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Chicken is a good source of protein and is much healthier to eat than red meat which is high in cholesterol. Due to its high value it’s mostly used during festive periods and special occasions. The production of chicken is called poultry farming.
Poultry farming business is highly profitable if it is properly run under acceptable methods and conditions conducive for the birds. Each type of livestock farming, poultry included, follows specific operational principles if they must run profitably, but when such principles are ignored by the farm management, it results in serious losses.
The overriding motive for starting any business is to make profit. It is unfortunate however, that many poultry farmers do not take the time to learn why some poultry farmers failed. It is widely known that many poultry farmers have been forced out of business when they could not operate profitably.
To achieve success in poultry farming, a lot of work is involved. According to an expert, “it is not a lazy man’s business.”
As a small starter, it is better to start with day-old chicks than with older chicks. It is advisable for a beginner to start with about 500 day-old chicks if he is interested in the production of eggs and selling off the layers when they are old. It takes about 18-20 weeks (5 months) to feed and nurture the birds before they start laying eggs. On the average, 100 birds will produce a minimum of 80 eggs daily. So if an entrepreneur starts with 500 birds and all the 500 survive, he will be getting a minimum of 400 eggs daily, which is good output. Once the birds start laying, they will do so for 74 weeks, after which they become due for disposal. However, the birds could still lay after 74 weeks, if properly fed.
Technical knowledge for running a poultry farm.
Going into poultry farming without a practical knowledge of the venture is direct invitation to failure. It is very important for the would-be farmer to know how to keep the chicken or birds in an acceptable manner.
Housing / Feeding
Two basic housing methods are available:
THE DEEP LITTER SYSTEM and THE BATTERY CAGE. Both methods are good, provided that proper hygiene is maintained.
In the deep litter system, the pullets are placed on bare floor that has been covered with saw dust.
Careful consideration is given to the method applied in feeding the birds. Removing the dropping usually poses no problem. You can either pack off the entire saw dust with the dropping or cover the dropping with fresh saw dust.
Normally, the day-old chicks are housed using the brooder method before they grow up. They can be transferred to the battery cage when they approach their egg-laying period, or left in the deep litter floor.
The battery cage housing allows for the droppings to fall on a separate platform directly under the cage. It is uniquely constructed to make feeding and drinking quiet easy for the birds. The birds feed on marsh, which have been properly compounded. The marsh should be given according to an expert’s advice. In some cases, inappropriate feeding can lead to excess fat, which can result in mortality. In fact, defective feeding can lead to low egg production. In fact, it has been experienced in the past where a whole stock of birds produced no egg, due to wrong feeding.
One of the critical factors that account for the success or failure of poultry farming is the way the health of the birds is handled.
If the source of the day-old chicks, or the foundation stick is compromised, or the necessary drugs are not properly administrated, poultry farming can turn into a nightmare.
The intending farmer should seek (and take seriously) expert advice on the type of drug to administer on the birds as well as the dosage.
When birds are hatched, there is a vaccination time table to be followed; if this is not done, the farmer that buys this stock from the source may have serious problems.
Again, the farmer should take pain to do it by himself or hire a qualified and honest consultant / veterinary doctor in order to get the desired result.
Cost Consciousness
A prudent poultry farmer must keep a close watch over the cost of running the farm; he must avoid unnecessary spending, which tends to eat away his profit. The labour, feeds, drugs and other input costs must be in line with standard farm requirements, otherwise such expenses should be ignored. All forms of wasteful spending must be eliminated, no matter how insignificant the amount may seem to the management.
The farm Manager
The farm manager should be a qualified person with a wealth of experience in poultry management. The management of the farm must be able to plan ahead its activities and be able to compare actual performance with the drawn plan in order to apply control measures whenever a deviation from the original plan is observed. It must not be an armchair management that cares less about what may be happening to the birds at any given time. The management should be sensitive to the conditions on the farm and be in firm control of all situations. The ability to act promptly and take the right decisions at the right time is indispensable for the farm manager.
The market for poultry products is quite enormous. This confirms the huge market that poultry products have in Sierra Leone. It is noteworthy that all parts of the birds are marketable including the feather and the droppings (for manure).
If a farmer starts with 500 day-old chicks and, say, 400 mature to the point of lay, the entrepreneur is bound to reap a fortune. On the average, 100 birds will lay 80 eggs everyday, meaning that 400 will produce 320 eggs daily. The poultry farmer should be able to identify both the immediate and potential markets for his or her products before starting the business otherwise the management might not be able to sell the products at the appropriate time.
It is not profitable to continue feeding chicks meant for a long time after maturing, without selling them. The eggs produced do not stay indefinitely without going bad. In fact, the shelf life of eggs is very short and if they are not sold off in good time, they may go bad, thereby resulting in loss.
The cause of high failure rate in poultry business
(a)Lack of Technical Know-how
It is regrettable that many people and organizations have ventured into poultry farming without technical knowledge. Knowledge of poultry farming techniques are required before anyone can operate the business profitably.
(b)Management Problem
An incompetent management may not be able to operate a profitable poultry farm. The managers of the farm must know what they are employed to do and posses the ability to do it. Some poultry managers fail to recognize the peculiarity of poultry farming in their management style, thereby preparing good ground for losses in the venture. Many managers do not recognize the need for timely planning and control in running the farm.
(c) Diseased Breeds
Some fertilized eggs meant to be hatched in the incubator could be infected with disease from the parent stock. This means that before the eggs were hatched they had been diseased. If the disease are not detected and treated on time, the affected birds may die sooner or later.
(d)Hygiene Deficiency
There is a minimum hygiene condition that must exist in any poultry farm if the birds are to remain healthy and produce maximally for profit. The poultry farm must be kept clean always; the droppings should be cleared on time before they constitute an agent of disease
(e)Poor feeding condition and wastage of feed
The birds need to be fed well in the pens in order to produce maximum meat and eggs (either of which may be the purpose for running the farm). The birds are fed with varying quantities of feed at different stages and with the appropriate feed. The various feeds are chicks mash, grower mash and layer mash, which must be sufficiently rich to give the birds the required nutrients to grow healthy and produce optimally.
(F) Security
A poultry farm must be established in a secured place to ward off enemies of birds, such as rats, soldier ants, snakes, wild birds, etc. Most of these enemies are agents of disease that could lead to an epidemic on the farm, and they kill the birds directly as well.
There must be strict check on the farm workers who may be stealing the fowls and the eggs. Also, visitors may constitute a problem to the farm if they are not properly checked.
(G) Housing
Birds need minimum space and convenient place to grow well and produce maximally meat and eggs. Birds are spaced on the farm according to their ages; while the chicks need little space, growers and mature birds need more space and ventilation to perform well. The services of a consultant may be needed to determine the appropriate spacing for the birds without which they may suffocate to death, which will be a big loss to the business.
(H) Inability to prevent, detect and control disease
It is often said that prevention is better than cure, as far as disease are concerned and this is a true statement and relevant one to poultry farming. A poultry farmer should know how to prevent poultry disease, as well as how to cure them. If he or she does know anything about preventive measures, the services of consultants in the field should be engaged for good result.
A marketing plan is absolutely necessary for successful commercial poultry farming, as any farmer ignorant of his or her marketing needs is bound to run into serious losses and eventual failure. It will be ridiculous to start poultry production without knowing when, where, how and to whom to sell the fowls, eggs, feathers and droppings as they are produced. We cannot talk of profit if the meat and eggs have no ready market. Eggs have a very short shelf life and if they are not sold quickly, they will go bad, and no one is interested in buying bad eggs. Also, birds not sold at the appropriate time will be fed at an extra cost that may make the business unprofitable. Therefore, adequate marketing strategies are needed to sell all the poultry products at the appropriate time and prices.
(j)Ignoring the role of livestock consultants
There are always practicing experts in every profession or occupation who function as consultants. They are there to proffer solutions to problems that exist in such professions at a minimum cost. Where a livestock farmer doesn’t have adequate technical and managerial experience, he or she can consult experts for necessary advice to bridge the gap. Even where the farmer thinks he or she has all it takes to run a farm successfully, there may be need to seek the services of experts in the field, as it is usually said that two heads are better than one.
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John F Fowler .MCIM, is an International marketing and business consultant, Motivational/Empowerment speaker and Author. He is currently the founder and president of Trinity Empowerment Center a non governmental organization with a vision to empower youths in starting and sustaining small businesses in developing countries. for comments or questions send email to johnffowler@yahoo.com, or johnffowler1@gmail.com.

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