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close this bookPractical Poultry Raising (Peace Corps, 1981, 225 p.)
close this folder6. Housing and equipment
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentFree - range
View the documentContained, with limited range
View the documentContained systems
View the documentBuilding a chicken house
View the documentMaking wire cages
View the documentUse of cages
View the documentEquipment

Contained systems

Contained systems allow the farmer more control over diseases and feed, and provide protection to the birds against predators. These systems vary from makeshift cages in the corner of a veranda or porch to fully automated batteries of thousands of birds. This manual concentrates on those of smaller scope, but the principles are the same no matter how large the project. Basically, there are three kinds of contained systems.

Deep - litter

Properly managed deep - litter systems provide excellent environments for the improved breeds and yield valuable fertilizer as well.


· Deep litter is a good insulation. It protects chickens from cold weather, and during hot seasons they can nestle into it and reach the cool floor below.

· Studies show that when all other factors are equal, layers produce more eggs on deep litter than in cage systems.

· Chickens can be brooded and kept through their productive lives in the same house.

· Deep litter allows the bird to dust itself against lice and other parasites.

· When a production cycle of 100 layers is finished, the litter and manure combination will be enough to fertilize a 0.4 hectare (ha) (1 acre) area of rice, wheat or other cereal grain, or 0.2 ha (1/2 acre) of intensively cultivated vegetables. (Note: Do not apply manure directly to growing crops - its high nitrogen content will harm them.)

· Deep litter is an improved system which is readily adaptable to traditional night shelters used in many village situations.

· The chicken, by nature, scratches and pecks in the litter, reingesting wasted and undigested food. In this process, some of the feed is recovered. At the time, the chicken picks up enzymes which are believed to reduce the chance of "gizzard erosion", a problem which rarely occurs when chickens are kept using the deeplitter system. Also, fatty liver syndrome is less likely in floor birds.


· There is a greater chance of worm and tick infestation and coccidiosis (internal protozan parasites) than with cages or raised floor systems.

· The deep - litter system is inappropriate for very humid areas (80 - 90% humidity) damp litter spreads diseases.

· The litter must be turned often, particularly in damp weather, and this requires more labor than other contained systems.

· Sometimes adequate litter is difficult to obtain.

Recommendation - Deep litter is recommended for both meat birds and layers.

Raised Floor

Floors, raised to about 1 m (3 ft.) above the ground, are made of wooden slats, wire mesh or expanded metal. The chicken droppings should be collected frequently from under the house and composted.


· In very humid climates, this is a healthier system for chickens than is deep litter, because disease transmission through fecal matter is minimal.

· This system often is better suited for a few birds than is deep litter.

· In some areas, it costs less to build a raised - floor house than a deep - litter house.


· Young chicks cannot be brooded well in these houses. Since the floor is not insulated, it is difficult to maintain the high temperatures the chicks need, and walking on such floors is very difficult for chicks. Thus, a separate brooder house is needed.

· These systems are unsuitable for hot, dry climates because the floors heat up, unless they are built near shade trees. They also are unsuitable for use in cold seasons due to their lack of insulation.

· Unless the droppings are well managed, they can attract flies and cause objectionable smells. Their value as fertilizer also is reduced.

· Egg production probably will be lower than with deep litter. Recommendation - Use in humid areas, where litter material is not available and where construction costs are lower than for deep litter. Also recommended for both meat breeds and layers.


Cages allow the maximum in control. They can be used for any number of birds, and construction costs can be geared to the desired size of the flock. Advantages:

· Cages can be placed under existing roofs; thus, a special building may not be required.


· With cages more birds can be kept in a building than on deep litter.
· Less labor per bird is needed than with other systems.
· Poor layers can be identified immediately and culled, thus saving feed.
· Problems with parasites, particularly ticks, are reduced, but nutrition may be a problem.
· When properly constructed, cages can last many years.
· Fewer disease problems are caused by transmission through fecal matter.
· Cages are a cheaper investment in the long run due to ease in care and feeding of the birds.


· Cages are hard to construct properly.
· They involve very high initial investment per bird.
· There must be constant and excellent ventilation.
· There are more broken eggs than with deep litter.
· The feed must contain all necessary vitamins and minerals needed by birds.

Recommendation - Cages are good for climates with high humidity, where labor costs are high, and when a farmer wants to keep a large flock of layers. Where ticks are a problem, cages are especially advantageous. Cages are recommended for layers, but not generally used for meat birds.