Chicken farming is a lucrative, much needed business farmed all over the world and produces the highest meat supply and consumption in Africa. Millions of jobs are created worldwide by chicken farms, chicken processing factories like abattoirs and cold meat factories and delivering companies. Download your Free Guide to Chicken Farming South Africa – Free eBook on the bottom of this page.
- What is a Broiler Chicken
- Do Market Research before you start Farming
- How to start Farming with Broilers
- Bedding for Broilers Chicks
- Water and Feeding
- Taking Care of your Broilers and Coop
- Deceases and Treatment for your Broilers
- How and Where to Sell your Broilers for a Profit
- How to get Funding for a Broiler Business
A broiler is any chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) that is bred and raised specifically for meat production. Most commercial broilers reach slaughter weight between four and seven weeks of age. In South Africa the Ross Broiler is the most common meat chicken to farm with due to it’s fast growth and environmental compatibility.
Ross Broilers can be used for both Free Range and Intensive Farming. Typical Broilers has white feathers and a yellowish skin.
Do Market Research before you Start Farming
Chicken farming looks brilliant on paper and loads of profit can be made, but in reality you need to build your business around your own experiences both from farming and selling. This is a step that no one can teach you but we can advise some procedures to follow that will help you succeed as a chicken farmer in South Africa or anywhere else in Africa.
Chickens Farming is essential to our economic growth not only for meat and egg production, but also provide employment to millions of people all over. It is not hard to sell chickens, but you need to know exactly how many you will want to farm with, so make sure that your clients are lined-up before you start farming.
Do Market Research to the best of your ability. See potential clients like neighbours, butcheries, shops, restaurants and supermarkets and ask them to support your business and determine what they will order on a weekly basis once your production is up and running. This will give you a good indication of how many chickens you should start with and also ease of mind knowing that you have customers you can supply. It is almost impossible for starter farmers to calculate revenue from walk-in clients but you will have a good indication after two months and can start growing your business accordingly.
You should start advertising at least two weeks before your chickens are ready to be slaughtered or sold on local forums, social groups and online to ensure that you reach enough clients by the time that you want to sell. Chickens that are not sold in time needs extra feed and that will be crucial to your business.
How to start Farming with Broilers
- Get the right Supplier
- Build your coop according your market research and provide room for growth.
- Wind and Ventilation
- Keep your Chickens safe from Wild animals
- Applying Bedding for Day old chicks to fully grown chickens
- Water and Feeding systems
Day old Broiler Chicks can grow from 1 day to 2.8 kg in just 42 days or 6 weeks. This means that you will constantly be buying day old chicks to keep your cycle going. To get started you need to find yourselves a reliable Supplier of broiler day old chicks. There are many ways to go about this but make sure that you find a reliable well established hatchery that can supply you all year round. Fortunately every province in South Africa has a couple of creditable hatcheries that will sell day old broiler chicks to beginner or startup farmers. You can find hatcheries online and on chicken farming groups on social media. Do some homework on the suppliers and check online for some reviews. You need to build a positive relationship with your suppliers as they will be there for you as your business grow.
Hatcheries need to vaccinate day old chicks and are not allowed to sell you chicks that has not been treated. It is your right as a buyer to ask your supplier if the day old chicks was vaccinated. In most cases a day old chick that has been vaccinated will have a pinkish colour over their bodies.
Get your Coops ready before buying your day old chicks
You can decide beforehand with how many chickens you want to farm with. Build your coops according the numbers that you have research and get everything in place. As a norm you can farm with 150 chickens in a 3 meter x 3 meter coop.
Wind and Ventilation
Make sure that when you build your structure that there is enough ventilation and build your coop so that doors are facing away from the North West and South East winds. This is a crucial step to take as windy days can blow sawdust, wood shavings and feed all over the place and not only have a disturbing effect on your day old chicks but can also cause you to lose money on fatalities and feed lost.
Keep your Chicks safe from Predators
Day old chicks need to be safe from wild animals, dogs, cats and rats. Make sure that when you are constructing your chicken coops that you keep this in mind and do your best to keep out unwanted guests. The Muskeljaatkat (also known as a Spotted Genet) can cause serious damage in just one night. They do not eat your day old chick or chickens but kill them by biting of their heads and sucking the blood.
Bedding for day old to adult chickens
Unlike layers you can use sawdust or wood shavings for broiler chickens. Before you start placing your bedding you need to sterilize the coop. You can do this by spraying the roof, walls and floor with Virukill that can be purchased from your local vet. Let the coop rest for a minimum of two days. Check your coop for any wholes in the walls and any areas that will allow your chicks to escape and unwanted predators to enter.
It is important that you do not use hay or straw-bales as bedding in your coop. Straw-bales does not absorb the poop and the coop will become messy and can obtain fungus and bacteria that can be hazardous to day old and older chickens.
You can obtain untreated sawdust and wood shavings from your local sawmill and usually it is not expensive. Sawdust or wood shavings should be at least 100 mm thick in the beginning. Make sue you spread it out evenly so that you feeding and watering containers would be level on the surface if you are not using a hanging method.
You should not remove your bedding until the six week cycle is completed. In about 6 to 7 days time you can top up your bedding and thereafter once to twice a week as required.
Water and feeding systems
Day old chicks does not use a lot water the first week, however you should clean their water drinkers on a daily basis if you are not working with a hanging water system. As they grow older their need for water consumption increases daily and you should consider a gravity fed water system to maintain a fresh water supply all the time Make sure that you have enough watering systems so that you minimize traffic in and out of your coop.
Broiler chicks will use a starter feed for the first 14 days that you can buy at various Agri-Stores. Do not try and portion their food or feed them once a day. There after you can give them grower and finisher on the last stage. You can use a free feeding calculator on our website www.farmingsouthafrica.co.za
The ideal way to feed chickens is by using the hanging feeding method but if it is hard for you to find that specific system you can use feeders that you buy at your local Agri-Store. Make sure that you raise them from the ground but not higher than what the chicks can reach.
Did you Know? Chickens that eat of hanging feeders and need to reach for feed grow taller than Chickens that eat of the ground or low hanging feeders.
Taking Care of your Broilers and Coop
Fortunately farming with Broilers is a very low maintenance operation but you need to make sure that you keep your coop clean at all times. Pest’s and rodents are attracted to messy places and waste. The procedure you need to follow is:
- Top up feeding and watering systems
- Clean around your feeding area on a daily basis
- Make sure that your water does not overflow and create a wet soggy area – This can introduce foot deceases.
- Adjust your watering system and feeders regularly to ensure that the reach is perfect for the chickens
- Rotate you Bio-Security foot-cleaning system.
- Check temperature daily to ensure that the chickens is not too cold or too hot
- Check ventilation – If your coop becomes sweaty and smelly you need to apply more ventilation.
- Daily spot-check for diseases and sick chickens
Bio – Security for Chicken Farmers
What does Bio – Security mean? Biosecurity, as originally conceptualized, was a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in crops and livestock, quarantined pests, invasive alien species, and living modified organisms.
Having Bio-Security in place is a win win for both your business and customers. Containing diseases and the prevention of virus spread should be considered as important as your farming business. If not done correctly you can loose your flock in days and many won’t recover from disasters such as the New Castle Disease.
What steps should I take?
- Keep unwanted visitors out of your coops
- Spray vehicles down with Virukill before they enter your property
- Have water traps or water buckets at the entrance of your coops so visitors and helpers can clean their boots before entering the coop
- Clean and Spray coops with Virukill after every cycle and rest the coop for at least 2 to 4 days before placing new day-old chicks
- Workers should sanitize before entering the coop
- Workers with Flu should not work in the chicken coop
Deceases and Treatment for your Broilers
11 Most Common Chicken Diseases and Treatments
- Fowl Pox
- Marek’s Disease
- Mushy Chick
- Pullorum (White Diarrhea)
- Newcastle Disease
- Infectious Coryza
- Infectious Bronchitis
- Fowl Cholera
- Air Sac Disease
Fowl Pox – Description and Treatment
White scabby spots on their combs and ulcers in the mouth are good indications of Fowl Pox. Chickens can get infected from other chickens, mosquito and the virus can be contracted by air.
Remove chickens from the coop. Rest them in a dry warm place.
Vaccine are available to prevent your chickens from getting infected.
Botulism – Description and Treatment
Botulism in poultry is a disease that paralysis the neck and limbs of a chicken and is often confused with the Malek’s disease. Tremors will progress and your chickens becomes paralyzed with heavy breathing. The chickens feathers will easy pull out death will occur in a few hours
Treatment for Botulism
You can get an antitoxin from your local vet.
The main reason for Botulism is a dead animals like a rat or chicken in the coop. To avoid Botulism, keep your coop clean and spray with Virukill
Fowl Cholera – Description and Treatment
Fowl Cholera is a bacterial disease and could be found in wild animals, food and water that has been contaminated by the Fowl Cholera Bacteria.
Unfortunately there is no treatment and if the chicken survive it will always be a carrier of the disease.
Fowl Cholera is a serious and highly contagious disease caused by the bacterium Pasteurella multocida are found in a range of birds including chickens, turkeys, and water fowls.
You need to remove the infected chicken and destroy the carcasses.
You can get a vaccine to prevent Fowl Cholera from you vet.
Infectious Bronchitis – Description and Treatment
Infectious bronchitis is an acute, highly contagious upper respiratory tract disease in chickens. Drainage will secrete from eyes and nose. The chickens will sneeze, snore and cough, Chicken Layers will stop to lay eggs.
You can get medicine from your vet and if you ignore doing so Infectious Bronchitis is a viral disease and will spread fast through the air.
Infectious Coryza – Description and Treatment
Infectious coryza is an acute respiratory disease of chickens characterized by nasal discharge, sneezing, and swelling of the face under the eyes. It is found worldwide. The disease is seen only in chickens; reports of the disease in quail and pheasants probably describe a similar disease that is caused by a different etiologic agent. Heads become swollen, eyes swell shut and swelling in the comb.
Discharge from eyes an noses.
This disease mainly travels in contaminated water
Chickens will also moisture under their wings
No treatment or vaccine available for this disease and chickens will ha e to be put down.
Marek’s Disease – Description and Treatment
One of the most common diseases in South African Broiler farming. Marek’s disease is an insidious disease that catches many keepers by surprise. Its effect on your flock can be devastating.
The disease is more common in younger birds under 20 weeks of ages.
Their iris will turn gray and they will no longer responds to lights. They will become paralyzed.
The bird shows signs of progressive paralysis, usually in the legs or wings. Often the bird looks like it’s doing the splits.
Twisting of the head to one side or backwards.
Respiratory problems such as labored breathing.
Darkened or purple comb (lack of oxygen).
You need to put the Marek’s Infected Chicken down as it will carry the disease for life it if survives
Thrust – Description and Treatment
A White substance inside their corp. They eat more than normal and the chicken will appear lethargic and have a crusty vent area.
Feathers will appear ruffled.
Thrust is a fungal disease and mean that it can be contracted a if you allow your chickens to feed on
molded food. They can also contract the disease from surfaces or contaminated water.
There is no vaccine but can be treated with anti fungal medicine.
Be sure to remove bad food and clean their water containers regularly
Newcastle Disease – Description and Treatment
Newcastle Disease is a highly contagious viral infection that affects many species of domestic and wild birds to varying degrees. Domestic fowl, turkeys, pigeons and parrots are most susceptible while a mild form of the disease affects ducks, geese, pheasants, quail and guinea fowl. The disease can result in digestive, respiratory and/or nervous clinical signs, which range from a mild, almost unapparent respiratory disease to very severe depression, drop in egg production, increased respiration, profuse diarrhea followed by collapse, or long-term nervous signs (such as twisted necks), if the birds survive. Severe forms of the disease are highly fatal.
Appears through the respiratory system. Your chickens will have breathing problems, discharged from their nose, murky eyes and laying will stop
The chickens wings and legs will become paralyzed and their necks twisted.
This decease is carried by other birds, including wild birds.
Newcastle Disease is highly infectious – You can even spread it by human touch. Most baby and young birds will die from the disease and
older chickens might recover and are not carriers after recovery.
There is no treatment for Newcastle Disease, although treatment with antibiotics to control secondary infections may assist. The virus can remain alive in manure for up to 2 months and in dead carcasses for up to 12 months, however it is easily killed by disinfectants, fumigants and direct sunlight. Prevention relies on good quarantine and bio-security procedures and vaccination.
Mushy Chick – Description and Treatment
This disease obviously will impact chicks. It usually shows up in newly hatched chicks that have a midsection that is enlarged, inflamed, and blue tinted. The chick will have an unpleasant scent and will appear to be drowsy. Naturally, the chick will also be weak.
So this disease doesn’t have a vaccine. It usually is transmitted from chick to chick or from a dirty surface where an infected chick was. And usually, it is contracted from an unclean area where a chick with a weak immune system contracts the bacteria.
There is no vaccine for this disease, although sometimes antibiotics will work. But usually, when you come in contact with this disease you will need to immediately separate your healthy chicks from the sick ones. Use caution as the bacteria within this disease (such as staph and strep) can impact humans.
Air Sac Disease – Description and Treatment
This disease first appears in the form of poor laying skills and a weak chicken. As it progresses, you will notice coughing, sneezing, breathing problems, swollen joints, and possibly death.
Now, there is a vaccine for this illness, and it can be treated with an antibiotic from the vet. But it can be picked up from other birds (even wild birds) and it can be transferred from a hen that has it to her chick through the egg.
So just keep an eye out for any of these symptoms so it can be treated quickly and effectively.
Pullorum (White Diarrhea) – Description and Treatment
This disease impacts chicks and older birds differently. The chicks will show no signs of activity, have a white paste all over their backsides, and show signs of breathing difficulty. Though some will die with no signs at all.
This is a viral disease. It can be contracted through contaminated surfaces and other birds that have become carriers of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for this disease and all birds that contract the disease should be put down and the carcass destroyed so no other animal will pick up the disease.
However, in older birds, you will see sneezing and coughing on top of poor laying skills.
How and Where to Sell your Broilers for a Profit
You have raised your chickens and now they are ready to be sold but where an how? In this paragraph, we will cover the topic: 4 Best Ways to Sell Chickens that you raised
- Local Township
- Shops and Butcheries
- Sell from your Farm
The most profitable way to sell your chickens is in Townships. South Africans love chickens and we can consume most of it. Driving through townships does not sound like the ideal business plan, but it works. If your price is right you can sell hundreds of chickens per day in townships.
Potential clients come to your vehicle and pick the chickens they want, pay you and it’s a done deal. You don’t really need marketing skills to sell from your vehicle, but you will need someone to assist with sales as it can get busy and you will get confused with the number of chickens sold.
Selling to Abattoirs
This is one of the hardest methods to sell chickens in South Africa. There are only a few abattoirs that will buy your chickens in South Africa. If you are one of the lucky ones to supply an abattoir, you will have to farm with large numbers to make a profit.
Supplying Shops and Butcheries
There are many shops, supermarkets and butcheries that will buy your freshly slaughtered chickens. You will have to get them slaughtered by a certified abattoir and have your paperwork in order to sell to them.
We will discuss setting up an abattoir on your farm at a later point on this website.
Sell from your Farm
Selling chickens from your Farm is not only fun but also very rewarding. Once you are an established chicken farmer people will come to you to buy chickens.
You can sell day-old chickens and chickens that are ready to slaughter. You do not need a Transport Permit to move Live Chickens.
Applying for Funds to start a Chicken Farming Business
To apply for a grant of funds you need to have a business plan.
To see a template or if you need advise on a business plan visit: businesplan.co.za
To apply for a Small Business Development Grant Visit: gov.za
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