For instance the recommended size of the pen that will house 1,000birds, the recommended spacing for birds is depends on their age. For instance, from 0 to 10weeks, it is 10birds/m², from week 11 to 18, it is 8birds/m² while from week 19 to 78, it is 5birds/m². You can now use this to determine the spacing for 1,000 birds.
Some poultry farmers always ask that they have a building of eight rooms. Is it advisable for them to convert four of the rooms (on the same wing) to a poultry house while their family members reside in the other four?
Well the kind of housing described here is not good enough for the health of the birds as the needed ventilation will not be provided. Also raising birds in that kind of condition is not good for human health. Therefore, I will not advise you to raise them in such a place.
Some other poultry farmers ask if they can use an uncompleted building as a poultry house, well there is nothing bad in this provided the housing will provide adequate ventilation for the birds.
However, it is good for you to invite an expert before raising birds there and it has to be small number of birds because if you are considering large scale poultry farming then a standard poultry pen must be constructed.
Others also ask that they have four standard rooms somewhere, that how many birds can they raise in it? Well, this depends on your definition of a standard room.
However, a typical standard room should house about 50 birds. It is necessary that you don’t forget that adequate ventilation should be provided for before using that place for raising birds.
Poultry Pen/House Construction Guide
Need for poultry house
- To protect birds from adverse climatic conditions
- To ensure easy and economic operation
- To ensure scientific feeding in a controlled manner
- To facilitate proper micro-climatic conditions in a near vicinity of bird
- For effective disease control measures
- To ensure proper supervision
Selection of location
- Poultry house should be located away from residential and industrial area.
- It should have proper road facilities.
- It should have the basic amenities like water and electricity.
- Availability of farm labourers at relatively cheaper wages.
- Poultry house should be located in an elevated area and there should not be any water-logging.
- It should have proper ventilation.
Different types of poultry houses
- Brooder / chick house-It is used to brood and rear egg-type chicks from 0 to 8 weeks of age.
- Grower house-It is used to grow egg-type birds from 9 to 18 weeks of age.
- Brooders cum grower house-Here, the birds are reared from 0 to 18 weeks of age (entire brooding and growing period of egg-type chicken).
- Layer house-In which birds over 18 weeks of age are reared, usually up to 72 weeks of age.
- Broiler house-In which broilers are reared up to 6 weeks of age.
- Breeder house-In which both male and female breeders are maintained at appropriate sex ratio.
- Environmentally controlled (EC) house-In which, entire environment is manipulated in such a way that is optimum for the birds growth.
Optimal environmental conditions for rearing broilers
Temperature – 22-300C (70-850F)
Relative Humidity – 30-60 %
Ammonia level – Less than 25 ppm
Litter moisture – 15-25%
Air flow – 10-30 metres/minute
House Orientation (Direction)
The poultry house should be located in such a way that long axis is in east-west direction. This will prevent the direct sunshine over the birds.
Each broiler require one square foot of floor space while a layer requires two square feet of floor space under deep-litter system of rearing. So the size of the house depends on the number of birds to be reared.
The length of the house can be of any extent. The number of birds reared and availability of the land determines the length of poultry house.
The open sided poultry houses in tropical countries should have a width not more than 22 to 25 feet in order to allow ample ventilation and aeration at the mid-portion. Sheds wider than this will not provide adequate ventilation during the hot weather.
If the width of the shed is more than 25 feet, ridge ventilation at the middle line of the roof top with proper overhang is a must. Hot air and obnoxious gases which are lighter than air move upward and escape through ridge ventilation.
In environmentally controlled poultry houses, the width of the house may be even 40 feet or more since the ventilation is controlled with the help of exhaust fans.
The height of the sides from foundation to the roof line should be 6 to 7 feet (eaves height) and at the centre 10 to 12 feet. In case of cage houses, the height is decided by the type of cage arrangements (3 tier or 4 tier).
Good foundation is essential to prevent seepage of water into the poultry sheds. The foundation of the house should of concrete with 1 to 1.5 feet below the surface and 1 to 1.5 feet above the ground level.
The floor should be made of concrete with rat proof device and free from dampness. The floor of the house should be extended 1.5 feet outside the wall on all sides to prevent rat and snake problems.
The door must be open outside in case of deep-litter poultry houses. The size of door is preferably 6 x 2.5 feet. At the entry, a foot bath should be constructed to fill with a disinfectant.
The side wall should be of 1-1.5 feet height, and generally at the level of bird’s back height. This side wall protects the bird during rainy days or chill climate and also provides sufficient ventilation. In case of cage houses, no side wall is needed.
The roof of the poultry house may be thatched, tiled, asbestos or concrete one depending upon the cost involvement. Different types of roofs are Shed, Gable, half-monitor, full-monitor (Monitor), Flat concrete, Gambrel, Gothic etc. Gable type is mostly preferred in tropical countries like India.
The overhang of the roof should not be less than 3.5 feet in order to prevent the entry of rain water into the shed.
Light should be provided at 7-8 feet above the ground level and must be hanged from ceiling. If incandescent bulbs are used, the interval between two bulbs is 10 feet. In case of fluorescent lights (tube lights) the interval is 15 feet.
Poultry can be housed under different systems based on following factors,
- Availability of land
- Cost of land
- Type of farming activity
- Climatic condition
- Labour availability
Broadly, poultry housing systems are classified into three systems:
- Free range or extensive system
- Semi-intensive system
- Intensive system:
- Deep-litter system
- Slatted floor system
- Slat cum litter system
- Cage system
1) Free range system
This system is adopted only when adequate land is available to ensure desired stocking density by avoiding overcrowding. We can rear about 250 adult birds per hectare.
A range provides shelter, greens, feed, water and shade. Foraging is the major source of feeding for birds. Shelter is usually provided by temporary roofing supported by ordinary poles.
The fields are generally used on rotational basis after harvesting of crops by moving of birds from one field to another depending on cropping programme. All categories of birds can be reared in this system. This system is most preferred for organic egg production.
- Less capital investment
- Cost of housing is least.
- Feed requirements are less since birds can consume fairly good amount of feed from grass land.
- Fertility of soil can be maintained.
- The scientific management practices can not be adopted.
- Eggs are lost when laid inside the dense grasses unless special nests are provided.
- Losses due to predatory animals are more.
- Wild birds may bring diseases unless proper care is taken.
2) Semi-intensive system
As the name indicates birds are half-way reared in houses and half-way on ground or range, i.e. birds are confined to houses in night or as per need and they are also given access to runs. The houses are with solid floors while runs are fields only.
The success of rearing depends on maintenance of condition of runs to reduce the contamination. Runs can also be used on turn basis. The stocking density rate on an average for adult birds is 750 per hectare.
This system is usually adopted for duck rearing. The feeding and watering facilities are provided in the pen.
- More economical use of land compared to free range system
- Protection of birds from extreme climatic conditions
- Control over scientific operation is some extent possible
- High cost for fencing.
- Need for routine cleaning and removal of litter material from the pen.
3) Intensive system
Birds are totally confined to houses either on ground / floor or on wire-netting floor in cages or on slats. It is the most efficient, convenient and economical system for modern poultry production with huge numbers.
- Minimum land is required for farming.
- Farms can be located near market area.
- Day-to-day management is easier.
- The production performance is higher as more energy is saved due to restricted movements.
- Scientific management practices like breeding, feeding, medication, culling etc. can be applied easily and accurately.
- The sick birds can be detected, isolated and treated easily.
- Birds’ welfare is affected. They cannot perform the natural behaviour like roosting, spreading wings, scratching the floor with legs etc.
- Since they are not exposed to outside sunlight and feed sources, all the nutrients should be provided in balanced manner to avoid nutritionally deficient diseases.
- Chances for spreading of diseases are more.
Deep Litter System
In this system the birds are kept inside the house all the time. Arrangement for feed, water and nest are made inside the house. The birds are kept on suitable litter material of about 3” to 5” depth. The word litter is used for fresh litter material spread on the floor.
Usually paddy husk, saw dust, ground nut hulls, chopped paddy straw or wood shavings are used as litter materials. This arrangement saves labour involved in frequent cleaning of faecal matter (droppings), however it needs periodical stirring. The litter is spread on the floor in layers of 2” height every fortnightly till the required is achieved.
- Vit B2 and Vit B12 are made available to birds from the litter material by the bacterial action.
- The welfare of birds is maintained to some extend
- The deep litter manure is a useful fertilizer.
- Lesser nuisance from flies when compared to cage system.
- Because of the direct contact between bird and litter, bacterial and parasitic disease may be a problem.
- Respiratory problems may emerge due to dust from the litter.
- The cost of litter is an additional expenditure on production cost.
- Faults in ventilation can have more serious consequences than in the cage system
The built up litter
Deep litter or built up litter is accumulation and decomposition of litter material and excreta until it reaches a depth of 8” to 12”, after an original start of 3” to 5” depth. Bacterial action decomposes litter and excreta into crumble form and heat is produced during decomposition which keeps litter dry and warm.
If the amount of droppings exceeds the litter, fresh litter will be added to lower the amount of droppings. Periodical stirring of the litter should be carried out for an effective functioning of built-up litter.
After one year, the litter is changed and the decomposed litter is used as good quality manure. The best built-up litter should be dry, friable and free from obnoxious odour.
Slatted (Slotted) Floor System
In a slatted floor, iron rods or wood reapers are used as floor, usually 2-3 feet above the ground level to facilitate fall of droppings through slats. Wooden reapers or iron rods of 2” diameter can be used on lengthwise of the house with interspaces of 1” between rods.
- Less floor space per bird is needed when compared to solid floor system.
- Bedding is eliminated
- Manure handling is avoided
- Increased sanitation
- Saving in labour
- Soil borne infection is controlled
- Higher initial cost than conventional solid floors
- Less flexibility in the use of the building
- Any spilled feed is lost through the slots
- More fly problem.
Slat (Slot) Cum Litter System
This system is commonly practiced for rearing birds for hatching eggs production, particularly meat-type breeders. Here, a part of the floor area is covered with slats.
Usually, 60% of the floor area is covered with slats and rest with litter. Feeders and waterers are arranged in both slat and litter area. In case of breeder flock, nest boxes are usually kept on litter area.
- More eggs can be produced per unit of floor space than all solid floors.
- Fertility is better with the slat cum litter house than with the all-slat house.
- Housing investment is higher with the slat cum litter house than with the all-litter house.
- The separation of birds from the manure beneath the slats commonly results in fly problems.
This system involves rearing of poultry on raised wire netting floor in smaller compartments, called cages, either fitted with stands on floor of house or hanged from the roof. It has been proved very efficient for laying operations, right from day-old to till disposal.
At present, 75% of commercial layers in the world are kept in cages. Feeders and waterers are attached to cages from outside except nipple waterers, for which pipeline is installed through or above cages.
Auto-operated feeding trolleys and egg collection belts can also be used in this rearing system. The droppings are either collected in trays underneath cages or on belts or on the floor or deep pit under cages, depending on type of cages.
- Minimum floor space is needed
- More number of eggs per hen can be received
- Less feed wastage
- Better feed efficiency
- Protection from internal parasites and soil borne illnesses
- Sick and unproductive birds can be easily identified and eliminated.
- Clean eggs production
- Vices like egg eating, pecking is minimal.
- Broodiness is minimal
- No need of litter material
- Artificial Insemination (AI) can be adopted.
- High initial investment cost.
- Handling of manure may be problem. Generally, flies become a greater nuisance.
- The incidence of blood spots in egg is more
- Problem of cage layer fatigue. (It is a condition, in which laying birds in cages develop lameness. It may be due to Ca and P deficiency but the exact reason is not known)
- In case of broilers, incidence of breast blisters is more, especially when the broilers weight is more than 1.5 kg.
Types of cages
Based on the number of birds in a cage, it is classified as
- Single or individual bird cage (Only one bird in a cage)
- Multiple bird cage (From 2 to 10 birds, usually 3 or 4 birds per cage)
- Colony cages (Holding birds more than 11 per cage)
Based on the number of rows
Based on arrangement of cages
1) Stair-step cages
a) M-type cages
b) L-type cages
2) Battery cages (Vertical cages)
Based on the type of bird reared
- Brooder / chick cages
- Grower cages
- Layer cages
- Breeder cages
1) Brooder cage / chick cage
Specifications: Front feeding length : 60 inch
Front & Back height : 12 inch
Depth : 36 inch
No. of chicks (0-8 weeks) accommodated per box : 60
Chick cages are arranged either as single deck or double deck system. The feeders and waterers are arranged on outside.
Now-a-days nipple drinker system is followed from day-old itself. Newspaper may be spread over the cage floor for first 7 or 10 days. Feed is usually provided inside the cage during the first week of age.
2) Grower cage
Specifications: Front feeding length : 30 inch
Front & Back height : 15 inch
Depth : 18 inch
No. of growers (9 to 18 weeks) accommodated per box : 10
3) Layer cage
Two types of stair-step layer cages are commonly used in open-sided poultry houses
- Conventional cages
- Reverse cages (Californian cages)
a) Conventional cages
Specifications for each box:
Front feeding length : 15 inch
Front height : 18 inch
Back height : 15 inch
Depth : 18 inch
b) Reverse cages
Specifications for each box: Front feeding length : 18 inch
Front height : 18 inch
Back height : 15 inch
Depth : 15 inch
These cages can hold 3 to 4 birds. They are arranged either in 2-tier or 3-tier. A slope of 1/6 is provided in conventional cages, where as in reverse cages the slope is 1/5.
Advantages of reverse cages over conventional cages
- More feeding space is available in reverse cages. So, all 4 birds can take feed at a time, where as in conventional cages, 3 birds can take feed and the other one is waiting at the back.
- Number of cracked eggs is less due to lesser rolling distance.
- Better ventilation in reverse cages than conventional cages.
Elevated cage layer house
The height of the shed is raised by 6-7 feet using concrete pillars. The distance between two pillars is 10 feet. Two feet wide concrete platforms are made over the pillars. When 3 ‘M’ type cages are arranged 4 platforms are needed. In case of 2 ‘M’ and 2 ‘L’ type cages are arranged 3 platforms are needed.
When constructing platforms projecting angles or iron rods to be provided to fix the cages. The inter-platform distance is 6-7 feet depending upon the type of the cages used. The total height of the house is 20-25 feet and the width is 30-33 feet. This type of houses provides sufficient ventilation in tropical countries.
Floor space requirements