Many farmers have overlooked the potentials in local/village chickens. Starting a local/village chicken farming is a good, cheap means to boost eggs and chicks 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 include:
- 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 drop of 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 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 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 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 Improving the production of local chickens
1. 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.
2. 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.