Poultry refers to various types of domestic birds raised for the purpose of meat, eggs and feather production, including Chickens. The most common and widely raised poultry birds are chickens. Millions of chickens are raised annually as a source of food for both meat and eggs. Chickens raised for producing eggs are called layer hens and chickens raised for their meat are called broilers. The United States and UK consume more meat and eggs than other countries of the world. Poultry farming is very important to meet the demand of animal nutrition (eggs and meat). Poultry farming can be very a profitable venture.
Benefits of Chicken Farming
People generally establish a chicken farm for the purpose of producing eggs and meat. Billions of chickens are being raised annually in the world as a good source of food from their eggs and meat.
- Raising chickens does not require much capital to begin raising the birds.
- Raising chickens does not require a big space unless you are going to raise a large flock of birds. You can easily raise some birds in your own backyard with one or numerous coops.
- Raising chickens as a business can produce a high return of investment within a very short time. Broiler chickens take shorter duration of time to mature and therefore produce an income faster.
- Chicken coop structures do not require much maintenance. The most important things to remember about chicken coops is they need to be kept clean, have good ventilation and must have adequate space for the birds.
- Unless you live in an urban area, a permit is usually not required. Check with you local authority for any licensing or specific requirements you may need.
- Marketing eggs is very easy as there is an established market for poultry products and they can easily be sold in your nearest local market.
Methods of Raising Chickens
About 74% of total poultry meat and 68% of total poultry eggs are produced from intensive poultry farming methods. Free range farming is an alternative method to intensive poultry farming using cages. The free range method is used for a large number of poultry birds including chickens. There are some major differences between intensive and free range poultry farming. Intensive poultry farming method is a highly efficient system which saves on land, feed, labor and other resources that increases production and profits. This system of poultry farming is fully controlled by the farmer. This ensures continuous top production throughout the year. Intensive poultry farming has disadvantages too. Some people says intensive system creates health risks, abuses the animals and is harmful for the environment. Free range poultry farming methods requires a large plot of land for raising the birds and the production is about the same or less than the intensive method. The costs associated with free ranged chickens are higher, so the cost to the consumer is higher when purchasing these products.
The chickens which are raised for egg production are called layer hens. A Laying hen generally starts laying eggs at the age of 12-20 weeks. They start laying eggs consistently at 25 weeks of age. After 70-72 weeks of age egg production of layer chickens starts to decline. Most commercial chicken producers generally keep laying hens for 12 months from their first laying period and then sell them for slaughter. Chickens naturally survive for more than 6 years, so a backyard operation will keep laying hens for a much longer period of time. Commercial egg laying poultry systems are automatically controlled by the farmers. An example would be the presence of light as this increases egg production. The farmers provides more light to increase egg production. The egg-laying hens lays more eggs in warmer months than the cold months. Keeping the temperature of the room warm will be very helpful for increasing egg production. Some commercial egg laying chickens can produce more than 300 eggs a year.
Free Ranged Chickens: Free range means to allow chickens to freely roam within a certain area of the farm. They are still kept inside the coop at night to keep them free from predators and adverse weather. In the free range method, the chickens generally roam freely throughout the whole day. Free range chickens need suitable land which has the facilities to provide adequate drainage, good ventilation and protection from all types of predators. It is important to remember that excessive cold, heat and dampness is very harmful for chickens and will reduce their productivity. Free ranging chickens requires less feed than cage and barn systems. The poultry manure from free ranged chickens can be used as fertilizer for crops. The free range method is very suitable for chickens but it has some difficulties too as chickens can become the victim of predators more easily than a caged system.
Raising Chickens Organically: Organic hen layer production is also one type of free ranging chickens. Organic laying system has some restrictions in the routine use of synthetic yolk colorants, water, feed, medications, other feed additives and obviously a smaller group size with low stocking density.
Yarding Chickens: Yarding is when other livestock and chickens are raised together. The farmer makes a fence in his yard and keeps all the poultry birds and livestock together. The birds and cattle have the freedom of movement inside the fence area. It is a very popular and price effective method used by small farmers.
Battery Caged Chickens: Battery caged layer chickens rearing method is one of the most common methods used by commercial farmers. Every cages can accommodate about 3 to 8 hens. The walls of the cages are generally made of mesh or solid metal and the floor is made of sloped wire mesh which allow the droppings to fall through to a liter pan. When the hens lays eggs, they gather in the egg collecting conveyor belt of the cage. Food is provided in front of the hens by a long bisected metal or plastic pipe and water served to them by using overhead nipple systems. The cages are arranged in long rows in one above another system. There may have several floors in a single chicken house which can keep many, even thousands of hens together. For reducing feather and vent pecking, the light intensity is generally kept lower than ten lux.
The main benefits of battery cage are listed below.
- It is very easy to care for the birds.
- Very easy to collect eggs.
- Cleaner eggs.
- Requires less feed to produce eggs.
- Thousands of hens may be housed in a specific floor space of the house.
- The birds suffers less by internal parasites.
- Labor cost is very low.
Battery cage system have critics. By rearing large number of hens in a small place the air inside the house may contain high ratio of co2. The hens cannot get sufficient space to walk, flap their wings, stand or perch. For this reason they may suffer by frustration and boredom and their behaviors may change which affect their production. Battery cage systems are banned in some countries because it is considered to be cruel and against animal welfare.
Furnished Cage System: Furnished cage systems are a version of the battery cage system. This system allows the hens more room and facilities than battery cage system. A furnished cage for hens should contain sufficient space for walk, perch, flap their wings, nest, special feed and water pot etc.
Raising Broiler Chickens
The chickens which are raised for commercial meat production are called broiler chickens. By using modern farming methods broiler chickens become suitable for consumption within their 8 to 12 weeks of age.
Indoor Raising Methods: This method keeps the chickens inside a coop or house. Rice hulls, wood shavings, peanut shells etc. are used as litter in the floor of the house. In this system the broilers are kept in a large and open house known as grow-out houses. They become suitable for consumption within their 8 to 12 weeks of age with some birds being harvested as young as 5-6 weeks of age. This types of poultry house is well equipped with mechanical systems for delivering the feed and water to the birds. An excellent ventilation system, coolers and heaters are essential. It is very important to keep the house always dry and clean. Generally a house of 400 feet long and 40 feet wide can accommodate about 20,000 birds with one-half square feet of space per bird.
Free-Range Methods: In free-range broiler method, the broilers are kept like the free-range layers. The broiler will grow more slowly using this system as it takes more than 12 weeks for the birds to reach slaughter weight. The main facilities of free-range farming systems is that, it allows the birds scratching, foraging, pecking and other outdoor exercise.
Organic Farming Methods: Organic farming method is almost the same as free-range systems. But the main difference is that, in organic farming methods the birds are not allowed to be given in-feed or in-water medications, other food additives and synthetic amino acids. This system is very suitable for the poultry breeds which reach slaughter weight slowly around 12 weeks.
Types of Chickens
Below is a list of the different types of chickens and their use.
Standard Breeds – which include broiler chickens, laying hens and chickens used for exhibition.
Some Popular Poultry Breeds
Below are some popular and mostly raised poultry birds.
Suitable housing plays a vital role in raising of all types of poultry birds, including chickens. Some birds grow and live happily in the floor of poultry house and others do not. Chickens usually adjust to most types of coops very easily. The following recommendations are important while building houses for your poultry birds.
- Always keep sufficient space in your poultry house and do not over crowd the birds.
- Good ventilation system is very important. Ensure that you poultry houses are well ventilated.
- Ensure sufficient flow of fresh air and light inside the house.
- Clean the house and equipment on a regular basis. Sterilize the house before bringing new chicks into your farm.
- Take necessary steps for preventing all types of predators and harmful animals.
- Make good temperature management so that you birds do not suffer by excessive hot or cold.
- Make suitable drainage system inside the house for cleaning it properly.
- Placing poultry houses in a quite place is always a good idea.
Feeding high quality, fresh and nutritious food always ensure good health, proper growth and high production. Always feed your poultry birds healthy and nutritious feeds. Add all types of necessary vitamins and minerals to their feed. Commercial poultry feeds for various types of birds are available at feed stores. In addition to feeding your birds high quality and nutritious feeds, always serve them a sufficient amount of fresh and clean water according to their demands.
Care & Management
Always take good care of your birds. Learn more about various types of poultry diseases, symptoms and treatment. Vaccinate the birds timely. Provide them nutritious feed and clean water. Clean their house on a regular basis.
Marketing of chicken eggs and meat is very easy. Poultry products are in huge demand. You can easily sell your farm products in your nearest local market or directly from your farm.
Raising poultry for meat and eggs is absolutely a very popular and profitable business idea. If you are thinking about setting up a poultry farm, then read and learn as much as possible about raising chickens.