By SUBIRI OBWOGO

A week does not pass before I get a request from readers to share poultry house designs and the estimated cost of construction.

I have always referred them to the basic handout I developed that covers topics like housing plans, disease control and vaccination schedule and care for day-old chicks, among others.

But once in a while, readers raise the bar and I have to scratch my head for better answers that cannot simply be glimpsed from text books.

One piece of advice I always offer potential farmers goes like this, “Before you embark on constructing a poultry house, visit a few farms near you to come up with better ideas on what works best for you.”

For a fact, I know farmers who have put up very expensive poultry or dairy units that became white elephants.

To illustrate my point, I will share my personal experiences and some questions from readers.

To begin with, Derosin Busuru, an ardent reader recently asked, “I would like to start poultry farming. How much will it cost me to put up a ‘decent’ structure?”

My response was straightforward, “There are different types of chicken coops and an ideal house should provide the birds with a comfortable environment and protect them from the extremities of weather such as rain, wind, sunshine, diseases and predators”.

“I am more interested in how much it will cost me to put up a decent structure,” she insisted.

IDEAL STOCKING DENSITY

I paused and reflected before I offered, “Depending on your scale of production, small, medium or large, an ideal stocking density is two square foot per bird.”

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As a matter of fact, when I decided to transfer my birds from Parklands in Nairobi to my farm in Njiru, the coop I put up measured about 20ft long, 20ft wide and 8ft high and this was adequate for 500 chickens.

When I decided to increase my stock from 500 to 1,000, I was compelled to double the space.

To answer her question on cost, I went back to the choice of materials that were available. I had to choose between using stones, metal sheets or wood to cover the walls.

I later realised that the cheapest option available were metal sheets for the walls, except the front side which would be covered halfway with a wire mesh and a net to allow for free circulation of air.

I learnt that wood, unlike iron sheets, is sold per feet and different types of wood cost differently. For example, cypress costs more than pine, which in turn, costs more than grevillea.

For the floor, the obvious choice I had was sand and cement, but a problem arose later. One day it rained and my chicken house was flooded.

DEPENDS ON YOUR RESOURCES

Later, I changed the plans and decided to raise the floor half a metre above the ground using posts and covered the floor with wood instead of cement.

Now, the good vets who have visited my farm have cautioned against using wood to construct chicken houses.

“Wood is not easy to clean and disinfect,” they have told me several times.

The second reader, Susan Nduta, raised the bar even higher. “I am thinking of using stones to put up my chicken coop because theft of chicken is prevalent in my area.”

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I told her that “brick and mortar” is not the way to go with chicken coops because the returns on investments for poultry are unpredictable and will depend on many factors.

“Having a fenced off compound with a perimeter wall, a gate, watchman, dogs and neighbourhood watch programme (nyumba kumi) is certainly a better investment if security is your primary concern.”

So, as outlined above, there are basic considerations when making a poultry house but the kind of house you make, iron-sheet walled or stone depends on your resources.

CREDIT: Seeds of Gold

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