Without a doubt, poultry farming in Nigeria is one of the most profitable businesses in the Nigerian agricultural sector. It is lucrative and attracts premium returns. As stated in my previous post, the required consumption globally for chicken is 25 kilos per citizens annually, but Nigerians only consume 3-5 kilos at best and we only produce about 40% of what we are consuming. There are 3 different breeds of chicken for poultry business: layers, broilers and cockerels. I have compiled my answers to various questions asked over and over again on layers to help young farmers and beginners who want to start a poultry (specifically, layers) business.
What do I need to start up?
Since you are just starting, it’s advisable to start small and grow gradually. Don’t rush into it just because you have the capital available. I made that mistake and it wasn’t a very good experience. You need a space. Also decide on what kind of system (battery cage or deep-litter system) is favourable to you as each comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Also to set up, if you settle for the battery cage system, it comes with the feeding and drinking tray but if you have decided on the deep-litter system, you need to get feeders and drinkers. Other things you need to put into consideration are good ventilation system, efficient lighting system, egg crates and quality waste disposal system to ensure strict biosecurity of the farm and prevent outbreaks of infection and disease. If you are buying day-old chicks (pullets) then you have no choice than to use the deep-litter system as a day old chick can’t be in a cage and later transfer them if you so desire.
How much do I need to start my poultry?
There’s no specific amount, you have to determine what system you want, the amount of birds you want to start with, and are you starting with DOC’s (day-old chicks) or POL’s (point-of-lay)? Again the prices of chicken vary from different farmers, your bargaining ability and quantity you are purchasing. A rough analysis for DOC ranges from 150-180 Naira, a 4-6 weeks ranges from 400-500 Naira, while a POL which also varies (16 -18 weeks) should range from 1200-1500 Naira. You can calculate this and also calculate the equipment and appliances you will need to breed them. For a DOC you need more heaters and proper security against predators.
What do I feed my birds?
Now there are different feeds for different stages of birds. There are always chicken feeds that are imported and sold at stores. They are used at different stages: day-old chicks to 8 weeks are fed with growers feed, which contains 20% protein, 2640 kcal, 1.0% of calcium, 0.35% phosphorus, 3.5% fat and fibre. This is the highest protein intake a layer will ever consume. Then from 8-18 weeks, you feed them growers feed which contains 16-18% protein which is slightly less than the starter, 2450 energy kcal, 1.0% calcium, 0.35% phosphorus, 3.7% fat and fibre.
Then there’s the layers feed which contains 16-18% protein, 2500 kcal, 3.5% calcium 0.45% phosphorus, 3.7% fat and 7.5% fibre. This should be fed the chickens immediately they start laying eggs. Sometimes, layers can start to lay from 16 weeks upwards. When that happens, you start off with the layers feed. However, this feed shouldn’t be fed to chickens younger than 18 weeks unless like I said it has started laying because it contains calcium that can permanently damage the kidney, causes kidney stones, reduce the lifetime egg production and shorten a bird’s lifespan. However, some people start off with grower’s mash for their day-old chicks till they are at the point of lay. While, some start with the growers mash but at some point, because of the expense, go ahead to mix feed the local way and they still turn out well. The most important thing is to start off well and prepare the pullet ready from a young age. If you have to mix, meet with a reputable feed store and ask them of the different formula they have for layers, most important ingredient in a chicken’s feed is maize, and then you can add other concentrate. Please if you have started this business before, you will need to meet with someone who has and is doing well.
How often can I feed them for optimum productivity?
Well in my experience, they can be fed twice daily. That is once in the morning and afternoon. To prevent wastage of feed, feeders should be filled 1/3 of the total depth and care should be taken with the drinkers. Water is important to layers as feed is; there should be enough water because birds will only feed if they have good drinking water.
How can I administer vaccines to my birds?
Administration of vaccines is based on prescription and ranges from stage to stage. Vitamins are added in their water while vaccine injections are given the chicks individually. At this stage, you need to consult a vet if you haven’t done this before. There are a number of vaccines/medication and at what stage they should be administered, talk to a consultant or a vet.
White layer chickens in battery cage (Photo courtesy agritech.tnau.ac.in)
How often do chickens lay?
In ideal conditions, it will produce about one a day and will have some days when it doesn’t lay an egg at all. The reason of this laying schedule relate to the chicken reproductive system. The body begins forming an egg shortly after the previous egg is laid, and it takes 12 hours for an egg to form fully. So it can lay late or later each day. Other factors that can affect the egg production are: age of the bird, time of the year (winter or summer), light management, nutrition, space allowance, diseases of infection.
What do I do if my birds get sick?
Isolate the birds from the flock the moment illness is suspected. Then figure out what is wrong and treat according. There are different infections and diseases that could happen to your chicken, you will need the expertise of a vet if it’s something you don’t know or can handle. I will advice you have a consultant or vet if farm is large (~1,000 birds).
What is CRD?
CRD is the acronym for chronic respiratory disorder, a disease with particular prevalence in housed flocks and triggered by stress. It is highly infectious and spreads rapidly when conditions are overcrowded or poorly ventilated.
What’s the most important aspect of chicken housing?
Ventilation!!! Ventilation is a non-negotiable requirement for laying birds. The house should be well-ventilated and clean. If you are using a deep-litter system, you will probably need to spread sawdust on the floor so that it’s easy to clean up after a while. It is imperative too that water isn’t spilled on the floor because it could cause infection for the birds.
Why are my chickens not laying?
Egg laying is affected by the birds annual moult, daylight hours, improper nutrition, stress, disease, and increasing age of the bird.
Why are there blood stains on the eggs?
Excessive egg size that is too large for the oviduct during the process of laying eggs can cause a tear in the oviduct or vent which will result to blood stained eggs. This can be common in birds that have a rather small body frame.
Why do birds peck one another?
This happens when dominant birds are pecking less submissive birds in a flock. Prolapse can as well cause vent pecking amongst birds. Furthermore, other factors could be absence of food, water and inadequate feeding space. Isolate the blood stained birds from the flock till they are healed. Ensure they are enough food and water with sufficient space for the birds. Separate the dominant bullying bird from the flock. Don’t mix different colours of birds together especially when they didn’t grow together or when a particular colour is more predominant. Finally, trim the beak of the birds so they don’t injure each other or even break eggs with their beaks.
I hope I have answered your burning questions on rearing layer chickens or perhaps given a better insight on them. If there are any you have that I haven’t been answered, you can send a message and I will address them the best way I know how.