Poultry is defined as domestic fowls, including chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks, raised for the production of meat or eggs and the word is also used for the flesh of these birds used as food.
Poultry farming is defined as a term for rearing and keeping of birds such as chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food. Poultry – mostly chickens – are farmed in great numbers. Poultry farming has become popular because it is comparatively easy to start and maintain. It gives quick return within one to six month of investments, is easily manageable and requires less space and labour. Poultry birds and their eggs are a rich source of nutrients.
Chickens raised for eggs are called layers while those raised for meat are often called broilers.
Common Breeds of Poultry Birds
Indigenous poultry breeds provide good quality meat but produces small sized eggs. They have natural immunity against common diseases as compared to exotic varieties bred abroad which require greater protection and immunization. Exotic chicken breeds reared in Uganda include:
- Rhode Island Red
A carefully controlled environment that avoids crowding, chilling, overheating, or frightening is almost universal in poultry farming.
Cannibalism, which expresses itself as toe picking, feather picking, and tail picking, is controlled by debeaking at one day of age and by other management practices.
The feeding, watering, egg gathering, and cleaning operations are important management practices.
- In poultry production, high-quality and well-balanced protein sources produce a maximum amount of muscle, organ, skin, and feather growth. The essential minerals produce bones and eggs, with about 3 to 4 percent of the live bird being composed of minerals and 10 percent of the egg.
- Calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, potassium, sulfur, manganese, iron, copper, cobalt, magnesium, and zinc are all required. Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K and all of the B vitamins are also required. Antibiotics are widely used to stimulate appetite, control harmful bacteria, and prevent disease.
- For chickens, modern rations produce about 0.5 kg of broiler on about 0.9 kg of feed and a dozen eggs from 2 kg of feed.
Poultry production systems should provide fresh air, clean feed and water, protection against predators, shelter from cold, rain, wind, sun and excessive heat; as well as a source of heat when birds are young. Basically, the birds need to be able to grow, sleep and lay eggs in comfort. The birds should also be free from stress and disease. The basic requirements for poultry housing are:
(i) Protection from weather
(ii) Protection from predators
(iii) Enough space
(iv) Adequate ventilation
(v) A clean environment
(vi) Access to dust bathing facilities
Space Requirements, Or Density of Birds per Unit Area:
This is the most important basic principle in housing, as the space available determines the number and type of poultry that can be kept.
Minimum Space Requirements for Different Poultry
Systems of Poultry Housing
i. Deep litter system:
Birds are fully confined within a house (3 to 4 birds/m2) but can move around freely. The floor is covered with a deep litter (5 to 10 cm deep layer) of grain husks (maize or rice), straw, wood shavings or a similarly absorbent, non-toxic material.
The fully enclosed system protects the birds from thieves and predators and is suitable for specially selected commercial breeds of egg or meat producing poultry (layers, breeder flocks and broilers).
ii. Slatted floor systems:
Wire or wooden slatted floors are used instead of deep litter, which allow stocking rates to be increased to five birds/m^ of floor space. Birds have reduced contact with faeces and are allowed some freedom of movement. Faeces can be collected from below the slatted floor and used as fertilizer.
iii. Battery cage systems:
This is usually used for laying birds, which are kept throughout their productive life in small cages. There is a high initial capita investment, and the system is mostly confined to large-scale commercial egg layer operations.
i. Free Range System
Free-range poultry farming allows chickens to roam freely for a period of the day, although they are usually confined in sheds at night to protect them from predators or kept indoors if the weather is particularly bad.
Free-range farming of egg-laying hens is increasing its share of the market.
Suitable land requires adequate drainage to minimise worms and coccidial ocysts, suitable protection from prevailing winds, good ventilation, access and protection from predators. Excess heat, cold or damp can have a harmful effect on the animals and their productivity.
Free range farmers have less control than farmers using cages in what food their chickens eat, which can lead to unreliable productivity, though supplementary feeding reduces this uncertainty. In some farms, the manure from free range poultry can be used to benefit crops.
The benefits of free range poultry farming for laying hens include opportunities for natural behaviours such as:
- Exercise outdoors
Both intensive and free-range farming have animal welfare concerns.
- Cannibalism, feather pecking and vent pecking can be common, prompting some farmers to use beak trimming as a preventative measure, although reducing stocking rates would eliminate these problems.
- Diseases can be common
- Animals are vulnerable to predators.
Barn systems have been found to have the worst bird welfare. On many occasions, lack of disease control in free range farming has been associated with outbreaks of Avian influenza.
Instead of keeping them in cages, free-run laying hens roam freely within an enclosed barn. This type of housing also provides enrichment for the hens, including nesting boxes and perches that are often located along the floor of the barn.
Many believe that this type of housing is better for the bird than any caging system, but it has its disadvantages, too. Due to the increase in activity of the birds, dust levels tend to elevate and the air quality decreases. When air quality drops, so does production as this compromises the health and welfare of both birds and their caretakers.
In organic egg-laying systems, chickens are also free-range. Organic systems are based upon restrictions on the routine use of synthetic yolk colourants, in-feed or in-water medications, other food additives and synthetic amino acids, and a lower stocking density and smaller group sizes.
While often confused with free range farming, yarding is actually a separate method by which a hutch and fenced off area outside are combined when farming poultry. The distinction is that free-range poultry are either totally unfenced, or the fence is so distant that it has little influence on their freedom of movement. The birds are released daily from hutches or coops. The hens usually lay eggs either on the floor of the coop or in baskets if provided by the farmer. This husbandry technique can be complicated if used with roosters, mostly because of aggressive behavior.
Broiler Management of Poultry
- Since broilers are being reared for meat it is important that they always have an adequate supply of high quality broiler feed.
- As the birds get heavier, they will need more floor space and ventilation.
- It may be well to use night lights equivalent to 15 watts per 200 square feet. This allows birds to eat at night and helps prevent pile-ups.
- Keep litter dry to help prevent breast blisters. Provide ample cool, clean water.
Pullet Management of Poultry
- Feed starter and grower feeds as outlined under Feed and Water section.
- Keep young and old birds separated. If it is necessary for one person to care for young and old birds, care for the young birds first each day.
- Remove any unthrifty pullets.
- Keep birds free of parasites.
- Keep complete and accurate records.
Layer Management of Poultry:
- Clean and disinfect laying house before placing pullets in it.
- If floor management is used, put in 4 to 6 inches of clean litter.
- House only well developed well fleshed pullets.
- Use artificial light to provide 14 hours of total light per day – one 40 watt bulb per 200 square feet, hung 8 feet above the floor.
- Use a feeding program as outlined above.
- Keep birds free of parasites.
- Keep complete and accurate records.
- Remove obvious culls.
Incubation and Hatching Procedures of Poultry:
- Hatching Egg Production and Care
- Keep 1 male for each 10-12 females.
- Males should be kept with females at least 1 week prior to saving hatching eggs to insure high egg fertility.
- Feed a complete diet.
- Collect eggs at least 3 limes per day.
- The hatching of fertilized eggs requires about 21 days and hatching takes place at 38°C temperature.
2. Incubation Essentials
(a) Obtaining a small incubator:
Still air incubator can be purchased or constructed. Small forced-air self-turning incubators are commercially available. For details regarding incubators, incubator parts and/or construction plans, contact an extension poultry specialist or see “Incubation, Embryo Development and Display, and Baby Chick Care”.
(b) Proper operating temperature:
A still air incubator requires an operating temperature of 102 to 103°F. At a position level with the top of the eggs. A forced draft (which contains a fan for circulating the air) incubator should be operated at 99 to 100°F. Do not place the incubator in drafts or direct sunlight which may cause extreme fluctuations in temperature.
(c) Sufficient humidity:
Wet bulb reading of 86°F. For a small incubator, moisture can be added to the air by placing a small pan of water under the egg tray. It may be necessary to sprinkle the eggs lightly with warm water at the time of hatching to prevent the chicks from sticking to the shell.
(d) Turning of eggs:
Eggs should be turned an odd number of times and a minimum of three times each day. Mark each egg as an aid in determining that all eggs are turned from one side to the other at each turning. For self- turning incubation, follow manufacturer’s instructions.
- An Egg contains 67% water, 13% protein, 9% fat and 11% minerals.
- Moulting: It is a natural physiological process for the birds to renew old feathers at the end of the first year of lying.
- Dubbing: Removal of comb may be restricted to in day old chicks belonging to breeds, which have larger/ lopped comb.
- Debeaking: Debeaking is cutting off part of the upper beak. It helps in preventing peaking injuries and cannibalism among chicks.
- Poultry Disease: Rearing of poultry birds requires properly ventilated place and vaccination of new born chicks. Poultry diseases can be classified as infectious or non-infectious. Non-infectious diseases are caused by faulty management, faulty feed preparation and inadequate diet or nutritionally efficient disease.
The cock has no penis but a small opening near the vent through which sperms are emitted. Cock has testes within the body.
The hen has elongated oviduct for formation of an egg. Fertilization occurs internally.
During mating the cloaca of the hen and the vent of the cock fit into each other and then semen is poured into the cloaca ,then sucked to the oviducts.
The Reproductive System of a Hen and Rooster
The reproductive system of a hen has the following parts;
ii) Funnel (infundibulum)
V) Uterus/Shell gland
- Hen has two ovaries but one functional. Ova is formed in ovaries.
- About 3500-4000 ova present inside ovary held by follicle. Mature ovum released via rapture of follicle. It moves into oviduct received by the funnel.
- Fertilization occurs here. Chalazae also added to yolk.
- It also collects the ovum and stores the sperm. Time here is 15 minutes and it is 11.6cm long.
- Thick albumen is added and stays for 3hrs. its 33cm long.
- It’s 10.6cm long, Shell membranes added and determines shape of egg.
- Water, mineral salts and vitamins added and takes 15 minutes.
- Calcium deposits i.e.shell added around the egg. Pigments added.
- Addition of albumin finished and stays here for 18-22hours.
- Short, 6.9cm long and for temporal storage of egg before laying
- Egg moves out of cloaca through the vent and the cloaca extents out to prevent the egg from breaking.
NB; Egg formation does not depend on fertilization. Egg formation takes 24-26hours.
The components of egg are obtained from body reserves of the hen’s body
Brooding of Poultry
Brooding is a period immediately after the hatch when special care and attention is given to chicks to support their health and survival i.e. up to the age of 3-5 weeks.
Brooding is classified into natural and artificial brooding. In today’s time, artificial brooding practices are the most prevalent which is only practiced by a farmer.
Types of artificial Brooders:
- Hover-type – Follow manufacturer’s direction. Starting temperature at the edge of the hover should be 95 degrees F. for the first week and reduced 5°F each week.
- Heat lamp – Use either white or infra-red heat lamps.
- Home made brooder – An inexpensive method of supplying heat to a few chicks is to place a 100-watt light bulb inside a gallon tin can and place the can on the floor of the brooder house.
Cages for Poultry
Normally cages are 18 inches deep and 16 inches high in the following widths:
i. 8 inches wide – one bird per cage
ii. 10 inches wide – can accommodate two layers per cage.
iii. 12 inches wide – can accommodate two or three layers per cage.
iv. Although more than one bird per cage can be housed, one bird per cage is recommended for small flocks for the following reasons; cleaner eggs, fewer cracked eggs, usually higher production, better bird plumage and less cannibalism. Manure management is much easier since the manure is not so concentrated, thus aiding in drying and reducing odors and fly problems.
Poultry are quite susceptible to a number of diseases; some of the more common are fowl typhoid, pullorum, fowl cholera, chronic respiratory disease, infectious sinusitis, infectious coryza, avian infectious hepatitis, infectious synovitis, bluecomb, Newcastle disease, fowl pox, avian leukosis complex, coccidiosis, blackhead, infectious laryngotracheitis, infectious bronchitis, and erysipelas. Strict sanitary precautions, the intelligent use of antibiotics and vaccines, and the widespread use of cages for layers and confinement rearing for broilers have made it possible to effect satisfactory disease control.
Parasitic diseases of poultry, including hexamitiasis of turkeys, are caused by roundworms, tapeworms, lice, and mites. Again, modern methods of sanitation, prevention, and treatment provide excellent control.