Why should housing matter to you as a commercial poultry farmer? The right poultry housing guarantees the birds’ good health and welfare and affects egg and meat production. Poultry houses ideally should be in isolated places to minimise human traffic and mixing between different farms. You have probably noticed how far Kenchick locates their production units – in the middle of nowhere. You may not afford this luxury as a small-scale farmer but still you can use the furthest corner of the farm.
When housing birds, do not overcrowd. Create enough room for the birds to perch, walk and run around. Ensure there is good ventilation because birds are easily stressed when there’s ammonia accumulation in the air. To cure this, make sure the house has sufficient flow of fresh air and is adequately lit. Sterilise houses when bringing in new chicks. Here are the three broad categories of rearing:
Free-range poultry rearing system
Free range involves rearing poultry in the open; letting them forage on their own during the day and at night they are sheltered from predators and cold. This is the oldest form of poultry management. It is still applicable today especially in organic farms and there is a niche of consumers who have a preference and taste for poultry produced under this system. Animal welfare activists advocate for this system as it allows the birds to express their natural behaviour. It is relatively cheap since not much is spent on feeds. However, a large track of land and predator control should be factored into this system.
Under this system birds are half housed and half let to move freely. This system is a hybrid between free range and intensive systems. The birds forage on vegetation and insects plus the farmer’s supplementation. It is relatively cheaper compared to intensive system of rearing.
Under this system, the birds are kept indoors throughout and provided with feeds and water. There are several methods of housing under this system. The common ones are deep litter and battery systems.
Deep litter system
This system can be used for layers and broilers. This system uses beddings on the floor (litter). The litter can be saw dust, leaves, rice hulls or grass. The litter absorb excess moisture from the droppings and drinkers hence the drying effect. The litter also dilutes feacal waste and reduces contact between birds and manure. It also provides a cushion between the birds and floor protecting them from the cooling effect.
Commonly used for commercial layers. Individual or groups are birds are put in cages from where they are fed. The cages are designed in a way that the eggs slip to a collection point outside the cage. The floor of the cages is made of mesh wire; enabling the feacal waste to drop down for collection.
This method allows for good care and monitoring of the birds. The system also saves on feeds wastage and therefore reduces the cost of production. It uses less space and saves on labour due to its simplified design.
However, this system denies birds their freedom and that is why it has been banned in countries where animal rights are prioritised.
[The writer works in the Division of Communication and Vet Advisory Services [email protected]]