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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

Building a chicken house

A good chicken house, no matter what its size or which materials are used for it, has certain essential features. These essentials, discussed further below, include a water - tight roof, good ventilation with no cold drafts, internal surfaces that are easy to clean, adequate floor space for the number of birds contained, ratproof floors and walls and a wellchosen location.

Some sample chicken house designs are given in Appendix A (p. 175). The Peace Corps' Manual Number 6, Self - Help Construction of OneStory Buildings, (available through ICE - see inside front cover), offers information on general construction principles. If you will be building a chicken house, try first to build a model out of paper or cardboard. General considerations in building a chicken house are given below.


Sometimes there is no choice of where to put a chicken house. If there is a choice, features of a good site are:

· Well - drained land not subject to flooding. This is especially important for deeplitter systems.

· Within sight of the farmer's home, but far enough away from other buildings to allow for good ventilation.

· Near a source of clean water.

· In areas of high winds, the site should be protected by a hill, stand of trees or other windbreak. Otherwise, a solid wall facing the prevailing monsoon or rain direction may be better.

· Well away from other chicken houses to reduce the spread of disease. An absolute minimum of space between houses is 10 m (32 ft.), but the more, the better.

· In hot climates, placing the house under tall shade or crop trees, such as coconuts, will protect it from the sun. Bushy trees that block ventilation won't do.

· Away from roads, work areas, and other noisy places to reduce stress caused by disturbances.

Floor Space Requirements

A crowded chicken is an unhappy, unproductive chicken prone to peck other chickens, sometimes so severely that they die. Putting too many birds in a confined space is a false economy.

Below are recommendations on space requirements. Large layer breeds will need somewhat more space than small ones. More space will be needed in very hot and/or humid climates. Some farmers have experimented with crowding chickens purposely to reduce their perbird investment in housing and equipment. They have reduced the space per bird to as little as 930 sq. centimeters (1 sq. ft.), but usually have found that providing less than 2,25Q sq. cm (2 - 1/2 sq. ft.) per bird, even with sophisticated ventilating equipment, is unprofitable.

A common sign of overcrowding is when the birds begin pecking each other. The only practical remedies available to small farmers are to provide more space, which may be difficult, reduce the size of the flock or debeak the chickens (see page 77).

Meat breeds - Space requirements should be based on the maximum size the flock may attain with good care and good luck. If 110 chicks are purchased, ten probably will die during the 8 - to 12 - week growing period. One hundred ready - for - market birds need 14 sq. m (150 sq. ft.). If they are kept beyond 12 weeks, they will need more space - at least 28 sq.m (300 sq. ft.) by 14 weeks, but they should be sold before this age.

Layers - Because they will be kept longer than meat birds, start with 115 sexed chicks for every 100 layers desired. Average space requirements for small breeds of layers (White Leghorns, for example) are given in the table on the following page. Under good management, 0.225 sq. m (2.5 sq. ft.) per lighter breed layer is sufficient, and this is recommended for more experienced farmers using a deep - litter system. On slatted floor systems, 0.18 sq. m (2.0 sq. ft.) is sufficient space per adult bird. A space of 27 sq. m (300 sq. ft.) should be enough for 100 layers throughout their life, and enough for 200 broilers up to the age of12 weeks. Note: This is living space needed. It does not include space occupied by feeders, waterers and other equipment.


Space Requirements for Chickens on Deep Litter

Dual - purpose breeds - Space requirements for dual - purpose breeds are the same as for meat birds until the males are sold. After that, use the recommendations for layers.


Chickens need more fresh air per unit of body weight than any other livestock. In addition to stale air, they exhale or excrete large amounts of moisture, up to 0.37 liter (3/4 pint) per bird each day. High humidity in a chicken house encourages the spread of disease, so good ventilation is important. Electrical fan systems are needed for wide or densely populated houses. Natural air circulation or gravity systems (natural circulation assisted by flues) should not be used for houses wider than 9 m (30 ft.). In hot, humid climates, many large windows or screened openings are needed. They should not be blocked by brush or nearby buildings.

most useful, methods and tools described are based either on a majority opinion or upon the experience of the author.

Because this manual gives general instructions on poultry production, some recommendations and suggestions will not be relevant to every development worker's situation. Poultry workers will need to adapt methods and tools to their own specific needs. We would appreciate, therefore, your comments, corrections and suggestions for future editions of this manual. What information was the most useful? What was not covered that would be useful in revised editions? How did you use this manual? What was irrelevant or not useful? Please make comments and let us know how this manual helped you in poultry production.

is too expensive, and in hot climates it should be covered by thick thatch or other insulation. It is easily cleaned, an important advantage where ticks are a problem.

· Tile - Although usually more expensive than thatch, sun - baked tile will last much longer. Because of its weight, the framing for a tile roof must be stronger than for other materials.


Window design depends on local climate. Chickens need more fresh air than humans, but should be sheltered from wind, dust and rain. Prevailing strong winds should be controlled. During storms, windows on the windward side of the house can be covered by hinged, permanent shutters, burlap bags, straw or bamboo mats, etc. In humid climates, window design should take as much advantage of the sun as possible to reduce the amount of moisture in the house, but the chickens should have some shade at all times.

Window areas are best covered by wire mesh or expanded metal. Bamboo or wooden slats can be used, but this will reduce ventilation. In the end walls of gable buildings, a ventilation hole should be located near the roof peak.

Gable Chicken House

DoorWhether made of metal, wood or bamboo, and whether solid or of wire mesh in the top half, the door should be sturdy enough to be opened and closed more than 1,000 times a year.Deep-litter FloorsThe ideal floor for a deep-litter house is a concrete one designed for good drainage with heavy wire mesh imbedded in it to keep rats out. This, of course, is expensive. Strong bricks or large, flat stones can be used,but are harder to clean. Many small farmers are limited to clay floors.Deep-litter floors should be built in a well-drained area. If possible, put down a layer of heavy gravel or wire mesh first to keep rats out. Turn the edges of the mesh up about 25 cm (1 ft.) to join the walls. The floor should be about 15 cm (6 in.) higher than the surrounding ground and slope slightly from the center to the sides fordrainage. Pack it by tamping until it is firm and very smooth so that water can't collect in holes. If possible, cover it with a 5 cm (2 in.) layer of cement. Otherwise, a fresh layer of clay should be applied between flocks. In order to reduce disease problems, the floor of a poultry house must be constructed such that thorough cleaning is possible between flocks or batches of chickens. Disinfectant Dip -- An optional but highly recommended part of a deep-litter house is a shallow, water-tight basin set flush with the door sill and filled with disinfectant. A disinfectant dip has several advantages. First, it helps reduce the transmission of disease-carrying dirt. Second, and just as important, it is a daily reminder to the farmer of the importance of sanitation. It is especially important where barefoot farmers, or those who do not have spare pairs of shoes for each chicken house, visit more than one such house each day. The dip can be formed with mud or clay and lined with concrete or a sheet metal tray. In some cases it may be better to construct a shallow basin - like dip instead. A basin - like dip should be no more than 1/2 inch deep with a large center area. This has advantages over a deeper dip because the disinfectant solution and the accumulated dirt can be swept out. People also are more likely to walk through a shallow dip than a deep one.

Cement - lined Disinfectant Dip - The dip should be large enough so that it is difficult to avoid stepping into.

Raised Floors

Again, local practicalities will influence selection of materials and design. Pillars that are not rot resistant should have stone or concrete footings. Pillars may be made of wood, bamboo, oil drums, concrete blocks, etc.

Floors should be about 1 m (3 ft.) above the ground - lower floors are difficult to clean under; higher ones result in an unsteady building. Floor joists, depending on their strength, are spaced 1 to 2 m (3 to 6 ft.) apart. The floor can be:

· Wire mesh - The wire should be strong or "heavy gauge", as large in diameter as a standard pencil lead, if possible. The maximum space between wire in at least one direction should be 2.5 cm (1 in.).

· Slats - Made of either wood or bamboo, slats should be 2.5 cm (1 in.) at the top and slightly tapered downward. They should be set 2.5 cm (1 in.) apart.

Slatted Floors

· Expanded metal - Expanded metal, although expensive, is extremely durable. It should meet the same requirements as wire mesh (above).