Would you like to start your own poultry farm, but do not know how to go about it? If you already have chickens roaming around your yard, you may like to take it one step further and set up a formal poultry farm. This easy-to-follow course will provide you with all the information you need to start a successful small-scale poultry farming enterprise.
There are two types of poultry production. Most birds being slaughFeed tered and packaged for supermarkets, are produced by commercial poultry farms. Usually, these farms are found near cities, and they rear high-producing exotic birds on feed that has been developed for excellent growth and egg-laying performance.
Small-scale poultry farmers are found near or in rural villages where it is sometimes difficult to obtain quality chickens and feed. They often keep indigenous birds in informal structures. There are usually no well-organised marketing outlets and many of these chickens are sold out of hand to people in the villages.
Poultry farming has many benefits, but it also has drawbacks. There are many aspects to consider before you order your first batch of day-old chicks.
The advantages of becoming a small-scale poultry farmer include:
- There is a ready and growing market for fresh chicken meat and eggs
- You can earn a steady income
- You will provide healthy food for your family
- You will help your community to eat healthy food
- By doing so, you will create food security for your family and the community
- You can create jobs, especially for women
- You can sell manure as a by-product
- You can use the manure to improve your soil
Chicken meat makes up at least 70% of the protein in diets of people living in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. That means there is a big market for poultry products, so you will have many customers who will want to buy your chickens.
Chicken meat is cheaper than beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat. The average household can afford to buy and cook chicken a few times a week, while the other meats may be too expensive to consume more than once a week, if they do so at all.
Chicken meat is convenient. As a chicken provides enough meat for one meal, you do not need a refrigerator to store the rest of it, as you have to do with other types of meat that comes in bigger bulk.
Chicken meat cooks quickly, so you do not need a lot of energy, such as electricity, gas, paraffin, or firewood to cook your meal. Chicken meat is healthier than red meats, as it contains as much protein, which you need to build your body, but much less fat that can cause heart diseases.
Cooking chicken to provide a balanced meal is easy and it combines well with vegetables, which provide vitamins keeping you healthy, and potatoes, maize, or rice, providing carbohydrates that give you energy.
You can use the chicken manure that you remove from the hen houses to enrich the soil, which will help your crops grow better.
Although you will be doing most of the work yourself, you may need someone to help you to build the necessary structures. Thereby you will create much-needed jobs in your community. By buying local materials, you will support local businesses.
There are also some downsides. Remember the following aspects when you consider starting a poultry farm.
- You need suitable land and water
- It could be expensive to build and equip the hen houses
- It will be expensive to buy day-old chickens or pullets
- You will have to buy suitable feed that may be expensive
- You will have to watch out for diseases and take proper action
- You must apply biosecurity measures
- You must sanitise the houses
- It will be a lot of work and you will have to be around all the time
If you have suitable land and fresh, clean water, you still need money to buy building materials to build a safe hen house and litter, like straw, to put on the floor, whether you are planning to keep hens for meat or for laying eggs.
You will need equipment to feed and water your chickens, and provide them with heat and light to enable your chickens to grow properly.
Cleanliness and hygiene are of the utmost importance to keep your chickens healthy. Keep in mind that you will have to be very careful not to use dirty hands or wear dirty clothes or shoes whenever you enter your hen house.
Young chickens are especially vulnerable and must be managed with great care. You need to take care of the brooder, which is the container in which you keep them warm and safe until they are big enough to eat by themselves and can be moved to the house where you keep your broilers and layers. You also must make sure that chickens at any age are not stressed by heat, cold, or insufficient feed or water.
You will need to buy vaccines and medicine to keep your birds healthy. Disease is a big problem. You will have to be vigilant to ensure that your chickens are healthy. Day-old chickens are usually vaccinated against the deadly Newcastle disease, but you will have to make sure your chickens are safe.
Also, diseases like avian influenza, which also contaminates wild birds, have led to the culling of all the chickens on contaminated farms to stop the virus from spreading. It is very important to keep to biosecurity rules to keep your chickens safe, or else, it may lead to big losses.
If you do not want to raise chicks, you will have to buy older chickens for producing eggs or meat.
It is not always easy to find strong, healthy day-old chicks, as there are not many breeders around. They may also be very expensive. If you want to produce eggs for sale, you will have to buy young hens that are about to start laying eggs, and are called layers.
You will have to buy food that is suitable for chicks, broilers, and layers. Broilers are sold when they are 42 days old, while layers can produce eggs for up to a year. Good quality food is not always available, and you must find out in advance where feed is being sold. It can also be expensive to have the feed transported from stores or cooperatives to your village, as public transport tends to be costly and not always reliable to deliver your chickens and feed safely.
It is also expensive to pay for a veterinarian to check on your birds when they show signs of disease. Some diseases can be cured with antibiotics, which can be expensive. There are not always extension officers who are working for the department of agriculture, especially in remote areas.
It may be difficult to get funding for your poultry farm, but some governments are willing to help small-scale farmers to get started to be less reliable on imported poultry products.
The course, Poultry Farming for Small-scale farmers in African Countries, will consist of ten chapters that will provide information about how to:
- plan a poultry farm and budget for it
- build and equip a brooder and hen houses
- take care of day-old chicks, broilers, and layers
- prepare your produce for the market
- take care of health and biosecurity
Stay tuned for more!
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