- Introduction to Poultry Production
- Management of Chicks
- Management of Layers
- How to Improve the Production of Local Chickens
- Economics of Production
- General Disease Control Practices
- Record keeping
Many farmers have overlooked the potentials in local/village chickens. Starting a local or village chicken farming is a good, cheap means to boost egg and chick production. This guide will help you with starting a local chicken farm, either for meat, eggs or chick production.
Introduction to Poultry Production
Poultry contributes to improved human nutrition and food security by being a leading source of high quality protein in form of eggs and meat. It acts as a key supplement to revenue from crops and other livestock enterprises, thus avoiding over dependency on traditional commodities with inconsistent prices. It has a high potential to generate foreign exchange earnings through export of poultry products to neighboring countries. Poultry is highly prized in many social-cultural functions such as dowry and festivities.
The poultry industry is rapidly growing. 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.
Constraints in Poultry Production
- Production related constraints
- inadequate access to improved breed
- Access and affordability of feed
- Disease control
- Lack of knowledge and skills
- Inadequate capital at all levels and marketing.
Systems of Management in Poultry Production
- Free range
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
Management of Chicks
- Before chicks arrive at home; make sure that;
- A brooder is in place
- Paraffin lamps/electric bulbs/charcoal stove is available
- Litter for the floor is available
- 1m2 will accommodate 20 chicks up to 4 weeks old.
- Temperature control: 35C for day-old chicks, 24-27C for 1 week. Reduce heat as they grow especially at night.
Feeding Exotic Chickens
- Broilers: 1 to 3 weeks feed with chick mash 3 to 6 weeks feed with broiler starter, thereafter with broiler finisher.
- Layers: 1 to 8 weeks feed on chick mash, after 8 weeks introduce growers mash gradually, then with layers mash after the drop of the first egg.
Management of Layers
- Allow for good air circulation in laying house
- Layer needs on average 120 gm of food per day
- Distribute food troughs and water troughs evenly (one basin/50 birds)
- Provide grit at 20 weeks
- Laying nests must be kept in dark places, collect eggs 3 times a day, allow a nest/5 hens
- Provide soft clean litter
- Store eggs with the small end down
- Clean dirty eggs with steel wool/coarse leaves (never wash them)
- Add greens to the diet and whenever possible vitamins to water
- Debeaking at the onset of lay
- Culling when egg production drops below 40%
Physical features of a good layer chicken
- Bright red comb and wattles
- Alert eyes
- Width between pelvic bones should measure at least 2 fingers
- The beak and claws should look bleached
- The cloaca should be moist
Advantages in choosing local chickens for farming
- They are self-sustaining i.e. can raise their own replacement stock
- They are hardy birds that can survive hard conditions
- Management requirements are not critical as those of commercial exotic breeds
- They are immune to some diseases and parasites
- Their products fetch more money than those from exotic birds
Limitations in choosing local chickens for farming
- They have a low growth rate
- They produce fewer small-sized eggs and comparatively little meat
- People keep them without commercial purposes
- They have been neglected by breeders/scientists despite their potential
How to Improve the Production of Local Chickens
Control of parasites and diseases
- External parasites that affect local chicken include: poultry body louse, stick tight flea, poultry lice, ticks, feather mites and leg mites.
- Control can be done using commercial/synthetic or herbal insecticide.
- Herbal preparations are cheaper for local chicken but a lot of research is still needed in this area to establish proper dosage.
- Internal parasites include worms and coccidia.
- Worms can be eliminated using a potent dewormer preferably given as a tablet because these chickens have low water consumption.
- Deworming should be done at least every month.
- Commercial coccidiostats can be used alternately with herbal preparation. These must be given to birds on 8th, 9th, and 10th days of age. Repeat as directed by veterinarian.
- In early days, vitamins-mineral mixtures should be given to chicks to minimize losses.
- Vaccination of birds especially against New Castle Disease. Target first vaccination at the beginning of the dry seasons, repeat after one month and every four months thereafter.
Feeding Local Chickens
- Farmers can mix their own feeds using the abundant carbohydrate and protein feed available in their area.
- Feeding should be accompanied by green feeds and fruits such as pawpaw.
- Only palatable green feeds should be given to birds. Avoid poisonous feeds
Good green feeds to local chickens
- Bidens pilosa (Black jack)
- Asystasia schimperi
- Vermonia amygydalina (Bitter leaf)
- Edible Amaranthus
- Pawpaw leaves
- Ascalepias simulunata
- Marmodica fortida
- Talinum fruticosum (Water leaf)
Poisonous/unpalatable green feeds
- Datura stromonium
- Fresh cassava leaves
- Fresh sweet potato leaves
- Tobacco leaves
- Nicotina rustica (Ssetaaba)
- Castor oil leaves (Ricinus communis)
- Siyesbeckaia orientalis
- Sunflower leaves
- Irish potato leaves
- Tomato leaves
- Dichrocephata latifolia
- Tagetes munital
- Pumpkin leaves
The following should be done in rearing local chickens:
- Vaccination against Newcastle disease
- Remove mites and lice manually or better still using medicated powder
- Provide water as much as possible
- May supplement free range with other feeds e.g. maize bran and concentrates
- Avoid buying chicken in dry seasons because diseases, especially Newcastle, are more rampant in dry seasons
- Avoid buying birds when there is a disease outbreak
- Buy birds of almost the same age i.e. 2-3 months are more ideal. Avoid buying old birds
- Plan for synchronised mating and therefore synchronized reproduction and production to ease management
How to programme/synchronise egg laying and incubation in local chickens
- Assume a farmer has 14 local hens and 2 indigenous cocks
- Give each bird own nest when they start to lay. Place dry grass on top.
- Boil one egg from each bird and put it in nest as a landmark for each hen. Mark the egg.
- Remove the eggs that were laid on the day they are laid. Write dates on them using pencil and store them together on trays with broad end facing up.
- Leave boiled egg in nest.
Precautions to take during egg storage
- Do not store eggs in a kitchen where it is hot. Heat may partially incubate the egg and kill the embryos in them
- Do not store them on top of a cupboard because heat from roof may incubate them.
- Keep eggs in a cool secure place.
Incubation by mother hens
- Usually one hen starts incubating by staying overnight on the boiled egg
- Leave this hen on the boiled egg for 10 days while it is waiting for other birds
- After the 10 days, give all the birds that would have started incubating (within the 10 days) 17 selected but recently laid eggs
- Leave the birds that refuse to incubate alone
- If you want to eat or sell, eat/sell those which were laid first (old ones).
- Avoid giving these eggs to birds for incubation: very small, round eggs, very dirty, cracked eggs, extremely pointed eggs, very big eggs, very old eggs.
- When done this way, all birds will hatch on the same day. An egg takes 21 days, 6 hrs to hatch.
Eggs can also be collected and taken to a hatchery instead of incubation by mother hens.
Economics of Production
- Usually 80% of hens are programmable
Let’s use 13 hens in this case.
80% of 13 hens= 10 hens
If each of the 10 hens is given 18 selected fertile eggs (10×18 =180 eggs)
Hatchability is usually 90%.
90% of 18 fertile eggs = 16 eggs is expected to hatch after 21 days
So with 10 hens, 160 chicks is expected
- 3 to 5 hatchings are possible per bird.
With 13 hens, a poultry farmer may hatch (3 x 160) =180 chicks to (5 x 160) = 800 chicks
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
Antibiotics should never be used to replace good management and should be used on prescription by a veterinarian.
Signs of Ill Health
- Reduced feed intake
- Reduced water intake
- Low egg production
- Reduced growth rate
- Rough coat
Records to keep include:
- Production data such as number of eggs produced, number of egg hatched
- Quantity of feed eaten
- Health interventions e.g. treatment
- Sales and purchases
If you want a more detailed guide on how to start a local chicken farming, click on the link below to download it.