters also differed except the egg production during the cold-dry season. Layers in sealed pens appear to have higher probability of survival and the Kaplan-Meir survival curves differed for each pen; layers 78 weeks or older have higher probability of survival than younger chickens and the 19– to 38-week category are at highest risk of death (P<0.001).

The hazard-ratio for mortality of layers raised in sealed pens was 0.568 (56.8 per cent).

Reasons for spiked mortality in layer chickens may not always be associated with disease, Shittu and co-authors concluded. Hot-dry climatic environment is associated with heat stress, waning immunity and inefficient feed usage and increase probability of death with reduced egg production; usage of environmentally controlled building in conditions where environmental temperature may rise significantly above 25°C will reduce this impact.

Since younger birds (19 to 38 weeks) are at higher risk of death due to stress of coming into production, management changes and diseases, critical implementation of protocols that will reduce death at this precarious period becomes mandatory.

The researchers added that whether older chickens’ better protection from death is associated with many prophylactic and metaphylactic regimen of medications or vaccination need further investigation.


Shittu A., A.A. Raji, S.A. Madugu, A.W. Hassan and F.O. Fasina. 2014. Predictors of death and production performance of layer chickens in opened and sealed pens in a tropical savannah environment. BMC Veterinary Research. 10:214 doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0214-7

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September 2014

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