Archive for November, 2010

Using Lights to Maximize Duck Egg Production – Part Two

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Posted by John Metzer

In last week’s blog, we talked about how long the day length should be to maximize duck egg production. Now I want to go over the types of lights to use, the use of time clocks and how geese are completely different than other poultry in terms of light stimulation.

The choice of bulb depends on how many birds you have to light. If you have a small flock, a single 100 watt incandescent bulb is sufficient. Fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent. The most efficient, which most commercial poultry operations use, are high pressure sodium lights. This is what we use. They are often used as street lights and give off an orange colored light.

Sodium light in duck barn

A high pressure sodium light in our duck breeder building.

Birds are stimulated reproductively by the orange/red spectrum in light. Incandescent and sodium lights have plenty of these colors. If you have a choice with your fluorescent bulbs, try to get the more natural colored tubes and not the cool white tubes which have more of the blues and greens in them.

There are two basic time clocks. Industrial time clocks are wired into your electrical system and can control a complete circuit containing many lights. The home type of time clock is one that plugs into an outlet and is normally used in a home to turn a light on and off. One of the advantages of the industrial type is you can make as small an adjustment as you want when you want to change on and off times. You just loosen the screw, move it slightly and re-tighten it. They are also heavy duty for a long life and can handle quite a few lights.

Industrial time clock

Industrial type time clock.

The main advantage of the home type is they are easy to find and use. A disadvantage of the home type is that it has plug-in on/off switches with a minimum adjustment of 15 minutes. Another disadvantage of the home type time clock is that they normally do not have a grounding plug or slot.

home style time clock

Home style time clock

Green – on

Red – off

Home style time clock

Notice there is not a grounding plug in the back and there is not a hole for a grounding plug on the time clock itself.

Most people cannot see their birds’ lights in the evening and morning. So how do you know the time clock is really working? We plug a home style time clock into the circuit of lights that are coming on and off each night. Nothing is plugged into this time clock – we just use it as a monitoring device. The dial on this time clock is set at 12:00. Every morning we check to see how long the time clock has run the previous night and then turn it back to 12:00. If your lights are supposed to be on for two hours in the evening and two hours in the morning, then the time clock should read 4:00 in the morning when you pick up eggs. If it doesn’t, then something is not working correctly. Of course this will not tell you if a bulb has burned out – but only if your time clock is working correctly.

Monitoring time clock

Monitoring time clock to  make sure the controlling time clock is working properly – must be reset to 12:00 each morning.

It is probably better to have two smaller lights instead of just one big light in case one bulb burns out. The birds will not be as adversely affected with some light versus no light.

If your birds have access to an outside pen during the night, you should light that pen, too. You want them exposed to the light, no matter where they bed down at night. By the way, the light enters the brain directly, it does not go through their eyes – so the light stimulates them whether they are awake or asleep.

Geese are unique in how light stimulates them reproductively. No one photo-stimulates geese in North America to maximize egg production – as is typically done with other poultry. The reason is that excessive light (meaning 13+ hour lighted day lengths) depresses egg production in geese. For other poultry you maximize egg production with 16-17 hour days. You can only achieve maximum egg production in geese by providing a maximum of 10-11 hour days! Looking at the light charts from last week’s blog, you can see that most of the time our days are longer than 11 hours – and this is too long for maximum egg production for geese. So to maintain egg production as long as possible in geese, you need light tight houses – which means no natural light enters the building. The only light is provided by lights so you can provide them only 10 or 11 hours of light a day – no matter the time of year. More on this later.

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Using Lights to Maximize Duck Egg Production

posted by Dr. James G. Hood
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Maximizing Egg Production

The egg production of ducks varies tremendously due to genetics and management. The genetics depends on the breed chosen and the hatchery. We recommend our Golden 300 Hybrid and White Layer for egg production. We have bred them exclusively for maximum egg production. If you are not sure if you want ducks or chickens, read Raising Ducks, an excellent article comparing them. It also recommends how to manage ducks for easy care and optimal egg production.

The management factors that most affect egg production are:

1) Good quality of feed. Fresh, proper nutrient levels, no molds, no insect damage.

2) Proper quantity of feed. For maximum production a duck must have limited feed from 3 weeks of age until they are laying well – no more than .35 pounds of feed/duck/day for the larger strains. Otherwise they become overweight with egg production, fertility and hatchability suffering. When you start increasing their day length (see below) you can begin to increase their feed. Increase a little every week and by the time they are laying at 40% production (4 eggs for every 10 females every day) you can start to give them as much as they want to eat. Ideally they should clean up their feed every day but it should be available most of the day.

Note: If you are raising your ducks in the spring, they may start laying eggs too soon. The problem with this is that they may not be sufficiently mature to sustain a long period of egg production if they start too soon. All you can do at this point is to reduce their feed level in the hopes of preventing more ducks from starting egg production.

3) Good water. Ducks can tolerate stinky water but making them tolerate it does not promote excellent egg production. Contrary to popular belief, they do not have to have swimming water to prosper. If you can handle the dirty water they will produce by swimming in it, then provide it. But it is not necessary.

4) Proper lighting. An increasing day length (January – June) brings sexually mature ducks into egg production and a decreasing day length (July-December) slows or stops their egg production. To prevent this from happening, natural light needs to be supplemented with artificial light in the morning and evening so the laying duck has 17 total hours of light a day. Once the birds are 20-23 weeks of age (smaller breeds at 20 weeks, larger breeds at 23 weeks) you can gradually increase the length of day using artificial light. The easiest way to do this is to have a light on a time clock. Initially add about one hour to the natural day length. Using the time clock, have the lights come on when the sun is setting and turn off in ½ hour. Then have the lights come on ½ hour before sunrise and have it shut off at sunrise. With these two ½ hour periods, you have increased the day one hour and this will stimulate egg production. Then every week you can add another 45 minutes (a little in the morning and a little in the evening) until you have a total of 17 hours of light. For us this means the lights are off at 9:30pm and come back on at 4:30am. This gives them seven hours of darkness which means they will have 17 hours of light.

5) Lack of stress. Ducks love a routine. Same time out in the morning, same person feeding them at the same time, same person following the same route to collect their eggs, same person wears the same clothes every day, same feed all the time, same weather every day, same time put in at night, same bedding used every day, etc. You get the point. They will be happiest under the same routine. And they can get used to almost anything if it happens regularly. I remember visiting a large duck farm in Indiana many years ago and the owner made this point by saying “If a train goes by the barn 50′ away every night at midnight, it won’t bother them. But they can hear their first dog barking a mile away and it will panic them.” You can often diagnose a production problem by first looking for a change in their diet, bedding or routine.

6) Do not have too many males. The ratio of males to females should be 1 to 5-6. Too many males promotes overly aggressive, competitive males which results in injured, nonlaying females. If you see females with the back of their head scabby or bloody, you have too many males. Remember, you do not need males for the females to produce eggs, you only need males for the females to produce fertile eggs.

If you provide your ducks with these six points, you should be on your way to a happy, healthy flock of ducks providing you a wonderful supply of eggs.