Is your poultry structure ideal in this rainy season?

Erick Nanjalale, Sanfay Farm Geneal manager showing the integrated poultry farming system where a poultry house is erected above a fish pond. [Nathan Ochunge, Standard]

Most farmers or newcomers venturing into poultry production and processing at this time of the season are wary of the challenges our industry experiences, such as frequent flooding, wet litter, and disease outbreaks. But this need not be the case if one takes the time to understand what it takes to keep the units dry, the litter comfortable, and waterborne diseases at bay.

A good structure is paramount to achieving high performance of any poultry flock. It is an animal welfare requirement that all animals in confinement are housed in an environment that guarantees them comfort from predators and unfavorable weather conditions (rain, wind, scorching sun).

Farm location

Make sure you choose and construct a farm away from other poultry facilities, which may include a similar farm or one of a different species (e.g., ostriches, turkeys, ducks, etc.).

This is important because there are some airborne diseases that can easily jump from one flock to your chickens. Keep your farm away from nearby ponds or streams or in swampy areas; these water points attract wild birds that come to quench thirst and breed and, in the process, transmit diseases. They are also prone to flash flooding.

In an ideal world, the distance between two flock units on the same farm should be 100 ft, while farms of different operations should be 1 km apart or more. This requirement is good for disease prevention and containment should an outbreak occur.

General demands for building (Layout)

In the layout, you need to have a good fence around the farm, a farmhouse with showering facilities, an egg room, a feed store, a parking area, and a dead bird disposal pit. The base foundation should be raised above the floor to avoid runoff water from getting into the chicken units. You must have a good all-weather road into and out of the farm. The unit should be constructed in an east-west orientation to minimize excessive light penetration in the morning and late afternoon.

Floors, walls, and roof

These should be constructed using permanent materials, and the house and other rooms must allow easy and efficient cleaning and disinfection. A concrete and smooth floor and insulated roof are highly recommended.

The house must have lockable doors to keep unnecessary visitors off the premises. The wall should be three feet high from the floor, and the rest of the five-foot-high wall should be made of chicken wire mesh, which is completely wild bird-proof. Any type of roofing will do; however, in rainy climates like the one we are experiencing, iron sheet roofs are the best. Avoid ‘Makuti thatched’ roofs.

Site boundary

However small your farm is, you need to create a good site boundary with a gate and a disinfection area for visitors in the form of a footbath and a spray race for delivery trucks. Keep vegetation as low as possible to avoid rat infestation. Keep a clear 3 meters of bare space around the flock units all around to deter rodents from accessing the units. Good drainage will require the use of curbs, gutters, drop inlets, and catch basins. Where necessary, please put culverts and ditches needed to pave the way for storm drainage away from the flock units and access roads.

Housing systems

There are different types of poultry systems in use depending on the breed of chicken you intend to keep. The most common ones are the deep litter system (barn system) and the cage system. We still see quite a few cages for layer farms.

The advantage of this system is greatly observed during the rainy season as most of the birds are kept above the floor. In a commercial barn system, there is usually a central area with the “system” of perches, nest boxes, feeders, and drinkers.

There is then an extensive floor area covered in litter. Free range – this is like a barn system, but in addition, the birds have access to the outside; however, it is not recommended during rainy weather. Deep litter is cheap and mostly practiced. Ensure the housing unit has enough ventilation, is wild bird-proof, and is constructed in an east-west orientation. 1000 birds will occupy 25ft wide x 80ft long and 7 ft high.

[For more information, please contact me at [email protected]]

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