Poultry farming for beginners
With the accelerating global population growth, demand for food is higher than ever. For this reason alone, poultry farming is a viable business anytime any day. But the prospective poultry farmer has to plan carefully beforehand. Anyone who wants to produce poultry products has first to find a market. A poultry farmer can produce for the meat market or the egg market. And don’t forget about by-products; farmers can recycle manure for composting, for instance. And to find it, you must know what you can produce and if there is a demand for it.
A farmer can sell live, freshly slaughtered, or frozen birds, or value-added meat products.Live birds are a risky market. If you don’t sell them at the recommended time, it can cause a serious dent in profits because you have to continue feeding the birds.There’s also the problem of Cornish hens. These are culled egg layer hens and broiler breeders. Many traders, such as hawkers, buy them at a reduced price, which affects the demand for, and prices of, good-quality live birds.Freshly slaughtered birds are a good market, particularly if a farmer gets a contract to supply a specific customer.
For eggs, the market options are fresh eggs and \value-added egg products.The value-added egg market is a bit restricted for a farmer just starting out, but there is opportunity to make money. For example, one could sell hard-boiled eggs at spaza shops, taxi ranks or schools.For egg producers, the market options are fresh eggs and value added egg products.
3 Factors that makes Poultry Farming a Profitable Business
There are a lot of factors that make poultry farming business a profitable one but I will be highlighting only three major factors:
- Food is one of the basic needs of man. Regardless of the economic situation, human beings must feed and since domestic birds are consumable; that makes poultry farming feasible.
- Kenya for instance has a population of over 40million and growing; bear it in mind that a huge population means a huge demand for food (egg and meat).
- With the increased awareness on the health implications of red meat; there’s an increased demand for white meat and birds are a source of white meat.
1. Select your Poultry Niche
The poultry industry is a broad niche. There are many sub-sectors in the poultry industry which you can tap into. When poultry farming is mentioned, a lot of people take that to mean chicken rearing or turkey rearing alone but poultry farming is a very wide business with different aspects.
Below are niches in the poultry business:
- Egg production (Layers breeding)
- Meat production (Broilers breeding)
- Chicken breeding (Hatchery)
- Poultry feed production
- Poultry equipment manufacturing
- Egg and meat processing, packaging and marketing
- Poultry marketing and consultancy
2. What type of bird will you be focusing on?
Another important factor to consider is the type of birds you wish to rear. There are several types of birds that you can rear. Poultry farming can further be classified into the types of birds:
- Domestic fowl or Chicken (Broilers and layers)
- Guinea fowl
3. Start-up Capital Investment
The poultry farming business is capital intensive; depending on the scale, location of your farm and the type of management technology used. A small scale poultry farm being run behind your house may require a capital of between Ksh.50000 – Ksh.150000. A medium scale poultry farm may require Ksh.200,000– Ksh.500,000 and a large scale poultry farm may require a start-up capital of Ksh.1000,000 and above.
4. Poultry Location
A good location is vital to the success and profitability of your poultry farm. An ideal poultry farm should be sited where there’s a large availability of cheap land and at the same time; should be close to areas with high population density. It’s not advisable to site your poultry farm within a residential area because of the offensive odour it produces.While it is smart to start your poultry farm in a place where the odor and noise would not disturb other people, you should also consider the security factor. Lands in sparsely populated settlements are cheap and you would have fewer issues with community disturbance and zoning but it may be far from your market and buyers. You need to find a balance, look for a place that is favorable to you and would also be favorable to your customers at the same time.
5. Housing your birds
Another important factor to consider is the poultry housing system and fencing options. Poultry housing system determines up to 40% of the rate of success you would achieve in poultry farming. A good housing system is very important for your poultry farm. The housing system commonly used in poultry farming are-:
- Extensive system: Range and fold unit
- Semi Intensive system: Standard semi intensive unit and straw yard
- Intensive system: i. Deep litter, ii. Wire and slated floor, iii. Straw yard, iv. Battery cage
Deep Litter System-: This system involves spreading wood shavings or saw dust on a concrete ground with the chickens placed on the floor and the dust serving as a ‘cushion’ for them. The dust is changed regularly, either by removing and replacing or by layering.Deep litter system is used by a lot of poultry farmers because it increases efficiency and makes it easier to manage large flocks of birds but it allows for a faster spread of diseases when there is an outbreak and also makes it difficult to fish out unproductive birds.
Battery Cage System-: As for the battery cage system, metal cages are constructed inside a building to house the birds. The cages are usually split into different compartments to house small groups of birds. The cages also contain feeding and water troughs as well as laying nests.Bird droppings fall on the floor and are cleaned mechanically by a scraper. This method is considered to be the most effective for egg production but the major downside of this method is that it is more expensive to construct and maintain compared to other forms of poultry housing systems.
If you are running a poultry farm for commercial purposes and you intend getting the best out of the business; with respect to high birds’ productivity and efficiency, then you should consider housing your birds using the intensive system. Note that each of the three housing system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Lastly, your poultry housing structure should be built at a particular angle; taking sunlight and wind into consideration.
6. Poultry equipment and appliances
There is a very long list of equipment and facilities to put in place in order to fully manage a poultry farm. You would need to construct a house for the birds, provide feeders and drinkers, a good waste disposal system, source of water, lighting and heating, egg crates and storage space for keeping feed and eggs.
Therefore, you should make a list of all the items you would need, find out the prices and compare different prices to further give you an idea of the costs of setting up the poultry farm.The following equipment may be needed for your poultry farm and their uses:
- Lighting system
- Waste disposal system
- Heaters or brooders
- Egg tray
- Cages and coops
- Producing your feeds by yourself
- Buying already-made poultry feeds
8. Poultry Farm staffing and manpower
Operating a poultry farm is not labor intensive if the use of technology is employed. With respect to staffing, the number of manpower needed is also dependent on the size of your farm. But some must haves should be admin officer or manager; who will oversee the day to day running of your business. Your manager can also double as your accountant to cut down cost.It is also advisable you have personnel who will reside permanently in the farm to monitor and see to the well being of your birds. You will also need security personnel that will monitor the inflow and outflow of people around your farm; and most importantly, guard against theft. Aside these few mentioned, you can add more personnel to suit your business needs.
9. Accounting-: Majority of poultry farmers take the accounting and record keeping aspects of their business for granted. Poultry farming is just like any other commercial business out there and for you to track your performance and productivity, adequate records must be kept.You don’t need to have an accounting background or spend hours on record keeping or accounting for your farm; just purchase a farm management software, install it on your computer and there you are, you would be able to know how your business is doing and whether you are growing or not.
10. Health-: Just like you need regular health check-up to stay in good shape, the birds in your farm also need regular check-up. They need proper vaccines and medications to prevent diseases and promote growth. You should have a consultant, a veterinary doctor who would be in charge of giving vaccinations and providing proper health care for the birds. Chicks need more care after they hatch especially within their first 3 weeks.
Diseases in poultry can severely affect the profitability and future existence of production, so it’s essential to have good bio-security in place to prevent (as far as possible) the spreading of disease.
Drainage should be good, particularly near the chicken houses. The area around chicken houses must not be muddy – you can trample in soil and diseases.
Poor drainage can cause flooding and diseases spread more easily if there is stagnant water. It’s a good idea to keep the chicken houses clean and free of stagnant water by throwing a cement or pebble slab in the area directly around them. Water that doesn’t drain away fast enough can attract insects such as flies and mosquitoes, both carriers of disease.
The area where housing is to be constructed must be big enough to allow 20m between houses. This is to minimise the spread of disease between them. This also applies if you already have a mixed farming operation, and want to start poultry.
If you’re farming maize, don’t plant them between the poultry houses, as this will affect ventilation.
It’s not a good idea to house chickens of different ages in the same facility. Disease is transmitted much more easily to small chicks than to older chickens which have more immunity. Cages housing birds of different ages be at least 500m apart.Broilers have an additional requirement: They don’t react well to sudden noises and could die of shock if cows unexpectedly make a loud noise near them.
11. Marketing-: Another factor to give consideration to is the marketing aspect of your poultry business. You have to find a way to reach your customers and this would be done by employing the right marketing techniques. Therefore, before you start a poultry business, you should really consider the marketing strategies which you would use to break into the market.
12. Projected return on investment:- The incubation period of the domestic fowl is 21 days. You can start selling off your birds as early as 8 – 12 weeks but full maturity is reached between 20 – 24 weeks. The payback period of a poultry farming business is between 3 – 5 years.
Five Challenges of Starting a Poultry Farming Business
Poultry farming business is one of the most important and profitable aspect of livestock farming business especially in Kenya. But like every other business, there are risks and challenges involved:
- Poultry farming has a longer pay back period
- It is Labor intensive
- Pests and diseases can cause massive losses
- High start-up capital
The very first factor you have to give serious consideration to is capital. Just like every other business, poultry farming needs sufficient and proper funding. This is because the amount of capital you have to invest has a lot to do with the level of success you would achieve in poultry farming. If you have enough capital, you would be able to put facilities that would increase your productivity in place.
You cannot do well as a livestock farmer, especially poultry farming when you don’t have enough funds. You need money to purchase a land for the farm, to construct and equip the farm, to hire and pay staff/laborers and also to feed and provide healthcare for your birds.
- Outbreak of diseases
You must avoid bringing in contaminated equipment, vehicle,and foot wears. You must always de-worm your birds and check them constantly for exo-parasites such as mites. Also, visitors should not be allowed into the poultry environment and ensure that you sterilize your hands before touching the birds.
- Non availability and affordability of vaccines
- Adulteration and high cost of poultry food
In conclusion, I believe you have gotten a clue on the challenges you should expect as a poultry farmer and the best solutions to them. Start now by creating a strategy to tackle these challenges and success will be yours.