Now a days chicken raising in the backyard garden is getting popular mainly due to two reason: first, the production of affordable organic meat and eggs, second, as a hobby with less attention required. However, to avoid the complications during the raising period, one must be well prepared and collect the all related information in advance and if possible, may visit the farm in neighbourhood in order to observe the poultry operations in reality.
Tipp 1: Since, it is 365 days job so please commit yourself before starting
Selection of breed
Breeds for egg, meat production and hobby are different. So, it is important to select the right breed according to the production targets. In order to produce Non genetically modified (Non- GMO) in other words organic poultry meat and eggs, one needs to select the slow growing chicken breed.
Normally, the commercial broiler (the meat type chicken) and the commercial layers (egg type hens) are genetically improved and have potential to grow faster and or produce more eggs per year to meet the economics of the business.
In this case due to their genetic make-up, they need to be fed with more fortified feed to meet their nutrient requirement. More details about the nutrition of both types of chickens will follow in up- coming articles.
Dual purpose breeds
The dual-purpose breeds are often local breeds raised for meat as well as eggs production.
The most common dual-purpose breeds are like Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and Barred Plymouth Rock Chicken etc. They can be raised for eggs or meat production.
Whereas, Cornish Cross is mainly raised for the meat purpose, they have better feed efficiency and faster growth rate which helps to compensate the economics partly.
Slow growing Broilers (Meat type chicken)
Aimed commercial production at small scale or even at larger scale, only genetically adapted breeds are recommended. The most common breeds for the purpose of organic meat production are: SA-JA-757 and Cobb Sasso 150. They are the slow growing broilers from commercial companies Hubbard and Cobb.
The breed ISA-JA-757 reaches the slaughter weight of 2.5 Kg in about 70 days, whereas, the common fast-growing breed reaches this weight in around 35 days.
Tipp 2: prefer the genetically improved breed for meat or egg type chickens
Layers (egg type chicken)
The type of chickens used of the purpose of the egg production are also adapted genetically to optimize their production. The following breeds can be used for organic egg production:
- Lohmann Brown classic
- Lohmann Brown-Lite
- Isa Brown
Comfortable, clean, and robust housing is the pre-requisite for the welfare and stress-free growth of the chickens, in which the birds can sleep, breed and protect themselves from wind and rain. As a guideline: there should be five chickens per square meter of the shed or covered space. It is important that the shed is dry and warm, adequately ventilated, and bright. This is even more important during the early stage of the chicks.
As a behavior, the chicken needs a designated sand bath, where they can scratch the bodies and clean their plumage. They also need the perches to stay or sleep at higher place also as a part of their behavior. In this case the perches should be at the same height to avoid the competition between the birds to get the higher place. A manure board under the floor of the shed prevents the contamination of the bedding by the excrement.
Cleaning the shed is very important so that bugs or parasites do not nestle and infect chickens. Inspect the shed daily and clean the water and feeding pens. A complete cleaning is necessary once or twice a week.
The free-range area is extremely important for backyard chicken raising. Either offer the limited space on the grass or keep the chickens free in a reasonable garden. Chicken like to forage and scratch the ground as a natural behavior or in search of food like insects. As a rough estimate consider around 10 to 20 square meters per bird.
Tipp 3: Take the shed bigger than you actually required from professional company and construct it the corner of the garden
Meat type chickens
Hubbard ISA-JA-757 is the most common breed used for organic meat production in Germany. The usual raising period is about 70-75 days. In this period the birds gain the total weight of 2.5 kg. Whereas the conventional broilers reach up to this weight in 35-38 days only.
In the commercial chicken raising the 23-hours light and 1-hour dark strategy is being used. The purpose is to stimulate the feed intake to maximize the final body weight gain.
By keeping view the animal welfare and to raise the chicken stress free, it is advisable to provide the 16-hours of light followed by 8-hours of dark period.
Tipp 4: Use the monochromatic light to extend the lighting period in short days of the year
The feeding of the birds depends on:
- Organic feeding
- Non-organic feeding
Poultry is omnivores by nature and usually likes to move around pawing, looking for seeds, insects, worms, leaves, and berries. A concentrate grain mix should always be available. Certain types of green forage are also on a chicken’s menu alongside fresh grass for example, alfalfa or nettle are suitable.
Regular supply of concentrated feed is highly important to meet the maintenance as well as growth requirements of the meat type chickens.
Egg type chickens
The pre-lay and starter period is 0-20 weeks in organic production whereas, the laying period starts on week 21-72. During the week 0-20 the birds need to feed with pre lay feed and afterwards the laying feed.
To maintain normal egg production, chickens require around 12-14 hours of light and 10-12 hours of dark. Artificially lighting source can be used to meet the minimum lighting period when days naturally become shorter.
Laying hens feeding is little bit different as compared to the meat type chickens. The major reason is the longer life span and different performance indicators of the laying hens. As compared to meat type chickens they need less energy and crude protein. However, the lying hens should be provided with the fresh grass and should have opportunity to explore the garden to look for insects and other valuable eatables. Important is a commercial finished feed should be provided for 24 hours.
Supply of clean a fresh water should be assured 24 hours. The pots of the water should be placed under the shed, where they could not be affected by harsh weather conditions like extreme cold and heat.
Tipp 5: other than commercial feed, you can offer the kitchen waste like waste bread and vegetable wastes. But remember do not offer the waste older than 1-2 days
From 18 Weeks of life, hens need the nest for laying eggs. The nest should be Cousy and comfortable ideally through wheat straw or wood shaving. One nest for 5-6 hens is enough. The location of the nest should in the quite part of the shed where the less disturbance is assured. Make sure to collect eggs regularly and clean and disinfect the nest.
Vaccination is only recommended in the small flocks, if the farmer have the previous history of disease in the area or if new birds are introduced to previously existing flock.
Prefer to buy the chicks vaccinated for Marek Disease at hatchery level. Newcastle disease vaccine is also recommended. Other than this vaccine for Infectious bursal disease and infectious bronchitis is suggested depending on the history of the area. Ask your poultry veterinarian about the necessities.
The vaccination for the laying hens raised in the backyard is mostly the same as for the meat type chicken, however, in addition to that vaccine against fowl pox at the age of 10-12 weeks in laying hens.
Tipp 6: Consult the local veterinarian on regular basis for the updated disease prevalence in the area and get vaccination and deworming
Generally, the best idea for the marketing of the organic chickens is the sales outlet at the farmhouse. The consumers who prefer the organic and healthy white meat and organic eggs will make their way to your doorstep. In this way you will get the premium price of your products. Normal, marketing techniques like building website, local advertisement will help to support the business.
Tipp 7: Check with the local authorities for regulations before starting the backyard farming and commercializing the products for public
For further advice and information, please feel free to contact us.