Commercial Chicken Houses
What is a commercial chicken house? It is a poultry house large enough to farm chickens on a profitable scale. While your mind might be jumping to a very big poultry house that holds 30 thousand broilers – it can also be a small steel structure that hold only 500 chickens. Farming with chickens in South Africa is dominated by a few big producers – but there are many small farmers in rural areas that have small commercial operations. Broiler house using pan feeders and nipple drinkers
Notice the channels in the concrete floor – the cages stand over these and the litter drops into the channels – this can then be removed with a manure scraper.
The “commercial” sometimes refers to the fact that it has professional poultry equipment installed like nipple drinkers or bell drinkers, and can turn a profit for the farmer. Manual equipment is also used in commercial houses – but not often. It also means it is being run as a business. A non commercial chicken house would be a hen house in the backyard of someone’s home – or a small chicken coop that has hens in for producing eggs. The size usually determines whether is is a commercial unit – but anything over a 500 birds starts making it a proper business – or at least a small farm that will have to be run by someone who it is more than a hobby.
Steel structures versus brick structures
There is no difference in the output or yield of chickens or eggs. A steel chicken house can produce equally well as a brick and mortar structure. Generally a steel structure is used for farming with less than 3000 chickens – they are a lot cheaper and do not need building plans. The drinking equipment and feeding equipment is usually manual – bell drinkers and tube feeders. In a large chicken house built with bricks you will need building plans and these are usually fitted with automatic nipple drinking systems like Impex, and with either chain feeders or pan feeders. Sometime a large house is what is called a closed environment house – this means that there are no curtains or openings to the outside environment. The temperature and humidity is controlled by fans, and fancy computer equipment. These are great – but you have to know what you are doing.
There are not many closed environment chicken houses in South Africa – most poultry farmers prefer open sided houses. This is rapidly changing in South Africa as farmers are starting realise the benefits of closed climate controlled housing. Higher placement, higher yields, shorter growth time and heavier weights. Small poultry houses are always open sided and use curtains to regulate temperature. In a closed environment house you would place 22.5 broilers per square meter and in an open environment house you would place 15 birds per square meter – in very hot and humid climes this figure would be reduced.
Commercial houses can be broiler or layer. The most common are broiler. These are usually 15m wide – the width in an open house is generally no more than 12 meters wide – this is because the cooling and ventilation is dependant on air blowing or moving through the structure – wider than 12 meters creates problem. In a closed climate controlled house this make no difference as the ventilation and cooling are done using fans and cooling pads.
Types of Commercial Broiler houses
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Broiler houses are typically one of the following:
- Open environment (naturally ventilated) – houses have open sides with winched curtains. Placement 15 birds / square meter.
- Closed environment – houses are closed totally and the environment is controlled automatically. Placement 22.5 birds / square meter.
- Semi environment – houses have open sides with winched curtains and the environment is controlled automatically. Placement 22.5 birds / square meter.
All the houses have the same automatic drinking and feeding equipment.
The environmentally controlled houses have a series of automated controls that regulate temperature, humidity etc. through the use of fans and misters and vents. The settings used on the controller can be changed to suit your environment and circumstances.
The environmental houses require a good, steady source of electricity to maintain the systems. The semi environment house is often used where electricity is problematic – the curtains can be opened manually in case of a power outage or similar. On a closed system this is not possible, and if there is no backup power supply the birds will quickly die.
In my opinion. The best solution is a semi environment house. Especially if you are far from technical experts and power is sometimes an issue. This kind of house can be manually controlled in the case of an emergency whilst allowing you to make use of modern technology to grow your flock.
I would suggest a structure 98m x 12m – this will allow a placement of 26460 birds at 22.5 birds per square meter – and at a mortality rate of 5% you will have 25137 birds for sale. In very hot climates the birds per square meter is sometimes dropped in summer. You may need to take this into account if you are signing a delivery contract. The average mortality rate in South Africa is around 4.6% – but varies between 3.6% and 7.5%. This would also need to be taken into account if you are signing a delivery contract. Usually farming starting out will be working with a poultry consultant?