Do you want to raise chicken organically in your backyard? If YES, here are 7 steps to starting an organic poultry farm (egg & meat production) right from home.
Have you walked into a supermarket or a grocery store lately? Did you notice how many chicken and chicken products like eggs you saw? What about restaurants and fast foods? Did you notice that at least one person had a meal with chicken or made with eggs on their plates? Yes, a lot of people are into chickens and eggs and it has everything to do with the essential nutrients that these two world famous products supply to the body.
Eggs are a very good source of protein and contain a lot of minerals, vitamins and iron. They also contain some nutrients that help in preventing diseases. Some of these nutrients include Carotenoids, Zeaxanthin and lutein. Also, eggs are very good for weight watchers because of its low calories and fat content.
Chicken meat is also a very good source of animal protein and is a better substitute for red meat especially the chicken breasts and when the chicken is eaten without the skin. Chicken meats are free from carbohydrates which is one class of food that health conscious people try to consume less of. Chickens are also very good for supplying vitamins and minerals to the body.
What You Need to Know About Commercial Organic Chicken Farming
A lot of people are concerned or interested in clean eating. This is because so many diseases and illnesses have been linked to the kind of foods that we eat. It is believed that a lot of diseases and illnesses can be avoided or even cured simply by improving on our diets. People’s care and concern for what they eat has gone beyond the food itself; it now includes how the crops or animals were grown, processed, packaged and handled before it gets to the consumers.
Organic chickens are believed to be a healthier meat choice. It is believed that non-organic chickens are exposed to a lot of toxins through diets and medications and end up transferring these toxins to the human body when they are consumed. It is also believed that some of the ingredients in the feeds and drugs chickens are given create some anti-biotic resistance in humans upon consumption.
What is Organic Poultry Farming?
Organic poultry farming is sometimes referred to as free range poultry farming system. It entails making sure that your chickens eat clean right from the day they are hatched. No synthetic or non-natural means of feeding, healthcare or reproduction are introduced. Before chickens could be certified as organically raised, they must fulfill some requirements which include-:
- Nutrition-: They feed strictly on grasses, grains and other insects found on the field. No synthetic or special feed is given to them.
- Movement-: Organic chickens are not confined to a space like non-organic chickens; they are allowed to roam about and graze on pasture, although there must be a shelter where they can come to roost at the end of the day and also to protect them from harsh weather.
- Antibiotics-: Although antibiotics are given to chickens to help prevent diseases and promote weight gain, organic chickens are not to be fed with antibiotics because it is believed that these antibiotics cause antibiotic resistant germs to develop in the body when the chicken meat is consumed.
- Inspection-: Also, organic poultry farms are presented with a set of guidelines by the department of Agriculture. These guidelines must be strictly adhered to and organic poultry farmers get a lot of monitoring and compliance visits from health agencies to ensure that the firm is truly practicing organic poultry farming as claimed.
- Organic Eggs-: An organic chicken must be born of organic parents; this means that the eggs must be laid and hatched by organic birds.
You can rear chickens for personal needs to feed your family or for commercial purposes. If you want to rear for personal needs, then you can do that easily from your backyard but first, you have to check the laws in your state to find out where it stands about raising chickens at home. If the law permits it, then you should check with your neighbors too. Some neighbors may not like the idea and report you to the authorities for pollution and noise.
In order to avoid this, you should check with them and get their approval (it won’t hurt to promise them some eggs and chickens sometimes). You should also try as much as possible to keep your environment clean and free from odors and chicken waste. Noise is another thing that may piss the neighbors off so; you should put a check on that to.
How to Raise Chicken Organically in your Backyard
Commercial organic poultry farming is much more profitable. This is because it requires less capital and attention compared to non-organic poultry farming. The only disadvantage is that organic chickens may not grow as big and fat as non-organically raised chickens but this is not a problem especially for health conscious consumers who truly know the value of organic chickens. So if you want to raise organic chickens, this is how to go about it-:
1. Choose the right breed-: First, you should be clear about why you want to raise chickens. Are you raising them for commercial purposes or just as a hobby or probably to feed your family? The breed you would choose would depend on your reasons because some breeds are suitable for commercial chicken raisers as they produce more eggs and can grow very big while some others may produce eggs but not in commercial quantities. You should also consider temperament, noise and meat production.
2. Location-: If you are rearing just a few chickens, then your backyard would be fine as long as your neighbors are cool with it. But if you are rearing a larger quantity especially for commercial purpose, then you would have to look for a large piece of land suitable for farming. This would usually be in a rural area and with the necessary license and permits from regulatory agencies. You can also rear your chickens in an urban area but it would cost you more to purchase a land in an urban area compared to a rural area.
When you find a suitable place, prepare the land by ridding it of harmful reptiles that may harm the chickens and then make the land eco-friendly. You can provide some pasture to encourage worms and insects to inhabit the land so that the chickens can have access to more food.
3. Capital-: The amount of capital you need for rearing chickens is also dependent on the startup scale that you choose. If you want to start really small, you can start with as little as $500 especially if you want to use your backyard as a location. But if you want to rear on a large scale for commercial purposes, then you would have to factor in the cost of land, cost of building a shelter for the chickens, feeding, hatchery and a lot of other factors and this may cost anywhere between $3,500 and $70,000.
4. Setting up housing for your chickens-: When setting up a housing system for your chickens, you need to consider factors like warmth, waste, egg production, size sorting and a whole lot of other factors. The chicken housing system is known as a coop and when you are constructing yours, you have to construct leaving enough space and room for chicken feeders, water containers, perches, nesting boxes for eggs and deep liters for cleaning chicken waste.
5. Feeding-: You would also need to feed your chickens with the right type of food. The quality of food you provide for your chickens would determine how well they grow and the quality of eggs they would give you. There are three categories of feed for chickens
- Starters-: This is for the newly hatched chicks and would usually contain a protein level of 10%-20%. This type of feed is specifically formulated to enhance growth in chickens.
- Growers-: As soon as your chickens clock 10 weeks, you can start feeding them with growers which contain 15-17% of protein.
- Layers-: The layers would need more nutrients for quality egg production and are fed with feed containing 16% of protein and an increased calcium content.
6. Reproduction-: There won’t be any need for assisted reproduction techniques with organic poultry farming. Just stock up on male and female chickens and allow for a natural reproduction process. Contrary to what you think, a natural reproduction process can produce just as great a result as artificial reproduction.
7. Locate an Organic Hatchery-: When your chickens lay eggs, you could either sell off the eggs for consumption or allow the eggs hatch for more chickens to be produced. If you are running a backyard poultry, it may be easy to use the natural hatching system but for a big poultry, you would need incubators. You could also consider taking the eggs to a standard hatchery to be hatched.
I already mentioned that for your chickens to be considered as organic chickens, they must be hatched from eggs laid by organic hens. Therefore, you have to search for other organic poultry farmers who can sell organic chicks to you so that you can get initial stock for your farm. Afterwards, you can now rely on the chickens themselves to lay the eggs that would be used to grow your poultry farm.
8. Marketing your birds and eggs-: You can make a lot of profit from your poultry because you have two sources of income-the eggs and the chicken. You can make more money with organic poultry farming than you would make with non-organic poultry farming. This is because organic poultry products sell at a higher price than the non-organic products thereby making it easier to make more profits.
For the eggs, you could just pack them into fanciful crates with your label on it and supply to grocery stores. On your label, ensure that you indicate that they are fresh eggs and chip in some nutritional information.
As your poultry business grows, you can go a step further by processing and packaging the chickens to be sold at grocery stores, meat shops, farmers market or supermarkets. You could also consider supplying them to hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets and other businesses to deal with food making. Don’t forget to obtain a proper license for your meat and egg packaging and selling business to ensure that you are on the safe side with the law.