O level Notes : Agriculture - Small livestock production - Off-layers or indigenous chickens

An off layer is a chicken which is no longer able to lay eggs. A chicken which can no longer lay eggs is not productive to keep. Such chickens should be slaughtered to minimize feeding costs. Slaughtering of off layers is a way of boosting income from meat sales. Slaughtering off layers is the best way of disposing them.

Slaughtering and dressing of off layers or indigenous chickens

Slaughtering and dressing is a process that is done in preparation of livestock for the market as meat product. It involves stunning, killing and evisceration, cleaning and packaging of the carcass. Giblets or internal organs can be packaged separately. In some cases, giblets are used to pay for slaughtering and dressing labour. It is also important to carry out a market research to find out the standards of dressing and packaging required by the market.


Stunning is done to minimise pain when slaughtering livestock. There are three methods of stunning which can be used when killing an off layer or indigenous chicken. Stunning of off layers by hitting the back of the head.


Stunning of off layers by hitting the back of the head

The off layer or indigenous chicken is stunned by heating it with a stick or iron rod at the back of the neck just behind the head. One heavy stroke will kill the off layer or the indigenous bird. After killing the bird, cut off the neck to allow bleeding to occur. If many birds are to be killed, they can be stunned using an electric humane killer. Bird’s jugular vein on the neck should be cut to allow bleeding to occur.

Stunning by neck dislocation


Stunning of off layers by neck dislocation One hand will hold the head while the other hand holds the neck and then pull and slightly twist the neck. This causes neck dislocation and the off layer or indigenous chicken will suddenly die. Cut off the head of the dead off layer or indigenous chicken and allow bleeding to occur. If resources are available, stunning can also be done by electrocution, using an electronic device.

The killing process Cutting neck veins using a knife


Cutting of off layer’s neck veins using a knife and a cone

The off layer or indigenous chicken is put in a cone and then the neck is cut near the head using a sharp knife. In some cases, the bird’s neck is cut off with a sharp knife without the use of a cone. This is the traditional method of slaughtering poultry. The wings are pressed down by the framer’s foot while the feet of the birds are stamped on by the farmer’s other foot. The off layer or indigenous chicken should be kept secured in a fixed position until the killing process is over.

Traditional method of slaughtering a chicken Dressing off-layers or indigenous chickens

 Plucking feathers

  • Dip the slaughtered birds or carcass in hot water of about 50 to 80 degrees celcius for a few seconds.
  • Pluck off the feathers by hand or by using a plucking machine. All feathers should be plucked off.
  • Leave the carcass clean without even the fine, tiny feathers and pin feathers.
  • The pin feathers can be plucked off using a blunt knife.

Removing viscera (inside parts)

Removing the insides of off layers is called evisceration.

  • Cut a slit near the vent and remove viscera (small intestines, gizzard, liver, colon and gall bladder).
  • The inside parts are called giblets.
  • Rinse the inside of the carcass with clean water.
  • Giblets can be cleaned and put inside carcass or can be sold separately.
  • Wrap the carcass in a plastic paper and put the packed carcass in a refrigerator.

Marketing of dressed off layers

  • After removing the giblets (evisceration) or the inside parts, weigh the carcass.
  • Grade the carcass according to weight and deliver the slaughtered birds to the markets.
  • Slaughtered birds can be sold to individuals and to the local community, to supermarkets, restaurants or boarding schools.

Preparations of eggs for marketing

Egg collection

Eggs are collected and put into buckets with clean dry grass inside them. After picking the eggs, calculate the laying percentage to determine whether it is worthwhile to keep the layers. Laying percentage is calculated using the following formula:

Laying percentage (%) = number of eggs collected ⁄ Total number of laying birds

 Cleaning eggs

  • Clean the collected eggs using a damp piece of cloth or steel wool to remove chicken droppings or any dirt on eggs.
  • Do not wash eggs in water.
  • Remove cracked eggs and dispose them off.

Grading eggs

  • Eggs are graded according to their weight, size and colour.
  • Eggs are graded into large, standard, medium and small.
  • Large eggs weigh over 62,5g.
  • Standard eggs weigh 55,0g to 62,5g
  • Medium eggs weigh 45g to 54g
  • Small eggs weigh 40g to 44g.
  • Separate brown eggs from white eggs.


  • Eggs are packed in egg crates.
  • Pack egg crates inside cardboard boxes and transport them to the market.
  • Care should be taken when transporting eggs to the market to prevent breaking the egg shell.
  • Pointed end of the eggs should face down so that air circulates freely into the eggs and keep them fresh.

Marketing of eggs

  • Eggs can be sold to individual people in the community, or can be supplied to markets such as supermarkets, restaurants, boarding schools and hospitals.
  • Price of eggs vary depending on whether the consumer is buying the eggs at the farm or the farmer is supplying the eggs to the market.
  • When supplying the eggs to the market, the farmer should factor in transport costs.
  • The price of the eggs will also depend on the size of the eggs and colour.
  • Large eggs cost more than small eggs.
  • White eggs cost more than brown.