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The basics of chicken production
08 June 2021 | Agriculture
Poultry farming is a fast-growing emerging farming enterprise across all regions of Namibia.
Chickens are kept for the production of meat and eggs that provide a healthy source of good quality protein needed by the human body.
Generally, there are three types of chickens that one can keep (namely Broilers, Layers & Dual-Purpose Chickens)
Broilers are chickens kept for the purpose of meat production. Conventionally, these chickens should be slaughter ready in a period of 42 days. Broilers have 3 common breeds namely Cornish, Cobb and Ross. These chickens are raised from day old chicks and are kept in brooding units that provide artificial heat to keep them warm for a period of 14 days in summer and about 21 days in winter. This must be done in order to prevent chick mortality due to Pneumonia (indigenous chickens [hens] are often observed taking time to cover their chicks with their bodies to provide warmth after hatching their eggs).
Moreover, the ideal environment that ensures that these chicks can grow well in a period of 42 days is one with sufficient lighting that enables the chickens to be awake for 24 hours for them to have access to feed all day and night. It is also of great importance to note that in order for broilers to be slaughter-ready in 42 days, the right feed should be provided to your chickens.
Broilers must be fed with the following commercial formulated feeds at various stages of production:
a) From day old to 14 days the chicks must be fed with Broiler Starter Mash.
b) From day 15 to day 28 the chickens must be fed with Broiler Grower.
c) From day 29 to day 42 the chickens are now being prepared for the market therefore they must be fed with Broiler finisher Mash.
Another crucial aspect of broiler production is the provision of adequate housing. Broiler chickens must be kept in an enclosed house with good air ventilation. The rough concrete floor must be covered with a layer of wood shavings that is at least 7.5 cm thick. Moreover, the house must offer protection against predators and extreme weather conditions such as rain, cold, sunlight and wind.
Furthermore, sufficient drinkers and feeders must be placed in the house within easy reach for the chickens. The recommended stocking density in broiler houses without cooling and heating facilities should is a minimum of 10 chickens per square meter and a maximum of 12 chickens per square meter. A point to always remember is that if you are involved in broiler production, you need to have 3 types of houses.
The first house is known as a placement house where day old chicks are kept and provided with artificial heat (brooding) for a period of 14 days, the second house is the production house where 15 days old chickens are kept until they reach 42 days and are slaughter ready. The last house on a broiler farm is a sick bay where all sick birds can be kept and treated
Layers are chickens that are kept for the purpose of producing eggs. Under normal conditions, these chickens start producing eggs at the age of about 20 weeks (5 months old). The most common breeds are Hyline hens of Lohman Brown or Lohman Silver hens and Leghorn hens (Brown and White).
When one is involved in egg production, it is important to note that layers must be kept in production for a period of one year (365 days) and then be replaced with a set of new hens. This is because layers tend to have declined egg production after 1 year.
When one intends to be involved in egg production, it is of great importance to note that these hens are kept in a chicken house with no presence of a cock (male chicken) as they have the ability to lay eggs. The eggs laid by these hens are unfertilized eggs that can be consumed by people as fresh table eggs that can be either fried or boiled.
In order for these hens to lay eggs, the chickens must be fed with the right commercial formulated feed at various stages of production:
a) From day 1 until 4 weeks old the chicks must be fed with Chick Starter Mash.
b) From 4 weeks old until 16 weeks old the chickens must be fed with Grower Mash.
c) By the time the chickens (hens) are 4 months old until they are 72 weeks old, they must be fed with Layer Mash.
After being in egg production for a period of 365 days, the hens must be culled and sold off as meat. So, for a period of 2 weeks before they are replaced, they must be fed with Broiler Finisher Mash to allow them to gain weight and then they can be slaughtered and sold as meat.
Dual-Purpose chickens are usually kept for both meat and egg production. These are chickens include breeds such as Rhode Island Red, Australorps, Orpingtons, Sussex. Most common indigenous chicken breeds and Dual-purpose chickens are kept for more than 2 years on the farm.
For any person who has ambitions of becoming a chicken farmer, it is always of great importance to know what type of chickens you must keep in order to produce a specific product. Additionally, it is critical to undertake a market research to understand the market and equip yourself with knowledge in order to become a successful chicken farmer.
*Hanks Saisai is Agribank’s Technical Advisor – Crops & Poultry