Farming: Poultry production considerations

23 November 2021 | Agriculture

Windhoek • Hanks Saisai

Poultry production is a farming enterprise that involves the rearing of various birds like chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and quails with the aim of producing egg and meat products that provide a source of high-quality protein.
Poultry enterprises are business ventures that can be established and managed by any person regardless of gender or age. However, the right environment and prudent management by the farmer are necessary preconditions to farming successfully with poultry.
When one ventures into poultry production, there are key factors to consider. Let us consider chicken for example.
Firstly, decide whether you are keeping the chicken for consumption or for business purposes. Secondly, if you decide to keep chickens for business, it is advisable to conduct a thorough market research that will enable proper planning and identification of a niche market for your products. Thirdly, the farmer is advised to choose the enterprise of preference.
One may opt to keep broilers (meat producing chickens), layers (egg producing chickens) or dual-purpose chickens (producing both meat and eggs).
After deciding on the type of chickens to keep, it is the farmer’s responsibility to understand the production cycle of the specific chickens of choice.
Conventionally, broilers usually can have a production cycle of 42 days, and during this cycle the farmer buys day old chicks (Cobb 500 or Ross 308) from a reputable supplier. It is a farmer’s responsibility to ensure that the day-old chicks are fully vaccinated against common poultry diseases such as Newcastle Disease, Infectious Bronchitis, and others.
An additional factor to consider is brooding (which entails the artificial provision of heat using Infrared bulbs to keep chicks warm). During summer, brooding must take place from day 1 until the chicks are 14 days old and during winter, brooding should last at least 21 days.

Accommodations
Housing is another crucial consideration to farm profitably and sustainably with chickens. Chickens must be accommodated in a well-ventilated chicken coop that provides protection from weather elements. Moreover, the correct stocking density should be maintained.
For a placement house in which day-old chicks are kept until they are 14 days (during summer) or 21 days (during winter), the recommended stocking density is about 55 chicks per square meter (1 m2).
On the other hand, for mature chickens in houses (coops) that have no cooling or heating mechanisms, a recommended stocking density of 10 chickens per square meter is advised. Moreover, feeding, and drinking containers must be sufficient in the coop and must be able to accommodate the number of chickens without causing pressure and stress.
Furthermore, a farmer must consider the dietary requirements for efficient production.
Commercial breeds such as broilers and layers thrive when they are fed the right amount and type of feed that responds to their nutritional needs at various growth stages. When one keeps broilers (meat producing chickens) they need to be fed with commercially formulated rations. Day-old chicks need to be fed with Broiler Starter Mash, then at 15 days of age Broiler Grower Mash must be introduced and finally when the chickens are almost ready for the market, they need to be fed with Broiler Finisher Mash. A serious consideration is to ensure that at least 120 g of feed is available for a mature chicken per day.
In the final analysis, the farmers who tend to attain success and thrive in their farming journey always ensure that they take into consideration the necessary basic steps in poultry farming.
In a nutshell, the basic things must be done right. Lastly, it is crucial to always understand the vital building blocks of your agricultural enterprise of choice whether be it poultry, crop or livestock before you undertake such a business.
*Hanks Saisai is Agribank’s Technical Advisor: Crops & Poultry

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