How Can I Start My Own Poultry Farm?

How Can I Start My Own Poultry Farm?

Chickens in extensive and semi-intensive poultry production systems account for more than 75% of all poultry in the South. Owned by smallholders in rural areas, these birds provide food security and family income and play an important role in socio-cultural events.

Poultry is an important farm species in almost all countries. It is an important source of animal protein, and can be raised in situations with limited feed and housing resources. Chickens are ‘waste converters’: they ‘convert’ a scavenged feed resource base into animal protein. They are therefore by far the most important species for generating income for rural families.

People raise chickens all around the world under widely varying circumstances. Their main objective is generally the same: maximum production for minimum costs and with minimum risks.

The two main forms of keeping small-scale chicken are small-scale subsistence farming and commercial farming. If poultry is mainly kept for home consumption of eggs and meat, costs and effort can be kept to a minimum. But for a poultry enterprise to be successful, it must have a reliable market for its products and a steady supply of reasonably priced quality feed. It is important that feed resources are locally
available.

This Agrodok refers mainly to semi-intensive farming. It can help beginners and experienced poultry raisers to solve problems that come up. Its focus is on keeping layers. Keeping broiler poultry presents different problems and requires particular expertise. Nevertheless, some attention will be paid to keeping cocks as these have to be fattened too.

Chicken breeds

All over the world, more than 300 breeds of the domestic chicken species (Gallus domesticus) exist. We distinguish three main categories of chicken breeds: pure commercial breeds, hybrid breeds resulting from cross-breeding, and local breeds or land races.

We can roughly divide commercial breeds according to their main production aim:

  • egg laying, mainly with lightweight laying breeds or layers
  • meat production, mainly by heavyweight breeds or broilers
  • both egg-laying and meat production by so-called dual-purpose breeds.

Layer, broiler and dual purpose breeds can be distinguished according to their shape.

Commercial and hybrid breeds

A wellknown lightweight layer breed is the White Leghorn. White Leghorns are known for laying lots of white eggs. They need less feed, due to their small size. White Leghorns are therefore very efficient layers. At the end of the laying period they give relatively little meat.

Some heavier layer breeds are meatier and still lay many eggs. These are hence fit for dual-purpose production. These chickens lay brown eggs and usually have brown feathers, but this can vary per breed. We mention the brown-coloured Rhode Island Red and the light-brown New Hampshire. These are kept for both meat and egg production and can hence be categorized as dual purpose breeds. Heavier dual-purpose breeds are very suited to small-scale chicken raising in the tropics. They are usually sturdier than the light breeds.

Medium-weight and heavy chicken breeds are raised for meat production. Cocks of medium-weight chicken breeds can also be kept for slaughtering. Breeds like White Cornish and White Plymouth Rock are important meat producer breeds and hence better suited as pure broiler chickens.

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