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The housing systems for layers that have been described should meet the needs of most situations encountered in East and South-East Africa. In the few cases where much colder weather occurs, the buildings described should be built with one or more tight walls. However, it must be emphasized that chickens tolerate cold weather better than wet, sticky, foul smelling litter resulting from inadequate ventilation. If the temperature falls below freezing it is essential that the chickens have a continuous supply of free flowing water (not ice) and that eggs are collected frequently enough to avoid freezing.

Planning for Continuous Production

The producer who can supply his market with either eggs or meat on a regular and uniform basis will undoubtedly find his produce in demand at the best market prices. Planning the poultry housing system has much to do with uniform production.

A programme for 1,000 layers is diagrammed in Figure 10.45. A larger or smaller operation can be designed with the same number of buildings, but of a different size.

It is assumed that the brooder house is large enough for brooding only and that pullets will be transferred to a laying house for growing to laying age. New chicks are started every 13 weeks, brooded 7 to 8 weeks, and then transferred to the laying house. After approximately 11 weeks they will start a laying period of 52 weeks, after which they are sold and the house cleaned and rested for two weeks before the cycle is renewed. Five laying houses are required. At any one time four will have layers in full production and the fifth will either be housing growing pullets or be empty for cleaning. Each house is on a 65 week cycle: 11 weeks growers, 52 weeks layers, 2 weeks cleaning. The brooder house is on a 13 week cycle: 7 to 8 weeks brooding, 5 to 6 weeks cleaning and resting. A suggested housing layout is shown in Figure 10.46.

Housing for Breeders

Breeders must be housed in one of the floor systems since cocks need to run with the hens. One cock per 5 to l0 hens is sufficient. Special emphasis is placed on disease control, so frequently a partially or completely slatted floor design is preferred.

Few commercial producers will breed their own replacements, but will instead buy day-old chicks from a commercial hatchery.

However, most chicks of indigenous breeds are produced by natural incubation at small scale farms. A hen sitting on some 8 to 10 eggs, needs little feed and even less attention, but a cool, clean nest at ground level that is enclosed to protect the hen and later the chicks from insect pests, vermin and predators, and a supply of feed and clean water may improve the breeding result.


Naturally hatched chicks are reared and protected by the broody hen and can be left undisturbed as long as their yard is protected from predators, is of good sanitary standard and has a supply of feed and water.

Artificially incubated chicks must be started under gas or oil-fired brooders to compensate for the absence of a natural mother and to keep them warm without their crowding together. If electricity is available a 250W infrared ray lamp is a more reliable and comfortable solution, but is also more expensive.

A cheap, simple but still efficient brooding arrangement that will serve for about 100 chicks is shown on Figure 10.47. The hover, which prevents the heat from escaping and protects the chicks from draught, is made from a halved oil drum and is equipped underneath with two heaters, e.g. kerosene storm lanterns protected by netting. The hover is suspended by chains from the roof structure and its height over the floor is adjusted according to the required temperature.

A similar but larger brooder for 400 to 500 chicks has a hover made from two 3m long corrugated roofing sheets, is equipped with 6 heaters and has a proportionally larger area enclosed by the 60cm wall and is supplied with 10 water founts and 10 feed troughs.

Figure 10.45 Production flow when starting chicks every three months.

Figure 10.46 Layout of buildings for 1000 layers and brooder house for replacements.

Figure 10.47 Brooding arrangement for approximately 100 chicks.

Housing for Pullets and Broilers

In the past, poultry meat has been derived chiefly from culled layers. This is still the main source of poultry meat in most developing countries, although there is an increasing shift to rearing chickens specifically for meat. Broilers, the common term for meat birds, are fastgrowing strains which reach market weight of 1.6 kg in 8 to 12 weeks. The commercial production of poultry meat is now based primarily on broilers.

In a semi-intensive system the growing pullets may obtain part of their food by scavenging for forage, seed, etc. A fenced yard allowing 5 to 8m per bird is preferable to open land. At least part of the yard should have shade cover and a simple building in which the birds can be enclosed at night will be required. The building should allow 0.2m per bird, have good ventilation, perches for roosting and offer protection against predators and inclement weather. The birds should be moved at regular intervals to a different yard in order to avoid a build-up of worm infestation.

There is little difference in the rearing of chicks to become pullet replacements for the laying flock or broilers for market. The same environment and housing are suitable, so they will be considered together.

Brooding and rearing are floor-managed operations. It is common practice to keep broilers or pullets in the same house from the time they are one day old, first on newspapers or thinly spread litter, and later, on deep litter. When broilers are marketed at 8 to 10 weeks of age, or pullets are transferred to the laying house at 16 to 18 weeks of age, the litter is removed so that the house can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Therefore, the house should be designed and built to allow for easy and efficient cleaning. Pullets and broilers are not grown together because of the different length growing periods and differing schedules for artificial lighting.

Chicks are started in a brooder, which may be of the type discussed in the previous section and remain there for six to eight weeks. During this time it is desirable to conserve heat and to prevent draughts, and in this, the building design can be an important factor. A method that is widely used in the United States called "end room" brooding works well and seems adaptable to warm climates as well. By taking advantage of the fact that chicks up to 4 weeks old require only 1/3 to 1/2 as much floor space as they will need later on, one end and enough of the adjacent sides are closed in tightly to provide 0.05m of floor space per chick to be brooded. Off-cuts, with low thermal capacity, are ideal for enclosing the wall. A hessian curtain makes the fourth (inside) wall to complete the temporary enclosure. The baby chicks can then be confined in the space around the brooder in the enclosed end of the house. See Figure 10.48.

The balance of the walls are covered with 18 to 25mm wire mesh. At the end of the brooding period the brooder is raised to the ceiling for storage, the Hessian curtain is lifted and the chicks are allowed into the balance of the house which should provide from 0.08m/bird for broilers to 0. 17m/ bird for pullets.

Depending on the maximum temperatures expected, it may be necessary to provide some ventilator openings in the tight walls. An adjustable gable-end ventilator is particularly desirable as the roof will not have a ridge vent due to the brooding operation.

If cool, breezy weather is expected, one or more of the screened sides may be equipped with Hessian curtains.

Equipment and Stores

In addition to what has already been described, any chicken house will require equipment such as waterers, feeders and a feed store and perhaps perches for roosting. Houses for floor managed layers or breeders will require nestboxes. A store for eggs may be required in any laying house. Feeders and waterers should be in sufficient numbers for easy access (particularly important for young chicks), be long enough for each bird to have its place and have sufficient holding capacity. The Tables 10.13 and 10.15 provide some information for their design. Most chickens in intensive production are fed water and mash on a free choice basis.

Note: The cumulative feed consumption in pullets from one day to the point of laying at 20 to 24 weeks is 1012 kg. The rearing of one broiler from one day old to marketable weight (2 kg live weight) at 9-12 weeks of age requires 4 to 6 kg feed.


Either trough or tube feeders are used for day-old chicks, growing birds and layers, but their size must be selected to suit the birds to be fed. The number of feeders should be such that the distance to the nearest feeder should not exceed 2m from any point in the house. A trough should not be too wide, be easily cleaned and have a design that prevents the hens from leaving their droppings in it.

Figure 10.48 A closed end brooder and growing house.

Table 10.15 Feed and Water Requirement for Pullets and Broilers Relative to Their Age and for Layers Relative to Their Weight and Egg Production.


Feed Requirements kg/week bird

Water Requirement l/ day per bird
Pullets Broilers
Rearing birds
1 - 4 weeks of age 0.07 - 0.20 0.10 - 0.40 0.05 - 0.15
5 - 8 weeks of age 0.26 - 0.36 0.50 - 0.90 0.16 - 0.25
9-12 weeks of age 0.40-0.49 1.00-1.10 0.20-0.35
13 - 20 weeks of age 0.51 - 0.78 - 0.25 - 0.40

Egg production: No. of eggs/year

Layers 100 200 300  
Light breed 0.54 0.65 0.78 0.25-0.35
Medium breed 0.69 0.82 0.94 0.27-0.40
Heavy breed 0.84 0.96 1.10 0.30-0.45

Figure 10.49a shows a good type of trough that can be made by the farmer. If used outside in a run the trough should be sheltered by a roof. Small trough feeders for chicks are used on the floor, but the larger ones are usually mounted on a stand to prevent the chickens from kicking litter into them and have perches where they can stand while eating, see figure 10.49b. The tube feeders, as shown in Figure 10.49c, are suspended from the ceiling and are easily adjusted for height (0.3m above ground is recommended for mature birds).


An ordinary 10 or 15 litre bucket serves very well as drinker for layers. If it is sunk into the floor or ground so that only about 10 centimetres are out it may be used for chicks as well. Another arrangement for chicks consists of a shallow bowl supplied with water from an upside down bottle, as shown in Figure 10.62. Water fountains of the type shown in Figure 10.49d are available in sizes for all ages. Like feeders they are used on the floor for small chicks and on stands for older birds. The number of drinkers should be such that all chickens have access to one within a distance of 3m.

Automatic drinking nipples may be used for layers in cages. There should be at least one nipple per every two hens. It is desirable that every hen have access to two nipples as clogging of a nipple is not always readily detected.

Figure 10.49a Trough

Figure 10.49b Trough on a stand

Figure 10.49c Tube feeder

Figure 10.49d Woter fount

Nest Boxes

Layers and breeders, except those managed in cage systems, should have access to nestboxes in which they can lay their eggs. The nests can be such that they can be used by one or more birds at a time. Single nests commonly have the dimensions 250 to 300mm wide, 300 to 380mm deep and 300 to 350mm high, have a 100mm litter retaining board across the bottom of the opening and have a perch 150 to 200mm in front of the entrance. Communal nests should have a space allowance of at least 0.09m per bird. The top of the nest should be steeply sloped to prevent birds from roosting there. One nest should be supplied for every five birds in the flock. Figure 10.50 shows a twotiered nestbox arrangement. The bottom row of nests should be 450 to 600mm off the floor.


Chickens have a natural instinct to roost in trees at night. To provide for this perches are commonly installed in chicken houses from 6 to 8 weeks of age and after, in particular in semi-intensive systems. Perches for young birds should have a diameter of about 35mm and provide

0.1 to 0.15m space per bird, while those for adult birds should be about 5Omm diameter and provide 0.2 to 0.3m space. The perches should be fixed to solid stands, be 0.6 to 1.0m above the floor, be 0.35 to 0.4m apart and preferably be placed lengthwise at the centre of the house. A deck about 200mm underneath to collect manure is desirable.

Feed Stores

Grain stores are discussed in Chapter 9. The feed stores for a small flock would be very much like those shown for food grains. For the commercial flock, the type of store depends on how the feed is handled. If it is purchased in bag lots, then a masonry building with an iron roof that is secure against rodents and birds is most suitable. If feed is delivered in bulk, then one or more overhead bins from which the feed is removed by gravity will be convenient and safe.

The size of the store required depends entirely on the frequency and size of deliveries, but can be estimated as 0.0035m floor area per bird in the flock where feed is purchased in bags. If part of the grain is produced on the farm, then some long term storage of the type shown in Chapter 9 will be required.

Figure 10.50 A battery of single laying nests for 50 lo 60 hens.

Figure 10.51 Perches.

Manure Handling

A layer is estimated to produce on average 0.15 to 0.20 kg manure per day and a broiler 0.08 to 0.12 kg manure per day. In deep litter systems the litter used may more than double these amounts. Poultry manure is commonly allowed to accumulate in the house, under a wire or slatted floor or as deep litter for quite extended periods, but may alternatively be cleaned out regularly and stored in a concrete pond. It is an excellent form of fertiliser. Processed poultry manure has successfully been fed to cattle, sheep and fish as a portion of their total ration.

Egg Handling

Eggs are an excellent source of animal protein and are usually less expensive than meat. If properly handled under sanitary conditions they store well for short periods and reach the consumer in good condition. However, eggs are perishable and possible carriers of salmonella, a serious food poison, thus the need for clean conditions and refrigeration cannot be overemphasized. The following list includes several recommended practices and facilities:

Egg Cooling for large commercial laying operations requires approximately 0.25m of cool store per 1000 layers and day of storage. For smaller flocks the store will need to be proportionately larger.

Figure 10.52 shows an Evaporative Charcoal Cooler for small farms. A store measuring, e.g. 100 x 100cm is covered by a water tray from which cloth strips or "wicks" drip water down into side frames. The frames consist of a 5 cm layer of broken charcoal sandwiched between 1.25cm chiken wire mesh. A hinged and latched door is constructed similarly to the sides. The action of water evaporating from the charcoal cools the interior of the box.

Other methods for short term storage of eggs at the small poultry unit include underground cellars, storage in lime water and storage after dipping in waterglass.

For longer periods of storage a refrigeration system and a well insulated room is required to maintain a storage temperature of 5 to 10C. To allow storage for 6 to 7 months a temperature of -1.5 to 0C will be required. The refrigeration capacity necessary is approximately 200W for 5000 layers, or 3400W for 10,000 layers. Other capacities would be proportionate. Custom designed systems with generous size evaporators should be installed. Room air conditioners do not allow desirable humidity in a storage. The evaporator is too small and operates at a low temperature, thus removing too much moisture from the air.

Figure 10.52 Evaporative cooler for eggs, milk and other food stuffs. Where electricity is available a fan controlled air flow will make a more efficient operation.

Duck Housing

Although ducks are kept for both meat and egg production, commercially there is much more demand for meat than eggs.

On the other hand egg production does provide a valuable contribution to the family income and diet for the small scale farmer. Ducks lay more and larger eggs than indigenous chicken. Raising ducks is encouraged in African countries because they are hardy and easy to raise and manage.

They can feed to a large extent on grass, vegetables and grains produced on the farm. Housing is also quite simple and inexpensive. Small scale farmers would, for these reasons, benefit from keeping ducks instead of hens, which are more prone to disease and malnutrition.

Brooding and Rearing

Brooding is similar to chickens and the same temperatures are used, 35C for the first week and then reduced 3C weekly until normal air temperature is reached.

Ducklings grow very rapidly, and floor and trough space on deep litter should be provided according to Table 10. 16.

Table 10.16 Recommended Minimum Floor and Feed Space for Ducks


Floor Space

Feed trough space
m/bird birds/m birds/m
1- 2 weeks 0.05 20 14
3-4 weeks 0.1 10 11
4 - 7 weeks 0.2 5 9
7 weeks to market 0.3 3 - 4 8
Mature birds 0.3 -0.4 2.5 - 3 7 - 8

Refers to deep litter; on wire mesh Door the stocking can be doubled.

Litter materials include straw, sawdust, shavings and sand. The large quantity of water that ducks drink produces wet manure that causes problems with almost any form of litter. A wire mesh floor therefore is a desirable alternative. The 12.5mm mesh of 8 gauge wire is suitable.

Fresh air is important and ducklings can be let out in fine weather after a few days. They should, however, not be allowed to get wet before the feathering is completed on their backs at about six weeks of age. Ducklings should also be shaded during hot weather to prevent sunstroke.


Housing for ducks can be very simple. See Figure 10.53. The house should be situated on a well drained, preferably elevated area.

The floor should be raised at least 15cm above the surrounding ground level to help keep it dry. Ducks tend to be dirty and plenty of clean litter must be used in floor type housing.

Although a concrete floor can be installed for easy cleaning, it is not necessary. If part of the floor is of wire mesh and the ducks have to cross it on their way to the nestboxes, their feet will be cleaned so they do not make the nests and eggs dirty.

Solid walls 60cm high are adequate. They may be made from any material as long as it keeps the ducks in and predators, like dogs, snakes, rats and wild birds out. The space between the wall and the-roof is covered with wire netting not larger than 25mm mesh. Total wall heigh does not need to exceed 150-200cm.

Figure 10.53 Duck house for 25 ducks.

Roof made of thatch is a fully adequate and inexpensive roof covering for a duck house. Metal sheets can also be used, but insulation should be installed under the sheets.

Nest boxes 30cm wide, 40cm deep, and 30cm high should be provided for each four ducks. The front should be l5cm high. The nestboxes are placed either on the floor or 30 cm off the floor against a side or rear wall. Although nesting boxes off the floor release more floor space, the ducks may lay their eggs under the boxes.

Run and Fencing should provide a minimum of 1 m per bird, but 2 to 3m or more, will keep the ducks cleaner and give more space for grazing. On open range pasture the ducks should be allowed 20m/bird.

Feed and Water Equipment

Duck feeders need to be somewhat wider than chicken feeders to allow for the "shovelling" eating habits. For the first two weeks the food is preferably given as crumbs or wet mash. Later the food is best given as pellets. The required trough space is included in Table 10.16. Adult ducks normally consume about 0.2 kg feed per day, but some ducks in full lay may require up to 0.3 kg per day.

Ducks of all ages drink large quantities of water. Waterers must be designed to allow easy access for the birds and easy cleaning for the caretaker.

Ducks like to swim so if possible they should have access to a stream or pond. Contrary to common belief there seems to be little benefit in providing for swimming except that with water available the ducks are able to keep themselves cleaner and somewhat higher fertility of the eggs may result.

Geese Housing

Geese are foragers and can be allowed to graze on succulent grass as early as three weeks of age. Because of this there should be more encouragement for the development of the meat production from geese in East and South-East Africa.

Unless there is a large number of geese, natural hatching will take place. A goose will sit on 10 to 1 5 eggs. The sitting goose should be allowed to use her regular nesting place for incubating the eggs.

Rearing of goslings is relatively easy if proper care and attention is given. The goose should be confined to a clean coop for the first 10 days while the goslings have access to a small run. Chick mash can be fed for the first 3 to 4 weeks along with succulent grass. After 3 weeks of age the goslings will graze, but supplementary feed must be given if the value of the grazing is poor.

Geese are selective grazers and will quickly return to grass newly grown after recent grazing. If the geese are herded, a much wider range of grazing is possible.

Housing for geese is very simple, if any is required at all. In tropical areas geese appear to be quite content left outside at all times of the year. However, there is often danger of theft and attack by predators, so the geese should be herded into a shelter at night for protection. The shelter can be simple and cheap as long as it serves this purpose.

A wooden framework surrounded by wire mesh is quite adequate. Wooden rails or bamboo can also be used in place of the wire mesh. The same materials can be used for the roof as a waterproof roof is not necessary. There is no need for a floor, but the ground should be elevated to avoid flooding.

Turkeys Housing

In recent years there has been a steady increase in turkey production. The main demand is still at Christmas and New Year, but the better hotels and restaurants require supplies throughout the year. The demand is only for turkey meat. All the eggs produced are used for incubation by hatcheries.

The production of turkeys should be confined to commercial enterprises. Chickens carry diseases that affect turkeys so they should not be grown together by the small farmer.

Brooding and rearing methods for turkey poults are similar to those for chickens, but the brooding temperature is higher. The recommended temperature for the first week is 35 to 38C, after which it can be reduced 4C per week until ambient temperature is reached.

Adequate floor space in the brooder house is important as the turkey poults grow rapidly. Table 10.17 provides information on space requirements.

At about 10 weeks of age, turkeys are put out on range in a fenced enclosure. In the interest of disease control, it is essential to use clean land that has not carried poultry, turkeys, sheep or pigs for at least two years. Approximately 20m of pasture should be allowed for each bird.

A range shelter with 20m of floor area is suitable for 100 poults up to marketing age. Dry, compact soil is adequate for a floor. The frame should be made of light material covered with wire mesh so that the shelter can be moved to clean range each year. The roof, which should be watertight, can be made of thatch or metal sheets. Perches, made from rails 5 x 5cm or round rails 5cm in diameter, should be installed 60cm from the ground and 60cm apart allowing 30 to 40cm of length per bird.

The turkey breeder flock can be confined in a deep litter house similar to the one shown in Figure 10.40 for chickens. Recommended floor, feed and water space for turkeys is given in Table 10.17. Approximately 23 kg of feed is required to produce a 6.4 kg turkey at 24 weeks of age. Adult birds require 0.12 to 0.3 kg per day depending on the size of the breed.

Early mortality in turkey poults due to lack of drinking or feeding is a constant problem and can only be prevented by good management and reliable equipment. Young poults must be coaxed to eat by making sure they have plenty of feeding places and can easily see the food. The same applies to water.

Table 10.17 Recommended Floor, Feed and Water Space for Turkeys

  Brooding Growing Breeding
0 - 6 weeks 6 - 12 weeks  
Floor Space 0.1 m 0.4 - 0.6m 0 7 - 0.9m
Roosting Space   30 - 38cm 30 - 38cm
Nests - - 60 x 150cm
(for 20 - 25 hens)
Feeders 4 - 8cm 10cm 12cm  
Water 2cm 3cm 4cm  

It is important to keep turkeys from being frightened by people, animals or machines. When alarmed, turkeys have a tendency to stampede, pile up and smother.

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