When starting a free-range poultry farm you need to have appropriate housing and equipment for the chicks, such as a feeder, a chicken waterer, enough floor space, and nesting boxes. Also, depending on the poultry farm’s size, you may need to hire strong workers to help you with the hands-on labor.
You might not be aware of this yet, but free-range poultry farming is a type of business that has proved to be highly profitable across many different countries around the world. In fact, many farmers who chose to go into this category are making more than decent money, which means that there is definitely a high demand in this market.
However, in order to create a free-range farming business that is both profitable and sustainable, there are several aspects and particularities that need to be taken into account by any person looking to get into this line of work, before actually starting the activity.
Some information before starting the business
One of the first aspects you should decide on is the size of the farm that you planning to build. This means more than just determining the surface that it’s going to cover. When we talk about the size of a farm, this also means the number of chickens that are kept within each production cycle and the market that is being targeted.
Of course, if the location you chose is close to a somewhat larger city, there’s a higher chance to have enough demand early on. As you can imagine, each of these aspects and choices has a direct impact on how much capital is going to be necessary in order to get the business going and, of course, on how you can later turn your investment into a profitable one.
If you know that you cannot have a lot of capital at first, then it might be a good idea to start smaller and then grow the business at its own healthy pace. The good news, in this case, is that this type of farming is among the most successful ones out there, which means that there are high chances to see your business grow at a faster rate than expected.
Of course, before venturing into the business, you do need to take the time and conduct some market research, so see where and in what conditions your farm is going to thrive. Even so, you can never foresee every aspect that is going to affect the entire operation, one example being the chickens’ health, but you should prepare as much as possible in advance.
With this being said, we should zoom into what you will actually need in order to get started. First of all, you need to get the piece of land onto which you can build the poultry housing. Of course, specific equipment that ensures daily operations is necessary as well. Besides the technical aspect of the business, you will most probably also need workers for manual labor.
Secondly, besides getting everything you need to set the project and the farm in motion, you also have to choose the breed of chickens that you are going to raise. In fact, this aspect might influence some of the technical choices for running the farm, if the birds have any particular needs.
The farm’s location
Following thorough market research, you probably know what costs are expected to be incurred for running a free-range poultry farm, so this should give you a pretty good idea of what size you can start out with (in terms of both land and number of chickens). With this in mind, you can determine the business’ overall size at first.
Thus, you should choose the location accordingly, but you also need to keep the right balance between labor costs, land cost, security, as well as proximity to the targeted market. Furthermore, another major aspect that can have a significant impact on the entire business is having a good water supply.
This is crucial since we’re talking about working with live animals, and if the location you chose has it already that’s great, but if it doesn’t then the costs of getting enough water to run the daily operations might be quite high. Moreover, once you design or adapt the housing, this should come with proper ventilation and the right amount of lighting.
The first one is necessary in order to keep the birds healthy, while the second one is, in fact, a key aspect for having hens that lay the right number of eggs. Given that the egg-production part of the business needs to run the entire year, adequate lighting systems need to be installed in the facility. Other types of necessary equipment include nest boxes, feeders, and drinkers.
When it comes to housing, it’s crucial for free-range chickens to have enough space in which they can move, grow, and live a healthy life. After all, this is also one of the business’ selling points, given that they also need to provide a healthier food alternative for consumers. Any tendency to overcrowding the housing can result in illness and maybe even death.
According to the general rule, free-range chickens require around 0.1 square meters of floor space for each individual, which means that no more than 10 birds should occupy a square meter, which means around 10 sq. ft. Free-range chickens also need plenty of pasture space for them to forage.
Getting the chickens
Once you know what type of chickens you are going to get and where the farm is going to be located, you need to get the project going by getting day-old chicks. In the long run, you will surely get the necessary experience to hatch your own chicks, which means that yearly costs are going to be considerably reduced.
However, in order to get started, you need to purchase the chicks and this should be done from a reliable company or an accredited hatchery with well-supervised parent stocks. Given that this is a popular business, there are also groups of farmers and small local organizations that can help you either with advice or with reliable sources of chicks.
The project’s success depends to a certain extent on the quality of the birds you are purchasing, and of course, this initial cost needs to be accounted for in the business plan. Furthermore, free-range farming can be done for two main products, namely eggs or meat. Some types of chickens can be raised for both eggs and meat, such as the Rhode Island Red breed.
Feeding the chickens right is one of the most important aspects directly correlated with meat and eggs production capabilities. For this reason, you should avoid any lack of water or feed that might result in increased stress levels in birds, as well as in a reduced resistance to various diseases and parasites, which translates to a higher risk of flock mortality.
Moreover, free-range chickens need to have enough space to forage every day. Since we’ve got to the aspect of food, it’s important to point out that the scavenging should take place in the early morning and late afternoon, as these are the parts of the day during which there are plenty of insects around and the heat is no longer a problem.
One advantage of free-range farming is that chickens get most of their food from the environment and their surroundings, which means that some of the costs are minimized. On the other hand, given that these birds are raised for commercial purposes, their food does need to be supplemented.
Another aspect that needs to be carefully considered is hiring healthy and strong workers. Some diseases can actually be transferred from people to very young birds, which can then lead to financial losses associated with a high chicken mortality rate or investments in medical care.
The good news is that the market for free-range chickens is constantly growing. People are more and more aware of the importance of eating healthy and organic food, so the demand is on the rise. Both the meat and eggs from free-ranging chickens are considered to be of superior quality compared to products from commercial indoor layer hens.
As a result, the price tag these products come with is also considerably higher. In terms of the market, farmers can supply meat and eggs to a wide range of places, such as individual households, supermarkets, restaurants, or different companies within the community.