How to successfully farm chickens
However, achieving success in chicken farming is highly dependent on the housing, feed and production systems implemented by a farmer.
According to Agribank’s technical advisor for crops and poultry, Hanks Saisai, there are critical factors that farmers must adhere to and understand to ensure success.
He said housing for chickens is the most critical factor that must be prioritised by farmers.
“Chicken coops must be designed in such a manner that they maintain comfort and ensure that the birds are protected from weather elements and predators such as hawks, snakes, caracals, and jackals.”
Saisai said another consideration when designing the chicken coop is maintaining the recommended stocking densities to minimise overcrowding.
According to him, in a naturally ventilated chicken house where a farmer relies on environmental weather elements such as wind to keep the house cool, it is advisable that a stocking density of 12 chickens per square metre be maintained.
He said in a placement where chicks are raised, a stocking density of 55 to 60 chicks per square metre is recommended.
"Moreover, each square metre must have a drinker and a feeder for the chickens to have access to sufficient water and feed. This will enable farmers to build chicken coops that can comfortably accommodate their chicken flock.”
Saisai said another factor that is of vital importance to consider is the feed composition.
He said understanding the nutritional requirements of the types of chickens you are farming is vital for a successful chicken enterprise for both broiler and layer chickens.
Also, Saisai said something to consider is the production system that is in place. A production system refers to the way a farmer makes use of his available resources to meet enterprise demands.
When rearing chickens, farmers have three production system options that they can implement.
He explained that free-range production systems are often common in rural set-ups where chickens are kept at a minimal cost.
The farmer only incurs the cost of buying the birds but does not spend money on shelter, feed or veterinary drugs.
“The downside of this set-up is that chickens are exposed to predators and weather elements.”
The semi-intensive system is another option that a farmer can choose to implement. In this system, shelter is provided to the chickens, as are feed rations and treatment when a disease or pest outbreak is suspected.
“When feed runs out, the chickens are allowed to forage around the homestead.”
Animal well-being crucial
The final option is an intensive production system. In this system, the chickens are kept in the chicken coop throughout the entire production cycle, where they are protected against weather elements, predators, diseases and are fed adequate amounts of feed.
Saisai said this system has a higher cost of production associated with raising the chickens; however, chickens are more productive in this set-up.
He said farmers are therefore urged to review and consider what works best for them, but most importantly, farmers must consider the well-being of the chickens for a successful enterprise.