Poultry farming is not as simple as you might imagine. If you have not yet purchased the necessary equipment, check out one of our recent posts. To provide you with a simple introduction to poultry farming, have gathered info about how to manage your finances, how to select the right species of birds and how to market your products.
Be sure you want to take this commitment
Because farming involves a lot of work, before you decide to start a business it is crucial that you are willing to put in some extra hours. What is more, from the start you should understand that your seasonal earnings will be dependent on the number of eggs your hens lay and on how well you manage to market and sell eggs/meat.
In clearer terms, this means that your first- and second-year profits might be lower than expected. Therefore, you have to have patience and do your best for the business to grow. Besides, you have to be comfortable with the idea that, at first, you will most likely make mistakes. This is to be expected and you should not feel discouraged when this happens.
Make a business plan
In order to have a successful business, it is best that you devise a detailed plan. The said plan should include info on farm income, expenses, financing and back-up solutions in case of setbacks.
When doing so, you have to take into account the overall cost of equipment, coops, the money that you have to use to purchase the chickens, etc. Plus, it is recommended that you make a monthly plan that includes the expected profit and a set number of goals.
If you do not already have a certain sum of money that you can invest, you should apply for financing from a bank or a government program. Those who do not have a lot of experience with finances should consider hiring help. This way, you won’t have to waste time searching from credit services yourself.
If you lack the necessary experience in order to run a farm of this sort, you can also work with various organizations. By doing so, you will get a first-hand look at what farming life actually is and you will be well prepared when you get to open your farm.
Setting the farm up
One of the first decisions that you have to make is between pastured and coop farming. Pastured farming means raising your chickens on an enclosed piece of land while coop farming refers to farming chickens in coops. There are advantages and disadvantages that you should be aware of regardless of your decision.
Furthermore, you have to decide on the type of equipment that you need. For instance, if you want to sell eggs, it is vital that you acquire an egg-washing machine.
Decide on a location
Deciding on a location for your farm is one of the most important decisions that you have to make. Your farm should be located not far away from the city so that the land and the labor that you employ is not overly expensive.
If your farm is located too far from the city, you will end up paying a large sum of money on transportation. Also, chances are that you will find it difficult to find labor.
Select the right breed of chickens
If you plan on raising chickens for meat, you should go for breeds such as Australorps, Jersey Giant, Rocks or Wyandotte. Keep in mind that you should select a type of breed that can adapt easily to the environment that you are living in. Most of these breeds reach maturity at 6 to 8 months.
Those who want to raise chickens for eggs should consider breeds such as the Red Star, the Black Star or the White Leghorn. Chickens of these breed can lay around 320 to 340 eggs a year.
If you want the best of both worlds, some breeds can lay eggs and produce meat. Some of the most popular dual-purpose breeds are the Wyandotte, some Sussex varieties, Rock, the Rhode Island Reds, and the Orpingtons.
According to fellow farmers, it seems like most of these breeds take about three months before they lay eggs. You should also have one rooster for every eight hens.
If you do not mind waiting a couple of months for profit, you can buy young chicks and raise them yourself. The day-old chicks are the most affordable, but you have to take care of them before they are ready to lay eggs.
On the other hand, if you have the money, you can pay for 20-weeks pullets that are already ready to lay eggs. It is generally difficult to find laying hens for sale. This only happens if you live in an area where a farmer is selling his/her old hens in order to replace them.
The best place that you could go to buy chickens is a specialized breeder. Depending on the size of your coop and the space available on your farm, he/she will be able to recommend a certain breed of chickens. Before you make any purchases, do not forget to ask about the noise level that the birds make and whether or not they are docile or rather active.
Buying the right kind of feed
It is cost-efficient for you to buy feed in bulk. Although the feed is rather expensive, it is recommended that you do not make any compromises when it comes to the quality of the feed. After all, the health and the taste of the meat of the chickens is influenced by the type of food that they eat.
If you have decided to start with young chickens, it is vital that you invest in a quality starter feed at first. Then, you can slowly introduce them to chick grit as they grow. What is more, it is advisable that you install water troughs that are not very deep as they are a drowning hazard. All troughs should be thoroughly cleaned and refilled on a daily basis.
To keep the chicks warm, you should make sure that there are no cold areas or draughts in the coop. The overall temperature in the coop should be of 92 Fahrenheit degrees for baby chicks. Once they grow up, you can start reducing the temperature.
On top of that, to prevent picking, the chickens should be provided with plenty of space. You should collect the eggs that the hens lay once or twice a day.
If you want your farming business to flourish, you also have to employ some marketing strategies. The golden rule is to think about your target audience. You can either sell your products at the local market, or you can sell to local restaurants.
One of the most successful things that you could do is to advertise your products online. This way, people in your local community will be able to learn about your business. Also, once the positive reviews start coming in, you will end up with more customers.
The biggest advantage of online marketing is that it is free. So, you won’t have to spend extra money. However, if you plan on selling large amounts of product, you should consider alternative marketing options.
If you do not want to be left with unsold products, or if you want to avoid running out of products and having dissatisfied customers, it is vital that you adjust your chicken selection in accordance with the sales.
Cleaning is vital
Chickens are sensitive creatures. Therefore, if you want to avoid them getting sick, it is best that you clean the coops regularly. After all the organic material is cleaned, a sanitizing agent should be used as well. Some specialists argue that, before you restock, the coop should be vacated for ten days.
Decontaminating the poultry house each year is also essential. By doing so, you can ensure that the chickens will not contract diseases such as salmonella (especially in the case of laying hens), E Coli, mites, Marek’s disease or respiratory viruses.
Salmonella enteritidis is especially dangerous as it does not cause visible symptoms. Once the disease makes its way into the reproductive tract and the ovaries of a hen, the eggs that it produces get contaminated as well.
Step by step guides on how to clean a coop can be found online. When cleaning, it is best that you do not skip any of the steps.