Cover Image
close this bookThe Intensive Poultry Farming Industry in the Sahelian Zone (CDI, 1996, 56 p.)
Open this folder and view contents2.1. Preliminary remarks
View the document2.2. The production of broilers
Open this folder and view contents2.3. Feed manufacturing
View the document2.4. The hatchery
View the document2.5. Production of eggs for consumption
View the document2.6. The production of eggs for hatching
View the document2.7. The poultry abattoir
View the document2.8. Integration of the poultry industry
View the document2.9. The production of egg trays


The development of intensive poultry farming in the Sahelian zone does not necessarily follow the logical sequence described in the preceding outline of the poultry industry. Generally speaking, the intensification of poultry farming begins with the production of broilers, since rearing these presents fewer technical and financial constraints. In comparison with other types of poultry farm, investment in terms of buildings and equipment is lower. Intensification of poultry farming proceeds through the development of compound feeds followed by the production of day-old chicks of broiler stock from imported hatchery eggs through to the production of eggs for consumption and hatching from parent stock (broilers and layers). For obvious health reasons, it is necessary to set up small abattoirs in countries in the region, as well as production of egg trays.

2.1.1. Housing

Choice of site

An open, well-ventilated area, where the wind blows moderately but continuously. Avoid places liable to flooding. Availability of drinking water and electricity. A place accessible to motorized vehicles (feed, chicks, litter, hens, eggs, etc)

Avoid areas where there is a heavy concentration of livestock activity. If this is not possible, choose a place swept by the prevailing winds before the latter reach other farms, or an abattoir, hatchery or feed factory.

The best locations are reserved in descending order for: layer breeding stock, future laying pullets, layers, broilers.


In the Sahelian zone, poultry houses will be open and placed so that their axis is perpendicular to the prevailing winds and facing East-West. The roof will have a large overhang to prevent penetration by the rays of the sun. (See diagram).

The lay-out of the houses must be such that the winds which have swept one building cannot sweep others. The houses will be surrounded by open, preferably grassy spaces, planted with trees with nothing to obstruct the passage of the wind (hedges, mounds, other buildings and so on).

The houses will not be more than 10 metres wide in order to ensure that the poultry have the most effective natural ventilation.

The litter will preferably be composed of dried grass or waste paper, about 5 cm thick. It will be spread over a concrete screed 5-6 cm thick (see diagram). Do not forget the drainage channels under the slope of the roof to carry away run-off water in the event of heavy rain. The roof should preferably be made of white painted steel sheeting to reflect the sun's rays. Inside the building, insulation of the roof with local materials such as those used for housing will help to reduce the inside temperature by a few degrees.


Spacing between buildings: 30 to 50 m for buildings housing similar birds and a minimum of 500 m for buildings housing different birds.

Building lay-out: so that prevailing winds sweep all of them together and not one after another.

Capacity: for a building 10 m width:

1) Broilers: maximum 10 fully grown individuals per sq metre; a 30 m long house may contain 10 x 30 x 10 = 3,000 individuals 8 to 9 weeks old, which is a reasonable number for a poultryman to care for;

2) Layers (“heavies” and “middleweights”): maximum 3 individuals per sq metre; a 30 m long house may contain 3 x 30 x 10 = 900 heavies and maximum 4 individuals per sq metre for lights, i.e. 1,200 individuals per 30 m long house.

2.1.2. Environmental requirements


Hens can tolerate hot climates (25°C and over) and their productivity is barely affected in such conditions. The danger in such climates is “heatstroke” when the normal temperature increases by 5 to 10°C or more over 24 or 48 hours. In such conditions, the organism is taken unawares and cannot become acclimatized so quickly, leading to:

- Reduced feed consumption
- Increased water consumption
- Loss of productivity (growth, laying)
- Fragile eggshells (breakage)
- Increased mortality

The temperature in a poultry house is measured by placing the bulb of the thermometer at the same height as the backs of the poultry.

How to combat excess heat

There is no miracle solution, but various ways of controlling the situation can be tried:

- Distributing feed during the cool part of the day, perhaps in the evening, although in this case artificial lighting (electric or otherwise) should be provided above the feeders.

- A sufficient number of feeders and drinkers is more important than ever.

- Check that stocking density is not excessive (follow the instructions of the breed producer); if necessary reduce it by 25%.

- Water supply pipes should be buried and not placed on the ground, while water tanks must be insulated from the blazing sun by means of straw, reeds etc.

- Natural ventilation is inadequate to eliminate excess ambient heat in the buildings and supplementary electric ventilation can be very beneficial (the only drawback is energy consumption).

- Adopting high energy (using fats) and high nutritional density feed to offset the negative effects of under consumption of feed on the birds' performance.


The degree of relative humidity (RH for short, measurements of water vapour in the air) should ideally be between 55 and 75%. Below that, the air is too dry and irritates the mucous membranes. Above that level, humid air, especially in the event of extreme heat, hinders the lung function of the poultry in eliminating excess calories. Moreover, in such conditions, the litter becomes wetter due to increased water consumption by the birds and lack of evaporation, resulting in increased development of coccids in the litter and fermentation within the latter.


Ventilation consists of renewing the ambient air by bringing oxygen to the birds, eliminating deleterious gasses (carbon anhydride, ammonia, sulphur anhydride, methane, etc) as well as dust.

Ventilation must be effective but not excessive in order to avoid draughts. Air speed should be 0.2- 0.3 m/second but may reach 1 m/second if temperature is 30°C which allows the temperature perceived by the bird to be reduced by about 3°C.


In the brooder, lighting will be permanent for the first 48 hours. Subsequently, darkness must not exceed 10 hours in 24.

Laying begins earlier as the days lengthen. Conversely, it is delayed by decreasing day length. In most poultry houses in the Sahelian zone, dependence on the natural cycle of days is total and sexual maturity can only be controlled by means of rationing the feed of the pullets.

During the laying season, the period of lighting cannot be reduced as this would have a physiological effect inhibiting laying.

Readers should refer to the instructions of the breed supplier for more details on the recommended lighting programmes.


Litter must be made of absorbent materials and not be dusty, since dust irritates the birds' respiratory system, thus contributing towards the development of respiratory diseases. Materials which can be used for making litter are: wood shavings (with little sawdust), chopped straw, groundnut shells, fragments of sugar cane waste, rice husks and waste paper.

The litter must not be too thick (risk of fermentation) but adequate, 4 to 5 cm. It must be neither damp (maximum 25 to 30% water) nor dusty

In laying houses, litter must be added regularly and this may be as much as 30 to 35 cm thick at the end of the cycle.

2.1.3. Poultry farming equipment

Equipment for the brooder for 1,000 individuals

The brooder house requires: 1 gas heater for 500 to 1,000 chicks; 15 to 20 plastic starter drinkers; 15 to 20 starter feeders; 6 strips of hardboard (3 m long x 0.5 m wide); bottles of gas (8 to 10) depending on season, 2 x 60 watt lamps 2 metres high with their own reflectors. Follow the advice of your chick supplier in respect of husbandry practice during the first two weeks.

Equipment for 1,000 individuals

The height of the feeders will be set so that the upper edge of the feeder is at the level of the birds' backs. Feeders should be only one third full to prevent wastage of feed. By following this advice, the feed conversion rate may be reduced by 15%.

Equipment needed for 1,000 hens or pullets

Age of birds


Drinkers 20 L

Dual access continuous or

25 L hoppers

2-4 weeks

30 m



4-8/9 weeks

40 m



9-16 weeks

50 m



16-20 weeks

60 m



Equipment required for 500 layers

60 m



Where possible, it is desirable to adopt an automatic watering system.

Egg collectors

Allow one egg collector for 4 to 5 hens. The collectors will be placed perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the hen house 50 to 60 cm above the litter. Refer to the type of egg collector advocated by the breed supplier.

2.1.4. Biosecurity

Biosecurity refers to all the measures which must be taken to avoid any contamination of an intensive poultry farm from local farms and animals external to the farm (wild birds, rodents, etc). It makes a great contribution towards the productivity of poultry farms and those who apply the strict rules of hygiene and care for their birds know to what extent their efforts in this regard reap their just reward.

Biosecurity demands:

- Isolation of the production site.

- Wire netting over open buildings with mesh large enough to prevent the penetration of birds and large insects into the house but without obstructing the passage of the wind (ventilation).

- Not mixing birds of different ages in the same house.

- Assigning one poultryman per building, the only one authorised to enter.

- Educating staff regarding hygiene rules to be observed in the unit.

- Cleaning and disinfecting, using the cleaning and disinfection agents recommended in poultry guides and manuals, all buildings, feeders, drinkers, lamps, wire-netting and heating apparatus (brooder) and regular cleaning of vehicles.

- Using foot baths of disinfectant solution placed at the entrance of each building, dip tank for vehicle wheels at the site entrance.

- Disease-prevention interval of two weeks (minimum ten days) between batches, this being counted from the moment when the building has been completely cleaned and disinfected.

- Rapid elimination of corpses which will be incinerated.

- Houses with two doors, one at each end. One will be in the clean area (entrance for living birds and feed) and the other in the dirty area (removal of corpses and litter).

- Never going from a dirty area to a clean area without prior cleaning and disinfection.

- Carefully following a vaccination programme appropriate to the risks identified by the local veterinary services.

- Never vaccinating in the event of an outbreak of disease or even in the event of stress.

- Giving vitamin boosters after vaccination or any other stress.

Biosecurity is a form of insurance which minimizes most of the threats which permanently hang over any poultry farm at the expense of its productivity. Stress factors, briefly described in the next diagram, are obstacles to productivity due to their negative impact on the well-being of the stock.

2.1.5. Staff training

Intensive poultry farming and related industries require both skilled and unskilled staff. Skilled staff must have the necessary knowledge and aptitude to handle the many techniques specific to the activity in question: poultry farming, feed milling, hatchery, abattoir.

It is obvious that the skills of a foreman in a feed milling unit are different from those of a head poultryman. In the same way, managing a broiler breeding farm requires more qualifications and experience than a layer or broiler unit. Professional training centres for the staff needed in the industry are found in several countries. The addresses of some training centres can be found at the end of this guide. Staff training costs should not be overlooked when drawing up a poultry farming project.


2.2. The production of broilers

Production levels

- Growth (males and females)





4 weeks

750 g


1.050 kg

6 weeks

1,200 g


2.160 kg

7 weeks

1,500 g


3.000 kg

8 weeks

1,800 g


3.780 kg

9 weeks

1,950 g


4.290 kg

These values may be achieved in the Sahelian area when the ambient temperature does not exceed 25°C. Beyond that, due to reduced food consumption and increased mortality, growth is seriously reduced and the feed conversion rate greatly increased.

- Mortality: this should be under 5% but, in the event of extreme heat, may reach 10% or more.

- dressing-out percentage: this will be 75% fora chicken of 1,500 g live weight, equivalent to 1,130 g slaughtered and eviscerated, which gives about 800 g of edible meat.

- Feed represents 60 to 65% of production costs, with purchase of chicks accounting for a further 20 to 25%. Other costs relate to depreciation of buildings and equipment (4 to 6%) and about 10% miscellaneous expenses (staff, litter, heating, veterinary charges, etc).




A broiler producer wishes to produce 200 chickens per week with an average weight of 1.6 kg at 50 days. How should he go about it?

1. Calculate the number of chickens permanently on site. The duration of a cycle should be counted as follows: seven weeks growing plus two weeks disease-prevention interval between batches = 9 weeks, thus 9 houses which will be occupied at a rate of 2,000 chicks one week apart. In this way, after the 9th house is started up there will be (9 - 2) x 2,000 = 14,000 chickens permanently occupying 7 houses of which 2 will be empty for disease prevention purposes.

2. Allowing for an average mortality rate of 5%, the producer will order 2,000 + (5 x 2,000/ (100 - 5) = 2,105 day-old chicks per week from his supplier.

2.3.1. Balanced feeding

In view of the fact that feed accounts for more than 60% of poultry production costs, birds should be provided with high quality feed.

Purposes of feeding

- Covering the maintenance and production requirements of birds in energy, protein (amino acids: lysine, methionine and threonine), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium), vitamins and trace elements (iron, copper, zinc, cobalt, manganese, iodine, selenium) so as to optimize production levels at the lowest possible cost.

- The smaller the feed conversion rate (FCR), the more effective the feed.

- Balanced feeding not only makes it possible to achieve high performance in production, it also makes a great contribution to the health of the birds enabling them to better defend themselves naturally against diseases and aggression of all types, especially heat stroke.


It is always more advantageous to pay more for quality feed than to devote one's financial resources to pharmaceutical remedies to help the stock to combat diseases which they might not have contracted if they had been well nourished.

- Eliminate the causes of under-feeding as much as possible, as they reduce birds performance.

· Poultryman forgetting to fill feeders and/or drinkers.
· Inadequate numbers of feeders and/or drinkers.
· Heat stroke
· Defective environmental conditions (insufficient ventilation, excessive birds density)
· Diseases
· During vaccination.

- Do not order your feed at the last minute.

- Keep a record of the date of order, the quantity and type of feed ordered as well as the delivery date and price.

- Check that the type and quantity of feed is what you ordered.

- If you have poultry of different ages in your unit, make sure that the feed is correctly distributed, with no mix-up.

- Feeds should be kept in a safe place under cover; do not pile up new lots on old, as the latter might get out of date. The maximum storage period is two months from the date of manufacture.

- Watch out for rodents and other pests which are not only responsible for wastage but can also contaminate your unit with their droppings.

- Watch out also for theft of feed which will greatly depress your feed conversion rate and your profitability.




Buying or preparing feed

Poultry farmers have two options: either they buy feed from a local manufacturer (or dealer) or they prepare it themselves. The ideal solution is the first insofar as the farmer is able to get supplies from a manufacturer (or dealer) enjoying a reputation for quality and reliability amongst farmers.

Enquiries with a few other poultry farmers operating on a reasonably large scale will usually establish the reputation of any given manufacturer.

It can happen that the farmer has to make up feed for his birds himself, such as when there is no reliable manufacturer in the region or the manufacturer is reliable but, holding a monopoly, he sells his feed at a price the farmer considers prohibitive in relation to the cost of raw materials.

Expected Feed consumption Table





- Broiler

0-2 weeks


0.350 kg

3-4 weeks


0.850 kg

5-8 weeks


3.010 kg

Total consumption at 56 days (about 2 kg live weight)

4.210 kg

- Pullet

0-8 weeks


1.800 kg

9-20 weeks


6.100 kg

Total consumption at 20 weeks

7.900 kg

- Layers (52 week laying cycle)

· Light layer

40.000 kg

· Middleweight layer

44.000 kg

· Heavy layer breeder

50.000 kg

These figures are likely to vary depending on the composition of the feed and environmental conditions.

In practice it will be noted that to finish a broiler, 4 kg of feed and 7-9 litres of water will be required; to finish a pullet, the requirement will be 8 kg of feed and 18 to 20 litres of water; finally, a layer's intake will be about 40 kg of feed and 100 to 115 litres of water.

We should remember that manuals published by breed producers provide tables giving the average daily water and feed consumption depending on the age of the poultry. These tables are very useful for the purpose of mass medication, such treatment usually being given in drinking water over a period of several days, as advised by the vet.

Drinking water

Vital to the bird's metabolism, drinking water must be of good quality. It must meet physical, chemical and bacteriological requirements. Water distributed to poultry must be fresh and not stagnate for hours in dirty, overheated drinkers. This is why distribution of running water with the addition of a nipple system is the most effective method of supplying drinking water. Water consumption rises with ambient temperature; it may be double or triple that of feed, depending on ambient temperature.

The chemical composition of drinking water must meet standard criteria. Water may be brackish (with plenty of chlorides), sulphurous (plenty of sulphate ions), hard (plenty of calcium and magnesium ions), etc. In some cases, the animal nutritionist must bear in mind the particularities of the drinking water when considering mineral supplementation.

The water must be clean in bacteriological terms. Wells are frequently contaminated by bacterial agents of the colon bacillus, salmonella or other type coming from the underground infiltration of animal or human excreta and this can mean that some units are doomed to permanent failure simply because the drinking water is unfit for consumption.

Before setting up a poultry unit on a site supplied by one or several wells, it is advisable to have the water analyzed by a laboratory competent to conduct this type of analysis. A favourable report does not obviate the need for regular testing (perhaps once a year) to check water quality.



2.3.2. Raw materials

More than 90% of the raw materials used in manufacturing compound feed are of plant or animal origin. Amongst these are maize, sorghum, millet, wheat or rice bran, groundnut or cottonseed cake, molasses, etc. which are of vegetable origin and fish meal, meat meal, bone meal, etc. which are of animal origin.

The remaining 10% are raw materials of mineral origin (salt, limestone, calcium phosphate, trace elements) or organic origin (vitamins, methionine, lysine and other synthetic amino acids, antibiotics, coccidiostats, anti-oxidants, etc).

The main characteristic of compound feed is its relatively constant humidity (between 9 and 12% maximum) content, with the exception of molasses. The compound feed industry therefore uses so-called “dry” constituents. Fresh products with a humidity content over 15%, such as the residues of various industries; brewer's grains, brewer's or distiller's yeast, waste from the citrus extraction industry, residues of industrial tomato processing, fish or abattoir waste, etc cannot be used without prior dehydration.

It must be borne in mind that the composition of these raw materials, i.e. their nutritional content such as: protein, fat, carbohydrate, cellulose, mineral substances, etc, is essentially variable. It must be remembered that any product of biological origin will not be standard as a manufactured product might be.

The composition of maize is different from that of wheat or millet. Maize composition may vary in the same production region depending on the variety grown and, with the same variety, from one region to another, depending on climatic conditions, type of soil and subsoil, fertilizing, harvesting and storage conditions, etc.

Mention should be made of premixes and mineral/vitamin concentrate. The latter contain premixes and mineral substances such as salt, limestone and calcium phosphate, while premixes contain vitamins, trace elements, anti-oxidants and sometimes prophylactic doses of medication (antibiotics, coccidiostats) and sometimes growth factors, anti-fungal agents and synthetic amino-acids.

Depending on their composition, premixes are used in feed at doses varying between 0.25 and 2%, while vitamin/mineral concentrates are used in proportions between 2 and 5%. Each premix or vitamin/mineral concentrate pack must bear a label indicating: the date of manufacture or use-by date, the nature of the ingredients and the proportion to be used in feed. The desired results will only be obtained by keeping strictly to the proportions recommended by the supplier. Responsible suppliers will provide feed manufacturers and users with effective technical assistance (analysis, formulation, feeding programmes, husbandry advice etc).

It may be worth mentioning that very strict rules must be observed by the supplier in relation to the composition of premixes or vitamin/mineral concentrates, in terms of the nature and quantity of ingredients; there are European regulations on the subject which are constantly updated by special commissions.

2.3.3. The feed milling plant

Feed milling comprises the following phases:

Receipt of raw materials

This operation consists of receiving the raw materials in bags or bulk. Bulk materials will be stored in silos which must be cleaned before filling. Storage in silos means that the materials can be kept for a long time (several months). For shorter periods, bulk materials may be stored in hangars on the ground in the absence of storage units, avoiding waste and contamination. In tropical regions, silos must be ventilated effectively to avoid fermentation causing degradation of the stored material and even explosions.

Raw materials received in bags will be stored in clean hangars. The bags will not be put on the ground but on openwork floors; they will be piled up properly at a reasonable height in order to avoid collapses causing bursting and wastage. In order to avoid confusion, lots of raw materials will be separated by access corridors which are sufficiently wide to allow handling equipment to .pass. Each lot must bear a sign indicating its nature, origin and date of receipt.



Care will be taken to respect the “first in, first out” principle, which means using the materials in the order that they came in; keeping the raw materials away from adverse weather conditions, sun, pests etc.

Measuring out may be done before or after grinding.

This operation consists of measuring out the quantities of each ingredient according to a formula established by a nutritionist, in accordance with the nutritional requirements of the birds for which the feed is destined.

Weighing in bags is not advised: this is a slow operation with much room for error and wastage.

A metering hopper (mechanical or electronic) is a simple, reliable system enabling bags and bulk materials to be combined; errors are limited and the system is suitable for small units (maximum 5 tonnes/hour).


This operation consists of reducing coarse materials to finer fragments with the aid of a grinder. The output of a production unit is often determined by that of the grinder. The output of the grinder depends on the nature (hardness) of the raw materials to be crushed and the diameter of the perforations of the sieve.

Before grinding, cereals collected in the field must be cleaned to remove foreign grains, some of which could be harmful to the health of the stock.

Before going to the grinder, all materials must go through the magnetic separator to eliminate any ferrous elements which could damage the crusher.


This operation consists of mixing all the ingredients in the formula: meal and ground ingredients for varying periods as recommended by the supplier of the mixer. A mixture should ideally be homogeneous so that each feed intake by the birds contains all the necessary nutrients. As the size of the particles and the density of the different ingredients is far from identical, the mixing process must be long enough to make the mixture as homogenous as possible.

There are vertical and horizontal mixers. The mixing period varies from 20 to 30 minutes with a vertical mixing screw turning in a shaft; 10 to 15 minutes with a conical screw turning freely; and 5 to 10 minutes with a double action mixing screw (rotary and circular). The duration of mixing for a horizontal mixer with one or two double belt screws is from 3 to 10 minutes.

Extending the mixing period beyond the limits recommended by the builder causes demixing, i.e. the mixture becomes heterogeneous again, separating out according to the density and size of the particles.

The interior of mixers must have easy access (manhole) for regular cleaning. Premixes, vitamin/mineral concentrate and any other additives in powder form will be added directly to the mixer using a hopper designed for the purpose.

An injection of molasses (maximum 6%) or fats may be made into the mixer with appropriate equipment (tank, heater, pump, flow metre, distribution ramp).


This operation consists of weighing and bagging feed into specially designed 3 or 4 ply paper bags. For long distance transport, new jute bags are stronger. Reusing bags is proscribed for hygiene reasons (transmitting disease from one unit to another).

The feed may also be stored in silos awaiting delivery by bulk lorry. Requires weighbridge to weigh lorries before and after loading.


This operation consists of passing a mealy mixture through an extrusion plate to obtain pellets of variable diameter according to the diameter of the exit holes. Pelleting is done after mixing and requires a range of very expensive equipment (feeder hopper, conditioning tank, press, cooler).

Apart from the high initial investment (almost as much as all the other equipment of the feed factory together), pelleting involves high energy costs, skilled operators and expensive maintenance.

It does have advantages as well. It allows more homogeneous feeding of birds (no selective feeding), reduces wastage, slightly increases the digestibility of the feed, allows healthier feed to be manufactured (reducing the number of germs present) and looks more attractive to buyers.

Choice of site

Usually, choice of the site for a feed factory depends on a balance between raw material supply (areas for producing or storing cereals or cake, closeness of ports, etc) and feed outlets (poultry farming areas). Access routes (roads, railway, rivers) must be taken into consideration when choosing a site.

Production capacity

Units produce anything from 1 ton per day to 15/20 tons per hour.

In the Sahelian zone, depending on circumstances, 2 to 4 tons per hour units producing 400 to 800 tons per month seem more than adequate. Such units can be containerized and easily connected to the electricity grid.


- The production unit must be adapted to the desired objects and not the other way around. Short and medium term needs must be met (3 to 5 years).

- Depreciation of production equipment only represents a very small part of the cost price of the feed, hence the frequent error of focusing attention on the cost of the equipment alone.

- Never lose sight of the fact that the more complete and accurate the data supplied to the builder of the equipment, the more appropriate the plant will be and hence the more profitable the investment.

The choice of a manufacturing design is always a compromise between simple, robust, unsophisticated, easy maintenance equipment with which human errors are common and more sophisticated, more costly, more fragile equipment which is more delicate to maintain but with which the risk of error is almost nil.

2.3.4. Quality Control

The enormous variation in the composition of raw materials requires quality control

- on receipt of raw materials;
- on manufacture of the feed.

Quality control of raw materials received

Quality control of materials is necessary in order to calculate precisely the properties of the feed which must satisfy the nutritional requirements of the stock to ensure optimum productivity. Such control is effected by means of a laboratory with the appropriate equipment and reagents for analysis. The latter is conducted in accordance with internationally recognised methods so that the results of one laboratory may, if necessary (for instance in the event of a dispute), be checked by another; this would make no sense if the methods used were not strictly identical. There are EU regulations covering methods of analysis for animal feedstuffs.

Analytic procedures may be divided into four categories:

- Routine analysis: humidity crude protein fats, cellulose, mineral substances, insoluble in HCl.

- Conventional analysis: calcium, phosphorous, chlorides.

- Special analysis: magnesium, sodium, potassium, oxidation of fats, cell-wall components, trace elements (iron, copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, iodine), aflatoxins, gossypol, cyanides, available lysine, etc.

- Investigation tests: amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, toxins, etc.

These are in fact chemical tests requiring specific techniques in which the complexity of the equipment and the necessary skill level increase as one moves from routine to investigation tests.

This is why, in practice, a regional or sub-regional laboratory which can legitimately conduct quality control through routine analysis is a very important first step in improving feed quality. Near infra-red spectrometry is a recent technique which enables the composition of raw materials and finished products to be determined precisely in a few minutes.

As the analysis is conducted only on a sample of a few dozen grams, the latter must be representative of the lot from which it comes. This is why sampling must be conducted with care. One should preferably use a probe to take samples from various places in the lot; these will then be mixed together roughly and a sample taken for the laboratory.

The laboratory results will be sent to the nutritionist responsible for formulation, who will use them to establish the various formulas to be manufactured. Software is currently available to calculate feed formulas, bearing in mind the individual characteristics of each of the raw materials and their cost, as well as the nutritional constraints imposed by the nutritionist.






It goes without saying that this most valuable and efficient tool will not provide useful solutions unless the information provided is itself reliable, hence the necessity for continuous verification of the data used in calculating the formulas.

Quality control of manufactured feed

The manufactured feed is checked to ensure that its properties are in accordance with those calculated by the nutritionist. Manufacturing errors can thus be detected if there are inadmissible discrepancies. The manufacturer will have a record of the analyses of the manufactured feed which he can go through in the event of a dispute.

It is worth pointing out that while chemical analysis is a precious aid in manufacturing quality feed, it is no less true that it is not sufficient in itself. The appearance of the raw material also plays an important part in appreciating quality.

Sometimes, a simple visual, olfactory or organoleptic examination suffices to assess the sanitary status of a raw material (presence of weevils, cockroaches, worms, putrid or fetid smells, musty, sulphurous or rancid smells, abnormal colouring and so on are all indicators which might lead to a suspicion of defective quality).

The preliminary examinations can then be confirmed by microscopic, bacteriological or even chemical examination by a specialist external laboratory.

2.4. The hatchery

The hatchery comprises:

- An egg reception room where the eggs are placed in drawers.

- An egg storage room (see storage conditions page 33)

- A disinfection room

- An incubator (incubation period 18 days) whose capacity must be three times that of the hatcher.

- A hatching room (duration: 3 days)

- A chick packing room

- A drawer washing room

- A storage room for packing and shipping materials

- A shower, office and canteen block.

The main hatchery equipment comprises: the incubator, hatcher and ventilation system to extract polluted air.

Choice of site

The hatchery will be located close to the breeder unit for frequent harvesting and controlled storage of hatching eggs.



When the hatchery is an integral part of a breeder unit, care must be taken to locate it after the prevailing winds have swept over the breeder houses.

Production capacity

Production capacity of around 10,000 to 20,000 chicks per week is equivalent to the smallest size of industrial unit which is perfectly suitable for the markets of the Sahelian zone. Such production requires three incubators and one hatcher able to contain 12,500 to 25,000 eggs with a hatching rate of 80%.

It will be noted that up to 2 hatchings per week are possible with the same hatcher, if there are six incubators.


- For hygiene reasons, do not exceed two hatchings per week.

- Do not produce broilers and layers at the same time, as the latter, having a long biological cycle, should not be contaminated by birds with a short biological cycle.

- Prohibit all movement of staff and materials from the dirty area (hatcher) to the clean area (incubator).

- Follow the temperature and hygrometry standards required for the proper operation of the machines which have to work at a constant temperature: incubator 37/38°C and hatcher 37.4°C which requires room temperature of 23 to 25°C and relative humidity of 50 to 60%.

- With ambient temperatures which can sometimes reach 40°C, every effort must be made to lower the temperature by 16°C by: insulating roofs using local housing insulation techniques the houses (straw, reeds), producing iced water from a coldroom compressor and a copper coil placed in an insulated tank, allowing recycling of cooling water in the event of a break in water supply.

- Check the security arrangements with a 24 hour, manual reset alarm system. A generator with a permanent stock of diesel is essential.

- Installing a hatchery is a matter for a specialist. Find one who has experience of hot climates.

2.5. Production of eggs for consumption

Consumer preference in the matter of egg shell colour varies from country to country and sometimes from region to region in the same country.

In Senegal and Mauritania, white shelled eggs are preferred whereas other countries do not care about eggshell colouring (Mali, Burkina Faso).



From day-old chick to laying hen

One must never lose sight of the fact that the period (about 20 weeks) before the day-old chick starts to lay is decisive for the longevity and productivity of the pullet. One can never stress enough the importance of this pullet-rearing period, as it prepares the bird for its future laying function.

Characteristics of a good pullet

When they start to lay, pullets should:

- Be in good health

- Be of a weight approximating to that recommended by the breed supplier (adequate bodily development)

- Be immunized against the diseases to which they are likely to be exposed.


- If you rear your pullets yourself, which is highly recommended, follow carefully the advice given by your supplier of day-old chicks. Weigh your pullets regularly. Keep to the sanitary programme advised by the supplier (preventive treatment, vaccinations). Make sure that feeding is adequate to reach the weight standards laid down by the breed supplier around . 17 to 18 weeks of age.

- If you have to buy pullets which are ready to lay, choose a reliable supplier with a good reputation in the profession. Place your order when he is starting off a batch of day-old chicks. In this way, you will know the real age of your pullets when they take their place in your hen house. Check on delivery that their weight corresponds to the standard recommended by the breed producer.

- If the weight of the pullets is lower than that recommended by the breed supplier when they start to lay, which most often happens in the Sahelian zone, one can never obtain a very high laying peak as the hen is still immature and the food ingested at the beginning of egg-laying will serve to cover growth requirements at the expense of egg production. This negative effect on productivity is compounded by the risk of oviduct reversal (prolapse) with increased mortality and loss of profit.

- Specialists in poultry farming estimate that 85% of the success of a farm is acquired when the birds reach the age of 17 to 18 weeks.

- Egg collection: three times per day minimum.



Production levels



laying %



90 et +

Very good


85 0



80 5



75 0

Generally speaking, peak laying occurs between the 28th and 32nd week of age and the higher and more sustained the laying peak, the greater total productivity will be.


This should not exceed 10% during the pullet rearing period, including the elimination of pullets which do not meet the standard.

It should not exceed 0.5-1% per month during the laying cycle (52 weeks) in relation to the number of hens which have begun to lay.


Purchase of pullets

A producer of eggs for consumption wishes to sell an average of 4,000 eggs per week. What quantity of pullets should he order?

Let us assume production of 270 eggs/hen/year over a laying cycle of 52 weeks and monthly mortality of 0.7%.

1. Calculation of the production of one hen per week: 270/52 = 5 eggs per week.
2. The number of hens needed is therefore 4,000/5 = 800 hens.
3. Estimated total mortality is 0.7% x 12 = 8.4%.
4. The number of pullets to start laying is 800 + (8.4 x 800)/(100-8.4), i.e. 874 pullets

Production of pullets

How many day-old chicks must be purchased to raise 1,000 pullets over 20 weeks if mortality during the rearing phase is 10%, including pullets to be eliminated from the flock?

As the chicks have been sexed: the producer will theoretically only sell female chicks; in this case, you have to order 1,000 + (10 x 1,000)/(100- 10) i.e. about 1,110 day-old chicks.

2.6. The production of eggs for hatching

The production of eggs for hatching is a matter for breeders (parent stock).

The eggs supplied to the hatchery are of two types:

- Eggs from heavy breeds whose chicks, male and female, are destined for the production of broilers.

- Eggs from light and middle weight breeds whose female chicks (pullets) are reared to the age of 20 weeks to become hens producing eggs for consumption.

It should be noted that a breeder of broilers or egg layers is looking for high-yielding birds (growth, laying rate) with as low as possible a consumption index. A producer of breeding hens must also be concerned with the acclimatization and reproduction (fertility, hatching rate) capacity of the breed in Sahelian environmental conditions.

For example, in Europe, the production of broilers is currently dominated by the demand for well-developed pectoral muscles from the abattoirs which cut up the carcasses. This leads to the selection of very heavy type breeds and the management of the parent stock is a very delicate operation.

Choice of broiler parent stock

There are many breeds whose performance (growth, consumption index, carcass quality) is about the same. These are very heavy breeds which can be difficult to raise in Africa (laying rate, male fertility, hatchability) if husbandry and feeding conditions are not perfect. Amongst these breeds we may mention: Cobb, Hybro G, Ross.

This is why selective breeders suggest breeds which are less high-yielding but also less delicate and more suitable for the Sahelian environment: Arbor Acres, Hybro N, Shaver, Vedette.

Ask the breed producers about the strength and weaknesses of their products. It is recommended that producers of parent stock should work with two or more breeds at the same time and spread their orders of parent stock over the year.

Choice of layer parent stock

Light layers are characterized by: white shelled eggs - adult body weight of about 2 kilos - high laying performance - low feed consumption (110-115 g per day) - sensitivity to feeding balance and environmental conditions. The producer of light breeding stock will look for breeds in which the sexes are clearly distinguished (difference in the arrangement of wing feathers in males and females), as the cost of sexing by experienced chick-sexers is very high. Such breeds include Babcock 300 Isa - Lohmann SL - HyLine W77.

Light layers mature earlier than middleweights, but at the beginning of laying, their eggs are smaller.

Middleweight layers are characterized by: brown shelled eggs - adult body weight of 2.3 kilos - laying performance slightly below that of light breeds -feed consumption of 120 -125 g per day - a slightly higher degree of hardiness than light breeds - visible differences between the sexes. Types of breed: Isa Brown - Lohmann Brown - Hisex Brown - HyLine Brown.








Eggs for hatching must:

- Be harvested at least four times per day.

- Be clean, possibly brushed with a soft brush.

- Weigh more than 50 g (this weight is usually obtained when the hens reach about 28 weeks of age).

- Be stored under specific conditions: optimum temperature 12°C (between 10 and 15°C) -relative humidity: 70 to 85% - duration of storage varying depending on breed, with an average loss of hatchability of 1 to 1.4% per day of storage.

Heavy breeds: maximum one week's storage

Light and middleweight breeds: hatchability is slightly reduced in the first weeks of storage, more in the second and by 15% in the third week.


- Scrupulously follow the feeding and management instructions in the manual for the breeding question.

- Points to watch

· rearing weight of pullets and cockerel chicks
· weight at 5% laying (optimum age 24 weeks) of layers and cockerels
· homogeneousness of the lots

Production levels

- Normal period: 125-140 eggs per laying hen
- Very hot period: 110 eggs per laying hen
- The hatchability of the eggs is around 80% when the hen is 28 weeks of age, reaches 88% around the 40th week and slowly decreases to reach 70% around the 70th week. This data is valid at normal ambient temperatures. It must be borne in mind that at temperatures over 25°C, the fertility of the cockerels decreases sharply as the temperature rises.

The production of heavy breeding stock is 170 eggs per laying hen, of which 160 are sent for hatching, supplying 135 day-old chicks per laying hen, in European conditions.

Poultry farming specialists estimate that in good conditions in Africa, the target should be 112 (between 110 and 115) day-old chicks per laying hen or 140 hatching eggs per laying hen (hatchability 80%).


A hatchery owner has to supply 6,000 day-old chicks per week. He must therefore place 6,000/ 0.8 = 7,500 eggs per week in incubation.

How many breeding hens will he need to supply these 7,500 eggs per week? Rearing of breeding stock must start with 6,000/112 i.e. 54 hens per week, i.e. for a laying season of 42 weeks: 42 x 54 = 2,270 hens.

Qualities of a good chick

It should be remembered that the qualities of a chick are above all a reflection on the quality of the parent stock and the hatchery which produced it. These qualities are in practice more important than the breed itself. Hatcheries usually supply 2% additional chicks free to compensate for losses during transport which should not last more than 30 hours.

One-day-old chicks should weigh at least 35g (below this, mortality rates are high); they should be healthy and vigorous and should have no deformity of the beak or feet.

2.7. The poultry abattoir

A poultry slaughterhouse includes:

- A reception room for live animals (chickens, spent hens, etc)

- A slaughter room equipped with stunner, bleeding funnels, scalding tank, plucker, finishing rack (evisceration), trolleys.

- A storage (coldrooms), packing and shipment room.

Various other utensils are required: knives and scissors for sticking and bleeding, shackles, knife sharpeners, small utensils for evisceration, plastic crates for transporting the birds, cleaning equipment.

Choice of site

The supply of clean water should be guaranteed.

It should be located in a poultry production area (chickens, spent hens) so that live animals do not have to be transported over long distances. Refrigerated vehicles will be used to transport fresh produce over long distances. Access should be easy. The location should be such that once the prevailing winds have swept over it, they do not then reach the poultry houses.

Production capacity

Slaughter may be manual (units handling 50 to 80 chickens per hour) or semi-automatic handling 250 to 500 chickens per hour or automated, producing 5,000 chickens per hour. In the Sahelian zone, manual or semi-automatic abattoirs with a low throughput are advisable.

It should be noted that a poultry abattoir consumes about 1.2 to 1.5 litres of clean water per chicken per hour, i.e. 300 to 375 litres per hour for an hourly production of 250 chickens.

The abattoir will not slaughter birds for more than 4 to 5 hours per day, the remaining time being needed to clean and disinfect the utensils and rooms and to organize the work.

Capacity of coldrooms

Ready-to-roast chickens weighing about 1.2 kilos: about 200 kilos/sq m/m height

Boned chicken flesh: about 250 kilos/sq m/m height.

With these dimensions, the ground area includes the space set aside for storage and for access. It is advisable not to store in piles higher than 4 m.



Maximum duration of storage in coldrooms (temperature 2-4°C):

- drawn chicken (intestines extracted) 72 hours;
- eviscerated chicken (intestines, crop, gizzard, oesophagus, head and feet removed): 7 days.

The best deep-freezing technique is the quick method reaching -40°C which allows the product to be stored for several months at a temperature of -20-25°C provided that the cold chain is not broken. Arrange for a back-up generator.

Recovering slaughterhouse waste

When properly processed and dried, slaughterhouse waste, feathers, blood, heads and feet, lights) can be reused for animal feed, but processing equipment is only available for large industrial units. Moreover, these processing plants consume an enormous amount of thermic energy. It is estimated that daily waste production must reach 1 ton per day to justify a plant to process feathers, which must be hydrolysed under controlled pressure, and waste to be converted into poultry by-product meal.

2.8. Integration of the poultry industry

Poultry production is a risky operation, dependent on supply and demand.

Demand is determined by the number of potential consumers, their purchasing power and their propensity to purchase the products of the poultry industry rather than fish or other animal products.

Supply has to cover production, transport and distribution costs. In comparison with the producer's margin, those of the wholesaler and retailer are sometimes double. Nevertheless, the price paid by consumers must be sufficiently attractive to encourage them to consume this product rather than another and stimulate them to consume more and, on the other hand, be sufficiently lucrative for producers to encourage them to produce.

Price fluctuations, which are often seasonal but sometimes unpredictable, resulting from the imbalance of supply and demand, can cause the market to collapse which is potentially fatal for small producers. On the other hand, the converse can happen: if demand is very strong (religious festivals, New Year, holiday periods, etc), prices can go up to the detriment of the consumer.

The partial or total vertical integration of the industry is an effective way of modulating the effects of considerable fluctuations in the market for poultry products, providing the producer and consumer with constant prices.

The most classic type of vertical integration brings together the farmer, feed producer and hatchery owner. The latter two guarantee to the first a contractually-determined price for chicks and feed. The farmer brings into the balance his knowhow and buildings and establishes his operating costs in advance. On the basis of this data, the contracting parties share the profits or losses after the sale of the birds or eggs.

This type of integration is not appreciated by all farmers. Many of them, often the best, prefer to retain a degree of freedom of action in relation to their suppliers, accepting the drawbacks of autonomy.

The poultry industry lends itself perfectly to total integration from the breeding of parent stock to the distribution of fresh or deep-frozen products and sometimes beyond (fast food outlets, restaurants, hotel chains, etc) through poultry and egg by-products (delicatessen products, soups, ready-prepared meals, etc). Overall control is usually exercised by a company which hold all decision-making power at each stage of the production and marketing process. Such integrated operations have production, marketing and advertising capacity (branded products, seal of quality) commensurate with the market share they covet.

Grouping poultry farmers together in a co-operative is a form of horizontal integration which makes it possible to influence the main production costs by exerting pressure on the feed manufacturer, hatchery owner and abattoir. Downstream, the co-operative can conclude important deals, at prices set in advance, in poultry and eggs with supermarkets, local authorities, restaurants, etc. thus short-circuiting the traditional distribution network (wholesaler/retailer).

There are some co-operatives which have achieved almost total vertical integration of all stages of production, selling their products under their own label.

2.9. The production of egg trays

The production of egg trays, although important in terms of transporting and packing eggs, should not be seen exclusively in relation to intensive poultry farming. It should be pointed out that re-using egg trays, a very common procedure in Sahelian regions, must be banned, as it is a vector of certain contamination for poultry farms.

Local production of egg trays from recycled paper should make it possible to reduce the unit cost and encourage one-off use, which would be beneficial for all farms in terms of disease prevention.

The smallest egg tray production units produce 360 trays holding 30 eggs per hour, but there are some which produce 1,200 trays per hour. A 30-egg tray weighs about 60 g and requires 70 to 75 g of recycled paper and 150/200 g of water to manufacture. In Africa, drying can be done in the open air, thus avoiding the investment and running costs needed for an industrial dryer.

We think that the production of egg trays should be part of a project to manufacture special packaging such as fruit trays, seeding pots, platters for ready-to-roast chicken and meat in general, which can afford the quite considerable investment in the necessary equipment.