How to determine the size of a house for a given number of birds
#1
This is one of the most common questions newcomers in poultry farming ask and it is a very important one. One thing you should know is that your birds must not be overcrowded to prevent the spread of diseases. In an overcrowded pen, droppings quickly pile up and stink, exposing the birds and farm workers to diseases. It can also result to problems like pecking and slow growth.

On the other hand, giving too much space for the birds doesn’t make economic sense because you’re wasting money. A pen that’ll house 150 birds should not be used to house 120 birds. The number of birds living in a given area is called the stocking density. So what is the optimum stocking density for birds?

Well, it depends on the type of bird (layers or broilers etc), age of the birds and climate (hot or cool periods, humidity). The advice here is suitable for those who use open-sided, deep-litter, naturally ventilated houses in tropical climates like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya etc. Below are the steps to follow for finding broiler stocking density:

1.    Determine the final weight of your bird (that is, the weight they’ll attain before you sell them)

2.    If the final weight is below 3kg, use a stocking density of 20-25kg/m2. E.g. assuming you plan selling your broilers when they attain 2.5kg, you’ll need 8-10 birds per square meter (i.e. 20kg/m2 ÷ 2.5kg=8 birds per m2. 25kg/m2 ÷ 2.5=10 birds/m2). So if your pen measures 20m x 40m, the area is 20m x 40m = 800m2. So you can raise 6400-8000 broilers in the pen.

3.    At the hottest times of the year, or at final weight above 3kg, reduce stocking density to 16-18kg/m2. Here let’s say you’re raising Christmas or Easter broilers that will weigh 4.5kg. At this stocking density, you’ll need 3.5-4 birds per square meter (16 kg/m2 ÷ 4.5kg = 3.5 birds per m2 approximately. 18 kg/m2 ÷ 4.5kg = 4 birds/m2). An 800m2 pen will accommodate 2800-3200 broilers.

Keeping broilers beyond 7-8 weeks is expensive and often the difference between profit and loss. Exception is during festive periods when people prefer bigger broilers and are willing to pay high price for them.

For laying hens, you can use a stocking density of 13.6 birds per square meter.

Note that when the birds are still young, you don’t give them access to the whole pen. This will prevent the birds from running around which will waste energy that would have been directed towards growth or egg production. Feed cost can be enormous if you ignore this. So what you do is to restrict them to one part of the pen with plywood boards. Then, gradually expand the area as they grow.
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