The basics of chicken production

09 June 2021 | Agriculture

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

Poultry farming is a fast-growing emerging farming enterprise across Namibia.

Chickens are kept for the production of meat and eggs that provide a healthy source of high-quality protein needed by the human body.

Generally, there are three types of chickens that one can keep: broilers, layers and dual-purpose chickens.

Broilers

Broilers are chickens kept for the purpose of meat production.

Agribank’s technical advisor for crops and poultry, Hanks Saisai, says that conventionally, these chickens should be slaughter ready in a period of 42 days.

“Broilers have three common breeds namely Cornish, Cobb and Ross. These chickens are raised from day-old chicks and are kept in brooding units that provide artificial heat to keep them warm for a period of 14 days in summer and about 21 days in winter.”

Saisai says this must be done in order to prevent chick mortality due to pneumonia.

“Moreover, the ideal environment that ensures that these chicks can grow well in a period of 42 days is one with sufficient lighting that enables the chickens to be awake for 24 hours for them to have access to feed all day and night. It is also of great importance to note that in order for broilers to be slaughter ready in 42 days, the right feed should be provided to your chickens.”

He says another crucial aspect of broiler production is the provision of adequate housing. Broiler chickens must be kept in an enclosed house with good air ventilation. The rough concrete floor must be covered with a layer of wood shavings that is at least 7.5 cm thick. Moreover, the house must offer protection against predators and extreme weather conditions such as rain, cold, sunlight and wind.

Furthermore, sufficient water and feed must be placed in the house within easy reach for the chickens. The recommended stocking density in broiler houses without cooling and heating facilities is a minimum of 10 chickens per square metre and a maximum of 12 chickens per square metre.

“A point to always remember is that if involved in broiler production, you need to have three types of houses.”

The first house is known as a placement house where day-old chicks are kept and provided with artificial heat for 14 days. The second is the production house where 15-day-old chickens are kept until they reach 42 days and are slaughter ready.

The last house on a broiler farm is a sick bay where all sick birds can be kept and treated.

Layers

Layers are chickens that are kept for the purpose of producing eggs. Under normal conditions, these chickens start producing eggs at the age of about 20 weeks (five months).

The most common breeds are Hyline, Lohman Brown or Lohman Silver, and Leghorn (brown and white).

“When one is involved in egg production, it is important to note that layers must be kept in production for a period of one year (365 days) and then be replaced with a set of new hens. This is because layers tend to have declined egg production after one year,” says Saisai.

He says it is of great importance to note that these hens are kept in a chicken house with no presence of a cock.

“The eggs laid by these hens are unfertilised eggs that can be consumed by people as fresh table eggs that can be either fried or boiled.”

Saisai says after being in egg production for a period of 365 days, the hens must be culled and sold as meat.

Dual-purpose chickens

Dual-purpose chickens are usually kept for both meat and egg production. These chickens include breeds such as Rhode Island Red, Australorps, Orpington and Sussex. Most common indigenous chicken breeds and dual-purpose chickens are kept for more than two years on the farm.

“For any person who has ambitions of becoming a chicken farmer, it is always of great importance to know what type of chickens you must keep in order to produce a specific product. Additionally, it is critical to undertake a market research to understand the market and equip yourself with knowledge in order to become a successful chicken farmer,” says Saisai.