From its dictionary meaning: Chicken translates to a farm fowl. Though Chicken has come to mean coward, dastard, or yellow belly when applied to a person. We all know that the Hen is ready to give its life for the survival of its chick, and Roosters would fight to the death. By giving honour to whomsoever honour is due, Let us give the illustrious Chicken its due, for it honourable service to humanity.
Nigeria is a densely populated country having predominantly agricultural economy amongst the populace. Almost every part of our country is suitable for poultry farming. Commercial poultry is a large industry in Nigeria and includes layers, broilers, and their products, i.e., eggs and meat. The industry is characterized by widely diverse methods of production, which include the following: village flocks, small-scale commercial flocks and large-scale commercial farms.
Are you planning to start your own poultry farm?
Poultry farm is a very lucrative business with proper planning and funding, but could also lead to disastrous results with improper management. It is a source of employment and additional income for those who want to make good money on the side.
No one should go into poultry farming blindly. You must have some basic knowledge of poultry breeding, nutrition and management. Raising chicken is not a matter of obtaining any type of chicken and feeding them leftovers from the kitchen or allowing them to forage for themselves. Majority of these birds are not confined and reproduce on the basis of natural selection. They also seek their own food or are fed limited table scraps from the family kitchen. As a result, it is likely that these chickens are small and lay very few eggs.
Before venturing into poultry farming, ask yourself these important questions:
- What commercial strains or breeds of chicks are available in the area and how much do they cost? Without adequate finances, no one should breed chickens.
- Are commercially mixed feeds available? What are the prices? If feeds are not available, are feedstuffs suitable for chicken diets available?
- What are the prices of eggs and chicken meat in the markets? Do you think you can produce them more cheaply than you can buy them?
If the answers to these questions show that a poultry operation would be feasible. The next question is how would you go about setting up a chicken business venture? This write-up can be a guide for those entrepreneurs who wish to venture in the chicken business enterprise.
Poultry Farms are kept under a wide range of conditions, which can be classified into one of four broad production systems:
- Free-range extensive;
- Semi-intensive; and
Free-Range Extensive Systems
In developing countries, 80 percent of farmers keep poultry in the first two extensive systems. Under free-range conditions, the birds are not confined and can scavenge for food over a wide area. Rudimentary shelters may be provided, and these may or may not be used. The birds may roost outside, usually in trees, and nest in the bush. The flock contains birds of different species and varying ages.
These are a combination of the extensive and intensive systems where birds are confined to a certain area with access to shelter. The birds are confined in an enclosed area outside during the day and housed at night. Feed and water are available in the house to avoid wastage by rain, wind and wild animals.
- Pastured (Pen) Poultry: This term is used to describe a modification of free-range. In this system, a field pen is used to strictly control the grazing area and bird density. The birds are pastured in floorless pens and moved daily to maintain a continued supply of fresh forage. This system works well in a rotation where the birds follow cattle. This system is preferred in fryer and broiler enterprises.
- Yard and Crop: This is a catch-all term referring to poultry enterprises that do not include a formal plan for rotating pasture or have no access to pasture. In this system, birds are allowed to roam the farm at will and are shut up at night in a house for protection from predators. They are usually fed a handful of grain in the morning and evening to supplement scavenging.
- Innovative: In this system birds forage fallow land, such as last year’s garden, in a floorless pen, which is moved daily. Birds will feed on weeds, seeds, and insects, as well as depositing manure on the ground for next year’s crop. The field will be rotated back to crop production the following year. This would be an alternative to the yard and crop system for the family farm poultry production.
These systems are used by medium to large-scale commercial enterprises, and are also used at the household level. Birds are fully confined either in houses or cages. Capital outlay is higher and the birds are totally dependent on their owners for all their requirements; production however is higher. There are three types of intensive systems:
- Deep litter system: birds are fully confined with floor space allowance of 3 to 4 birds/m2 within a house, but can move around freely. The floor is covered with a deep litter (a 5 to 10 cm deep layer) of grain husks (maize or rice), straw, wood shavings or a similarly absorbent material. The fully enclosed system protects the birds from thieves and predators and is suitable for specially selected commercial breeds of egg or meat- producing poultry (layers, breeder flocks and broilers).
- Slatted floor system: wire or wooden slatted floors are used instead of deep litter, which allow stocking rates to be increased to five birds/m2 of floor space. Birds have reduced contact with faeces and are allowed some freedom of movement.
- Battery cage system: this is usually used for laying birds, which are kept throughout their productive life in cages. There is a high initial capital investment, and the system is mostly confined to large-scale commercial egg layer operations.
In Poultry farming you have to take every step wisely, right from setting up some basic equipment to raising the birds and marketing your business; don’t forget that there are many other poultry businesses you will be competing with.
Basically, there are two types of poultry farming you can choose from – broilers and layers. Broilers (Table Birds) are chicken that you raise for meat. Layers are chicken that you raise for eggs. Then, there is the business of incubating eggs and raising chicks. Other birds like turkey, duck or geese are also lucrative to raise though.
The niche areas you can choose from are:
- Meat production (Broilers breeding)
- Egg production (Layers breeding)
- Poultry feed production
- Chicken breeding (Hatchery)
- Egg and meat (Processing)
Table Birds: This business enterprise refers to birds that are raised and marketed for meat, which includes:
- Fryers, young birds less than 2 kg
- Broilers, birds weighing 2.5 kg
- Roasters, young birds 3 to 5 kg
- Capons, males castrated at 3 weeks and sold at 3 to 5 kg
- Laying hen with eggs, in-production hen is harvested and sold with un-laid eggs
- Stewing Hen, old retired laying hen
- Pieces and Parts, cut up chicken parts sold as value-added product
- Layers: Going into poultry production for the purpose of egg production means you intend to raise laying hen. This business is strong in Nigeria, as most people prefer eggs as a good source of protein. Therefore there is all year-around demand for eggs. Free-range and semi-intensive production systems work well with managing laying flocks.
- Other types of commercially viable birds are:
- Turkeys: This is obviously a more seasonal business venture than raising chickens, however much of the production management is the same. During holiday seasons, this can be a profitable niche venture.
Ducks & Geese:
- This is another good business to consider. Ducks and geese are very good grazers and fit well in a free-range operation. They are resistance to most diseases compared to chickens, although difficult to process.
Poultry farming business is capital intensive; depending on the scale, location of your farm and the type of management technology used. A small-scale poultry (behind your house i.e. backyard) may require a start-up capital of between =N=250,000 and =N=750,000. A medium scale poultry farm may require an investment capital of between =N=2,000,000 and =N=5,000,000 and a large-scale poultry farm may require a start-up capital of =N=10,000,000 and above. The scale of production is directly proportional to capital.
Labor or Manpower
Based on the number of birds, you need more or less manpower/labor. As a beginner, if you start with the number of birds between 200 and 500 can easily be managed by you and your family. If you plan for raising more birds then you will need additional manpower.
The following equipment are usually needed in a chicken poultry farm
- Lighting System
- Waste Disposal
- Heaters or Brooders
- Egg Trays
- Cages and Coops
Bird housing and equipment depends on type of rearing management:
- Conventional – enclosed mechanical ventilated facility
- Free Range – Basic shelter.
- Pasture Pens – Chicken tractors, etc.
Housing: essential features
- Building a large poultry house ideal for chicken
- Be rainproof
- Be secure from windy rains
- Have smooth surface walls to stop mites and other pests from hiding
- Periodically spraying the poultry unit with insecticide and disinfectants
- Periodically removing the dropping/cleaning the poultry house regularly
- Have good ventilation and in hotter areas at least 2 sides should be partly chicken wire mesh
- Preferably have cemented floor for ease of cleaning and disinfecting
- Be rat-proof
- Using plenty of litter after cleaning the poultry house
- Keeping the right number of birds in poultry houses
- Separating chicks from old birds
BREEDS TO RAISE
A hen of poor breeding will not lay many eggs no matter how well it is fed or cared for. A hen of good breeding will not perform well if nutrition and management are poor. Breeding, nutrition and management must all be favourable for an operation to be productive.
If you plan to start a chicken operation with the intent of obtaining maximum number of eggs per bird and high-quality meat, breeding should be controlled. The first thing to do is to decide on the breed of chicken to raise. The selection of the breed will depend upon the purpose of raising them. Is it for: meat production! Egg production! Meat and eggs production!
- Commercial hybrids for meat production show very economical gains in body weight up to 9 weeks of age. Beyond that age, however, these hybrids are not very economical because, their growth rate slows down while their feed consumption increases.
- Commercial hybrids are economical for egg production because it requires comparatively small amounts of feed to produce a unit of eggs. This is important because, in an egg operation, feed cost represents about two-thirds of the total production cost. They could be from Day-old- chicks (DOC), or stock as Point-of- Lay (POL) birds. Layers can be reared on Deep litter system or Battery Cage system. Caged birds need more capital but the merits include; ease of management, cleaner eggs, safety from breakages, minimal feed wastage, reduced water contamination and maximized space. Beginners with limited resources could start with deep litter system. It is affordable, litter material are readily available. The major requirements are conducive housing and more intense management of the water, feed and litters.
Chickens Are Good for Your Garden
- Selecting the bird:
- Type of poultry: meat type or egg production
- Purchase disease free stock
- Plan for all-in – all-out flocks
- Before the birds arrive:
- Draft free coop or housing, cleaned and disinfected
- Brooder stove or heat lamp (red bulb type, if needed) set to 35oC for first week.
- Dry litter, (pine shavings preferred), 3-4 inches on clean floor.
- Roosts (use clean tree branches) 2-6 inches above ground for broilers
- Feeders and Waterers should be cleaned and disinfected
- Fresh Feed, appropriate for age and type of bird
- When the birds arrive:
- Check for symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, labored breathing, diarrhea, or pasty butt. Check for external parasites
- Provide water for first couple of hours, then add feed. (if birds have been shipped overnight, then make a 5% sugar water solution for first day)
- Check waters, feeders, heat source, eliminate drafts, etc. Wild bird and rodent proof coop, set bait stations, traps, etc., as needed.
- Biosecurity – foot dips, clean shoes or boots, limit visitors and traffic, set up a quarantine area.
- General Management:
- Check birds daily for signs of disease.
- If disease is suspected get a reliable diagnosis and treat as necessary.
- Cull very sick or injured birds, use proper disposal (burn or bury deep)
- Establish a regular de-worming program
- Keep litter clean and dry; replace wet litter; Do thorough clean out every six months including disinfection.
- Proper disposal of manure such as composting.
- Poultry Feed and Nutrition
(A) Broiler Production
Broiler Starter Feeds
- The objective of the starter/brooding period (0 to 10 days of age) is to establish good appetite and achieve maximum early growth. The target is to achieve a seven-day body weight of 170 g or above. Broiler Starter should be given for ten days. The Starter represents a small proportion of the total feed cost and decisions on Starter formulation should be based on performance and profitability rather than cost.
Broiler Grower Feeds
- Broiler Grower feed will normally be fed for 14 to 16 days.
The transition from Starter feed to Grower feed will involve a change of texture from crumbs to pellets. There is a continuing need for a good quality Grower feed to maximize performance.
Broiler Finisher Feeds
- Broiler Finisher feeds account for the major cost of feeding and economic principles should be applied to the design of these feeds.
Changes in body composition can be rapid during this period and excessive fat deposition and loss of breast meat yield need to be carefully considered.
(B) Layers – Egg Production
- 1 to 8 weeks feed on chick mash,
- After 8 weeks introduce growers mash gradually,
- Then with layers mash after drop of first egg.
General Disease control Practices
The following can only be used as guidelines for disease control, for proper disease diagnosis and treatment, consult the veterinarian.
- Don’t overcrowd brooders
- Adequate ventilation
- Feed must be of good quality
- Give clean water ad-lib
- Don’t mix young and older birds
- Clean poultry house
- Dispose of dead birds quickly and isolate sick ones
- Provide disinfectant at entrance to house
NB: Antibiotics should never be used to replace good management and should be used on prescription by a veterinarian.
Cleaning up coops, roosts, and nests on a regular basis in order to prevent contamination of the eggs and illness for the poultry.
- Adequate Space:
Provide enough space for birds to roam and be isolated if need be. This decreases the chances of a disease from spreading from bird to bird.
- Fresh air and ventilation:
Utilize air and gas exchange to remove excess heat, dust particles, moisture (products of normal activity), as well as any harmful gases and disease- causing organisms that my be present. Oxygen-rich air promotes optimal production.
- Proper Nutrition:
What you feed and how much will influence your production results. Be sure to have a balanced diet that includes all types of nutrients.
Basic Needs for a Productive Venture
- Fresh Feed
- Fresh Water
- Fresh Air
- Thermal Environment
Healthy and unhealthy birds
It is very important for the farmer to learn how to detect an unhealthy or sick bird, so he can initiate the right action. It is important to isolate unhealthy or sick birds from the healthy flock in order to ensure a minimum of loss.
Signs of ill health
- Reduced feed intake
- Reduced water intake
- Low egg production
- Reduced growth rate
- Rough coat
Characteristics of healthy and unhealthy birds:
|Healthy birds||Unhealthy/Sick birds|
|a) Alert and on guard||a) Tired and lifeless|
|b) Bright eyes and comb||b) Dull eyes and comb|
|c) Walk, run, stand, and scratch continuously||c) Sit or lie down|
|d) Eat and drink normally||d) Eat and drink less|
|e) Lay eggs normally||e) Lay less or stop laying eggs|
|f) Smooth and neat feathers||f) Ruffled and loose feathers|
|g) Soft compact droppings||g) Wet droppings with blood or worms, diarrhea|
|h) Cough, sneeze and breathe noisily|
Common Diseases and Vaccinations
The Most common diseases amongst poultry farms are the following:
- New castle disease;
- Infectious Bronchitis;
- Mycoplasma; and
- Avian influenza.
- Vermin described as parasites, infestations and undesirables (insects, rats) which lead to mortalities of chickens needs to be managed. Vaccination is an important way of preventing diseases. Different regional epidemic situations require suitably adapted vaccination programs.
- Vaccination should be guided by the advice of a qualified veterinarian. Only healthy chickens should be vaccinated. Chickens can be vaccinated either through drinking water, spray or eye drop. Cleaning and decontamination are key components of routine biosecurity in a poultry farm.
- Decontamination against disease organisms should be carried out at the poultry farm or at the end of a disease outbreak. The usual methods for decontamination include the use of disinfectants, detergents/soap, sunlight and heat (direct flame or steam). Cleaning by the removal of foreign materials like dust, soil and organic material such as: droppings, blood and secretions.
- Producers will have some sick birds, so have a hospital pen available to house them. This quarantined area, with its special attention, proximity to feed, water, and pasture is needed to help sick birds to recover. The hospital pen can also be an area in a stationary house if there is space.
It should include:
- Production data e.g. number of eggs produced
- Amount of food eaten
- Health interventions e.g. treatment
- Sales and purchases