The demand for chicken's meat and eggs are ever increasing due to rapid population growth and urbanization in developing countries, like in the Philippines.
Growing chickens can be a profitable business and can also supplement the family's budget if done in a small scale. In rural Philippines, it is very common to see chickens that are roaming around the houses or street, finding foods. The country's chicken breeds is one the most tastiest meat in the world.
Big poultry companies confine their chickens in cages for maximum profit. Chickens are injected with chemical hormones and antibiotic to make them grow much faster, and for layers to lay more eggs. Chickens can't hardly move, and seems not happy.
Free-range chickens are not confine in cages, instead they are freely to roam around. These birds eat grasses, insects, weeds and they looks very happy. Organic free-range chickens uses no artificial chemicals in their foods, water and drugs. They use all natural ingredient for their birds.
Growing chickens whether big or small scale requires some basic needs and good animal husbandry to be beneficial. These are shelter, food, water and drugs (vaccines, vitamins, dewormer etc.).
Chickens need shelter as a refuge for the weather/predators, to lay eggs, and to sleep. Free-range layers need nest boxes to lay their eggs. Chicks need a brooding house for them to grow. Though free-range are not confined, you need to put some fence around their ranging area. It can be garden nets or chicken wires.
Here are some housing standards for free-range chickens;
Net/fence height : 5 ft. or more
Ranging area : 2 meters/bird
No. of nests : 3 birds/nest
Feeder : 10 birds/feeder
Waterer : 10 birds/waterer (small)
Space of house : 3 birds/sq. meter
Chickens eat variety of foods while on the field. This include grasses, weeds, seeds, worms and insects. The most basic nutrients need are carbohydrates, protein and fats. Layers should have calcium rich food or supplement for the shell of their eggs. Broilers should have at least 22% crude protein in their diet for them to grow fast. You can buy ready mix food or you can make your own using soya, rice bran, corn, copra meal, fish meal etc. You can also give vegetables but you need to cut it into pieces so the chickens can eat that. Foods for broilers are ad libitum until you get the desire weight. For layers it should be 110-200 grams/day only because fat layers don't lay eggs much. More than 70% of the cost of raising chickens is for its feeds, so if you can get some freebie from nature, you can increase your margin of profit.
Here's my own home-made layer mash for layers;
4 part corn or broken rice
1.5 part rice bran
1 part crush snails (for calcium)
1.5 part copra meal
0.5. part soybean or mungbean seeds
There should always a water nearby for chickens. For free-range, all waterers should at least above the ground (chicken's shoulder level) so the chickens won't make it dirty. Vaccine, vitamins and dewormer are dissolved in water for the chickens to drink. Natural alternatives for antibiotic are FPJ (fermented plant juice) or FAA (fish amino acid) are also added in their waterers.
Here's how to make FPJ ;
1 kilo vegetables (leaves), preferably young, cut into small pieces.
1/2 kilo brown sugar or molasses
8 liters water
Mix all in one container, put in dry, dark place for seven days. You now have concentrated FPJ. Put 2 tbps. of FPJ/liter of water/week for chickens.
Always clean the house. Make a perching area so the birds won't sleep in nest boxes, they'll make it dirty. If you want some fertile eggs or want to raise chicks, put 1 rooster for every 7 hens so that all eggs are fertile. Collect eggs twice, in the morning and afternoon. Don't disturb hens while they are laying eggs.
You can start with breeds of hens that get broody when laying eggs. This hens will sit to their eggs and will hatch after 21 days. The mother hen will take care of all the needs of her chicks, just give foods and water.
Heavy layers hen like Plymount Rock don't get broody so you need to collect the eggs and put it in a artificial incubator. You also need a brooder house for your chicks
Fertile eggs have more nutrients than table eggs but the shelf life is good only for 2 weeks unlike table eggs which can last up to a month.
You can raise some fighting cocks (gamefowl breed). This is a very lucrative business, in which cocks can cost about 2000 pesos - 30000 pesos per bird ($40-$600).
Raising chickens is easy and can be very lucrative. They multiply fast, so you can start with just few of them. Grow your own food or build a big poultry as a business. Just give some love for chickens and that love will guide you.
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I also rare chickens too