Poultry Farming Essentials

It is not uncommon today to have many people investing into the poultry farm business. Poultry eggs and meat contributes to improved human nutrition and food security by being an important source of proteins, vitamins and minerals to balance the human diet. Nowadays, poultry meat and eggs are the highest consume protein; it is a key supplement to revenue from crops and other livestock enterprises. The sector is characterized by rearing widely diverse species (village slow growing type and commercially fast growing) also methods of production including the following: locks, small-scale commercial flocks and large-scale commercial farms. Just like any other business, poultry business imposes a lot of challenges and therefore one need to have proper poultry business plan before venturing.

This account for the reasons must governments around the world are focusing on improving poultry farming. Poultry farming has opened a new sector of agriculture and employed thousands of people around the world. It is not only promising but also sustainable; therefore, a good inside into this sector is important.

Today, I will give you inside into poultry farming and its economic important to our societies. Because the different chicken types (broilers, layers and breeders) involve special care, they will be treated differently in my next articles.

Poultry farming can be specialize for either meat (broilers), eggs (layers) or young chicks (breeders) production or in combination depending on the financial (capital), labour, land, experience and technological resources available. Special species (traits) of broilers farming (raising chicken for meat only), layer farming (raising chicken primarily for eggs production) and breeders (raising chicken primarily for the production of young broilers and layers) exit today for rapid growth, high feed conversion efficiency, high egg production and high hatching rates. It is not uncommon to find large chickens grown for just a few weeks in our market. These genetic engineered chickens have come a long way to make up for the traditional chickens that required months for meat to be ready for consumption.

Essential Chicken Housing Features

-          Building a large poultry house ideal (20 chickens/m2 for boilers and 12 chickens /m2 layers) for chicken

-          House should be rainproof and secure from windy rains

-          Have smooth walls to stop mites (insects) and other pests from hiding

-          Periodically disinfect building by spraying the poultry unit with insecticide and disinfectants

-          Regularly remove the dropping/cleaning the poultry house regularly

-          Regularly change the litter usually every 2 weeks or when it gets wet

-          Have good ventilation and in hotter areas at least 2 sides should be partly chicken wire mesh

-          Have cemented floor for easy cleaning and disinfecting

-          Be rat-proof

-          Keeping the right number of chickens in poultry houses

-          Separating chicks from old chickens


Chicks Management

Before chicks arrived home; ensured that the following are in placed;

-           A brooder

-           Paraffin lamps/ charcoal stove /electric bulbs is available

-          Litter for the floor is available, well spread and dry

-          1m2 will accommodate 20 chicks for up to 4 weeks old.

-          Temperature control: 360C for day-old chicks, 23-280C for 1 week. Reduce heat as they grow especially at night

-          A vaccination programme should be followed.

Poultry Systems

Chicken are kept under a wide range of conditions, which can be grouped into one of four broad production systems; free-range extensive, backyard extensive, semi-intensive and intensive.

Free Range Extensive System

Under this system, chickens are allowed to scavenge for food over a wide area of pasture land. Rudimentary shelters may be provided to shelter chickens during rains or at night. These shelters may or may not be use and chickens may roots outside, usually in trees and nest bushes. This system is mostly practice in Africa, Asia and part of Latin America.

Backyard Extensive System

Chicken density here is usually less than 100. The chicken are house at night and allowed to scavenge for food during the day. Chicken may be feed with a hand full of grains in the morning.

Semi-Intensive Systems

This is the combination of the extensive and intensive systems where chickens are confined to a certain area with access to shelter. They are usually practice in urban and peri-urban as well as rural areas. Stock number here is generally higher compare to free range and backyard extensive systems.

Intensive Systems

This system is used by medium to large scale commercial enterprises. Stock density is usually the highest and chickens are fully confined either in a house or cages. The enclosed system protects the flocks from thieves and predators and its best for specially selected commercial breeds of meat and eggs producing poultry (boilers, layers and breeder). Also capital input is the highest and the chickens depend totally on their owners for all their requirements, production however is highest. There are of three sub types;

Deep litter system: here, the floor of the house is covered with deep litter (5 – 10cm layer) of straw, grain husks (maize or rice), wood shavings or a similar absorbent (non-toxic) material.

Slatted floor system: here, wire or wooden slatted floors are used which allows more stocks per unit area of the floor since contact with the waste is reduced but allowed same freedom of movement.

Battery cage system: here, cages are used to confined eggs producing chickens throughout their production life. This is usually limited to large commercial eggs layers due to high initial capital investment.

Feed consumption accounts for about 75% of the total expenditure for chicken farming. Therefore to make profits, chickens farmers relays on low cost feeding to make income.

Feed ingredients comprises of maize, soybeans, cotton, sunflower cake, groundnuts, wheat, fish, borne, minerals etc. therefore, the cost of feed depends on the cost of these ingredients in the market. A poultry farmer who cultivates their own crop and composed their feed increases their profit margin by about 30%.

In most family flocks, disease is an important problem. Although farmers are familiar with most signs and symptoms of disease, the underlying causes are well unknown. Almost every farmer and most extension workers hold Newcastle Disease (ND) responsible for most deaths. Some common signs observed in chickens include Chickens huddle together, Coughing, sneezing, rapid breathing, Discharge from mouth and nostrils, Dullness, no appetite, closed eyes, Paralysis of legs and wings, White droppings, Turned or twisted neck, Dark red colour of head and comb, Greenish or yellow droppings, Bloody reddish droppings, Swellings of head and comb, Pale comb, Worms in faeces and Eye worm.

However, not all infectious diseases are cause by the Newcastle Disease (ND) Virus. Digestive problems resulting in slower growth rate and diarrhoea may be cause by rancid feed or too much salt, and may be symptoms of other diseases such as salmonellosis, coccidiosis or Gumboro Disease (Also called Infectious Bursal Disease [IBD]). Newcastle Disease often has the symptom of greenish faeces, which indicates a loss of appetite.

However, good hygienic, proper housing, good quality feed and water, adequate flocks density and ventilation conditions can go a long way to prevent most of these diseases and increase your profit margins.

Thinking of poultry rearing, you may just be making the best decision to invest in chicken rearing. My advice will be for you to draw a good poultry business plan and work on it. Try specialising in either broilers, layers (eggs or breeders) rearing. My next articles will through more light on this.

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