Poultry housing systems
Generally four systems of poultry housing followed among the poultry keepers. The type of housing adopted depends to a large extent on the amount of ground and the capital available.
Types of poultry housing:
- Free – range or extensive system
- Semi - intensive system
- Folding unit system
- Intensive system
- Battery system
- Deep litter system
It is the oldest one and has been used for centuries by general farmers, where there is no shortage of land. This system allows great but not unlimited, space to the birds on land where they can find an appreciable amount of food in the form of herbage, seeds and insects. Birds are protected from predatory animals and infectious diseases including parasitic infestation. At present due to advantages of intensive methods the system is almost obsolete.
Where the amount of free space available is limited this system is adopted, but it is necessary to allow the birds 20-30 square yards per bird of outside run. Wherever possible this space should be divided giving a run on either side of the house of 10-15 square yards per bird, thus enabling the birds to move onto fresh ground.
This system of housing is an innovation of recent years. In portable folding units birds being confined to one small run, the position is changed each day, giving them fresh ground and the birds find a considerable proportion of food from the herbage are healthier and harder. For the farmer the beneficial effects of scratching and manuring on the land is another side effect.
The most convenient folding unit to handle is that which is made for 25 hens. A floor space of 1 square foot should be allowed for each bird in the house, and 3 square feet in the run, so that a total floor space to the whole unit is 4 square feet per bird, as with the intensive system.
A suitable measurement for a folding house to take 25 birds is 5 feet wide and 20 feet long, the house being 5’ x 5’, one-third of the run. The part nearest the house is covered in and the remaining 10’ open with wire netting sides and top.
- The food and water must be carried out to the birds and eggs brought back.
- There is some extra labour involved in the regular moving of the fold units.
This system is usually adopted where land is limited and expensive. In this system the birds are confined to the house entirely, with no access to land outside. This has only been made possible by admitting the direct rays of the sun on to the floor of the house so that part of the windows are removable, or either fold or slide down to permit the ultraviolet rays to reach the birds. Under the intensive system, Battery (cage system) and Deep litter methods are most common.
- Battery system.
This is the most intensive type of poultry production and is useful to those with only a small quantity of floor space at their disposal. In the battery system each hen is confined to a cage just large enough to permit very limited movement and allow her to stand and sit comfortably. The usual floor space is 14 x 16 inches and the height, 17 inches. The floor is of standard strong galvanised wire set at a slope from back to the front, so that the eggs as they are laid, roll out of the cage to a receiving gutter. Underneath is a tray for droppings. Both food and water receptacles are outside the cage.
Many small cages can be assembled together, if necessary it may be multistoried. The whole structure should be of metal so that no parasites will be harbored and thorough disinfection can be carried out as often as required. Provided the batteries of cages are set up in a place which is well ventilated, and lighted, is not too hot and is vermin proof and that the food meets all nutritional needs, this system has proved to be
- Remarkably successful in the tropical countries.
- It requires a minimum expenditure of energy from the bird as they spend all time in the shade.
- It lessens the load of excess body heat.
- The performance of each bird can be noted and culling easily carried out.
Deep litter system:
In this system the poultry birds are kept in large pens up to 250 birds each, on floor covered with litters like straw, saw dust or leaves up to depth of 8-12 inches. Deep litter resembles to dry compost. In other words, we can define deep litter, as the accumulation of the material used for litter with poultry manure until it reaches a depth of 8 to 12 inches. The build-up has to be carried out correctly to give desired results, which takes very little attention.
Suitable dry organic materials like straw (needs to be cut into 2 or 3 inch lengths), saw dust, leaves, dry grasses, groundnut shells, broken up maize stalks and cobs, bark of trees in sufficient quantity to give a depth of about 6 inches in the pen should be used.
The droppings of the birds gradually combine with the materials used to build up the litter. In about 2 months, it has usually become deep litter, and by 6 months it has become built-up deep litter. At about 12 months of old stage it is fully built up. Extra litter materials can be added to maintain sufficient depth.
The deep litter pen should be started when the weather is dry, and is likely to remain so for about 2 months for the operation of the bacterial action, which alters the composition of the litters. Start new litter with each year’s pullets and continue with it for their laying period.
Advantages of Deep Litter System:
- Birds and eggs are safety as enclosed in deep litter intensive pen, which has strong wire netting or expanded metal.
- Built-up deep litter also supplies some of the food requirements of the birds. They obtain "Animal Protein Factor" from deep litter.
- The level of coccidiosis and worm infestation is much lower with poultry kept on good deep litter than with birds (or chicken) in bare yards. Well managed deep litter kept in dry condition with no wet spots around waterer has a sterilising action.
- With correct conditions observed with well managed litter there is no need to clean a pen out for a whole year; the only attention is the regular stirring and adding of some material as needed.
- Generally 35 laying birds can produce in one year about 1 tonne of deep litter fertilizer. The level of nitrogen in fresh manure is about 1%, but on well built-up deep litter it may be around 3% nitrogen (nearly 20% protein). It also contains about 2% phosphorus and 2% potash. Its value is about 3 times that of cattle manure.
- It is a valuable insulating agent, the litter maintains its own constant temperature, so birds burrow into it when the air temperature is high and thereby cool themselves. Conversely, they can warm themselves in the same way when the weather is very cool.
Basic Rules for deep litter system:
- Do not have too many birds in the pen – one bird for every 3 ½ to 4 and preferably 5 square feet of floor space.
- Provide sufficient ventilation to enable the litter to keep in correct condition.
- Keep the litter dry. This is probably the master work in a deep litter system. If the litter gets soaked by leaking from roofs or from water vessels, it upsets the whole process and would have to start over again. All probable precautions should be taken to maintain the litters completely dry.
- Stir the litter regularly. Turning the litter (just like digging in a garden) at least once weekly is very important in maintaining a correct build-up of deep litter.
Chicken farming has become a profitable business lately and its good to try it out. One factor to consider before any other is poultry housing. Every poultry production system must provide the most important requirements. Good examples include the following:
Safety from weather: Birds must be shielded from the cold, rain, sun and wind. Newly hatched chicks need a source of warmth as a basic requirement to shield them against harsh weather conditions.
Safety from predators: The chickens have many predators including snakes, rodents, foxes, dogs and other animals. The best way to solve this problem is to confine chickens in modern structures. These are large installations with concrete floors, electric fences, strong walls and other features. This discourages the predators from digging under floors and walls. Wire mesh doors are also very necessary not to forget meshed windows. Make sure that the available domestic birds are supplied with food and water. Ensure proper hygiene of the poultry house as well.
Adequate ventilation: When planning a poultry housing exercise, keep ventilation requirement in mind. A good flow and circulation of air is an essential element in any chicken house. To achieve this goal, it’s imperative to consider the poultry production capacity. One can do the large-scale poultry farming or small-scale poultry farming. The necessary structures in both cases are different in sizes and designs. Numerous birds require a big housing unit with adequate ventilation features. This prevents poisonous gases such as ammonia, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from harming the birds. Fewer birds require small poultry houses with windows and vents on one side of the house. This is to provide abundant exposure to air. The farmers who live in warmer climates should build structures with open sides.
Heat control: It is good to build poultry houses in such a way that heat can be controlled. Too much heat could even kill the birds not to mention it as a constraint to fruitful poultry farming. On the other hand, temperatures below freezing point should be prevented. Surprisingly freezing temperatures are not very risky for chickens. If temperatures go up to forty degrees, inside the poultry house, the birds cannot survive. At this heat range or over, the birds’ stress levels go up quickly. At 46 degrees Celsius the birds could die. Potential farmers of chicken or any other domesticated birds must read books. Books contain facts about building materials and techniques to lower or raise temperatures. The chicken house construction procedure should be based on the type of local climate to control heat.
Humidity levels: As the farmer constructs the poultry houses, he or she must consider the humidity factor. The birds do not have sweat glands like humans hence their cooling system is via the beaks. When the humidity levels rise, this natural cooling mechanism fails.
Space needs in chicken houses: Creating space happens to be the most important poultry housing principles. Space determines the quantity of birds you could keep. It also determines the kinds of poultry you could keep. Birds require space so that they can move freely and work out. Space is essential for creating chicken nests and perches too. When thinking of space creation, considering the type of bird species, breeds and production system used is vital. Always make sure that the chickens or any other domesticated birds are not congested in the house units.
There are many considerations for poultry farming including feeding chickens. Potential entrepreneurs planning to venture in chicken farming must know about feeding. Proper chicken production systems consist of practical feeding plans. One of the issues to address in the plan is how much feed the birds are likely to consume at a given duration of time. There are many factors influencing how the chickens consume the feed at any give time. These factors are:
Breed type: The Cornish-cross breed (meat providing chicken) and the layers (egg providing chicken) are normally not fed similarly. The former chicken breed is bred to develop quickly and it is harvested within two months of age. During the first six weeks of life, a meat-giving chicken requires eight pounds of starter feed. The egg-giving chicken breed matures in six months. Two pounds of starter feed is enough for every chick in its six weeks of life.
The work out rate: Young chickens are often active because they are experiencing the growth phase. Therefore, it goes without saying that their rate of feed consumption would be high. Even adult chickens’ feed consumption rate is likely to be high.
Climate variations: The intervals between feeding chickens are likely to be influenced by climate changes. Climate, in this case refers to wind, temperature, humidity and rainfall variations.
Nutritional density: It is good to assess the nutritional value of the feed before buying it. The natural supplements are also very useful. If the chicken feed is always nutritious, the birds are much more likely to stay healthy.
The practice of chicken feeding should be based on a plan. It is very important to plan so as to track down the expenditures on chicken feed. Here the elements to feature in the plan or in the records to know how much feed the birds consume:
Quantity of chicken feed bought at a given time period
The various types of chicken feed bought at a specific time
Price tag for every type of chicken feed
Record the amount of feed bought or consumed in terms of weight
Group chickens by their ages, breeds and quantities.
The types of accounts chicken farmers keep are likely to differ. Some farmers rear chicken commercially and others do small-scale farming. It is very imperative to know how to manage the feed. A farmer could do this by determining the correct feed ratio to put in the feeders every time. Maintaining fresh feed in the feeders all the times is a good way to keep the birds healthy. One can do this by avoiding feed wastage.
Feeding chicken daily is not such a difficult task. Fill the hanging feeders approximately three quarters full, and the trough feeders two thirds full. It is okay to keep on adding the feed as the birds consume it than filling all feeders at once. A farmer is much more likely to estimate the amount of feed consumed throughout the day and avoid wasting it. If the left over feed is already contaminated, throw it away. Then, clean all the feeders before refilling them. Mixing fresh and contaminated feed may cause a disease outbreak. One indicator of sick birds is a reduction in the normal consumption rate for usual feed ratios. The birds may also feed less for other reasons known only to a poultry expert.
feeding chickens feeding chickens feeding chickens feeding chickens
TYPE OF BIRD FLOOR SPACE FEEDING SPACE WATERINGBroilers2 weeks (0.3 kg) 0.04 m² (.43 ft²) 2.5 cm (1 ") 75 cm (30")
6 weeks (1.85 kg) 0.07 m² (.75 ft²) 7.5 cm (3") 50 cm (trough) (60")Roasters8 weeks (3.5 kg) 0.09 m² (1.0 ft²) 7.5 cm (3") 150 cm (trough) (60")
100 cm (circular) (40")Minimum Space Requirements for different poultry
Type of Bird Sq ft/bird inside Sq ft/bird outside runs Bantam Chickens
Minimum Requirement of Chickens for floor and perch space
Chicken typesFloor Space (birds/m²)Floor Space
25 cm (10 in)
20 cm (8 in)
15-20 cm (6-8 in)