Backyard poultry farming in india
Before we begging, it is important to understand the importance of backyard poultry farming on a larger scale and how much it contributes at a national level. 25% of all poultry production comes from backyard poultry farming. These farmers are small farmers with less than 50 birds and are usually managed by women or the elderly with very small land holdings and often no land holdings at all.
The backyard poultry population is expected to be a whopping 320 Million birds in 2017 and is expected to increase by 45 % at least every 3 years.
While commercial poultry farming has had its own time and set of benefits, the Indian government is expecting to increase backyard poultry farming to meet the goal of increased production of both meat and eggs over the coming years.
Benefits of Back yard farming in comparison with commercial poultry farming
- Lower Labor inputs: Backyard poultry farming requires minimal to no labor. The work involved is usually handled by one or 2. Feeding the birds are not required as backyard poultry farming birds are scavengers and find their food. A netting area and coop with sufficient water and some optional grains are provided. the water bowl is changed once a day. Weekly or twice a week, the coop is cleaned and litter is spread. Cleaning is essential to avoid diseases in the birds. This does take a bit of time but only once a week. With minimal management and care, the requirement for labor is minimal and usually does not exist.
- Lower external inputs: With minimal care, and the birds scavenging for food after the 6th week there are no external inputs required except for securing the coops in the evening and letting out the birds in the morning. Water should be provided for the birds and deworming medication is added to the drinking water at specific times. Debeaking is not required for birds that scavenge. All these factors make for lower external inputs and low maintenance.
- Optimum Output: The birds provided a set number of eggs every year and the meat is of average weight. The costs for eggs and meat are relatively higher than for commercially bred birds and their eggs. With higher than average income per bird when it comes to eggs and meat of the birds, the optimum output is often a great blessing for small farmers, providing them with additional income from time to time.
- Low Housing Costs: Unlike commercial poultry farming, the housing cost is usually very low. A coop could cost anywhere between 2000-3000 and is often custom-built by the farmer with roofing tiles and wooden structures. The makeshift coop provides bird shelter for up to 5 years with minimal maintenance even in harsh areas. A good coop could cost up to 20,000 Rs and can house up to 100 birds and is often built with metal rods and chicken net. these coops last up to 20 years or even more if well maintained. Unlike commercial housing which costs Lakhs, the coops for backyard poultry are much more reasonable for small farmers.
- Minimal Feed costs: With backyard poultry, the need to feed the birds with commercial feed is next to none. The birds scavenge their food. They meet their nutritional requirements by scavenging for worms and other foods. You may need to provide grains or other foods if you think they need more during a specific season when food is scarce naturally. In most cases, the need for external inputs like commercial food is not practiced.
- Very Low Production Cost: The cost for the production of meat and eggs are next to none. The birds scavenge for food and water is usually supplied by the farmers regularly and usually daily. Apart from water and medication, there is no cost involved at all. Yet, the average weight of the bird is attained by the time the birds are mature and they also start providing the eggs in set intervals.
- High Meat Quality: The meat quality of desi chicken is high and so is the nutritional value. The production process of these birds has a lot to do with the quality of meat and eggs. While broiler chickens are cooped and never allowed to exercise, they reach total meat production weight in less than 8 weeks. The desi breeds usually take 4 months to get the optimum weight for meat purposes, they are also well-exercised. The meat is lean and contains lower levels of cholesterol. The eggs and meat contain higher vitamins, lower fat, and more nutrition than broiler chicken. Apart from the benefits of backyard poultry, the side effects of antibiotics and other medications involved in broiler chicken production are nonexistent in Backyard poultry farming.
- Minimal Veterinary care: Apart from the initial set of vaccinations in birds, they require minimal veterinary care. Desi birds, indigenous to the area usually are very tolerant to mild diseases and have higher immunity. This means that they get less sick than the other birds grown commercially reducing cost and maintenance. A periodic vaccination for pox and common diseases is all that is required. You will most likely be free from all hassles and it’s not uncommon for homeowners to administer the vaccinations themselves with the advice of an experienced vet.
- Mostly involves small Farmers and women: unlike commercial poultry which requires more than a few staff to manage the entire unit, backyard poultry farming involves only one or 2 members of the family to manage the entire show. Most backyard poultry farming is managed by women and sometimes by the elderly who take care of the birds. The process usually only involves filling the water daily, letting the birds loose in the morning from the coop, and ensuring that the birds are secure in the coop every evening. Rarely are these birds fed but when they are fed, it’s usually just before they are to get into the coop.
- Low dependence on external agencies: When it comes to Poultry farming commercially, there is a range of dependencies. From Veterinarians to commercial food for the birds and also selling them, requires a network of people and agencies involved. When it comes to backyard poultry feeding, the dependencies are usually low. Sales are usually very nominal and happen once in a while. Most sales happen through word of the mount and from neighbors. Feed requirements are low and the only external requirement is veterinary help which can be obtained from government veterinary hospitals.
- Low competition with human foods and grains: Bird feeds are usually made out of poor-quality rice, Jowar, Bajra, and wheat among other grains. But with Backyard poultry, there is no commercial feed requirement and the only feed which is provided is what is left over in the kitchen and it makes a quick snack for the birds. There is no competition for food between humans and birds.
- Very low Risks: since the entire unit usually only has about 50-75 birds, the loss is minimal and there is no risk. Overall, the birds are tolerant to diseases, they feed themselves and the only care you provide is shelter and water. With just these two requirements, there is little investment overall, and the chances of the birds dying due to disease are also very low. In general, the backyard poultry farming business is Very low risk compared to commercial poultry farming.
The best traits of indigenous Chicken
Indigenous birds are known for their better-tasting eggs and meat. The nutritional values too are much higher in these birds which scavenge for their food. The fat-muscle ratio is balanced and the meat is thus healthier for consumption too. From the farmer’s point of view, these birds are also very resilient and can adapt better to their natural lifestyles. They are not prone to diseases easily and are highly immune to common diseases and if one occurs, they recover faster than birds that are caged like the commercial varieties.
- Superior adaptability: The problem with commercial farming is often the wide range of diseases. One chicken with a condition tends to spread to all others within days. Controlling diseases is one of the crucial parts of commercial poultry farming. With backyard farming, the chicken is of the indigenous variety. These chickens can adapt well to the weather conditions and it’s a natural environment far better than broiler chickens and the other commercial varieties. They are very immune to various diseases and can adapt well to natural conditions.
- Require lower inputs: With backyard poultry farming, the input is very less. Apart from the first few weeks of care for the chicks, the care thereafter is minimal. There is no requirement for food or feed for these birds and they scavenge for worms and grains themselves. They feed their needs and are often very healthy. A minor quantity of grains is often provided in the evening to supplement their diet if there is a need depending on the seasons.
- Exhibit broodiness: Commercially grown birds do not show prolonged broodiness, as a matter of fact, the broodiness in commercial breeds is lower to ensure higher production of eggs. This has a significant effect on the birds as the commercial varieties are unable to hatch their eggs. With native varieties of chicken, broodiness is natural and they are capable of hatching their eggs. While this may seem to be a disadvantage when it comes to egg production and the weight of the birds themselves, it is natural for birds to show broodiness after their egg cycle.
- Higher priced produce: naturally grown birds are priced higher. Backyard poultry farming is beneficial for farmers because of its high price. While the commercial varieties go for 180 Rs per kilo, the backyard-farmed birds fetch up to 250 rs per kolo in the market and sometimes even higher. The price for the birds depends on the breed. For instance, the Kadaknath chicken is known to fetch a far higher price than the Tellicherry variety. The eggs too are priced a bit higher than the commercial variety fetching a rupee or even 2 rupees more.
- Can protect themselves: the Desi birds are known to fend for themselves. While there are predators which can often be a threat to the birds, the birds can fend themselves off from eagles and other predatory birds quite well. They are instinctive and can protect their chicks from threats in most cases. Some birds are known to even protect their chicks from snakes and other pests when required. This is often not the case in commercially grown breeds where they are incapable of fending for themselves.
- Superior genes: The desi varieties of breeds are known to have better genetics. Coming from a good lineage also comes with certain characteristics. Some birds are even trained to be good fighters while others are great breeders and have their own set of qualities from great tasting meat or better eggs and some even have medicinal benefits (though no scientific evidence can be obtained)
Breeds of Indigenous Native Chicken in India
|Rooster Weight||Hen WEight||Age at first egg laying||Total eggs per year|
Among the indigenous birds the Nicobar is known to have the highest egg production and the Chittagong, Aseel and Hansli are known to have the highest weight for meat production. Unfortunately, the best birds for your region may not be the ones that have the highest egg production or body weight. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand native birds, which are native to the area are best suited for poultry production. Birds from another region may not thrive as well as those which are native. For instance, the Mewari and Ankleshwar do great in Rajasthan and Gujarat but may not do well in tropical areas like Kerala and Himachal.
Limitations of Backyard poultry farming
When it comes to poultry farming it’s all about balance. You may opt for more maintenance and higher yield or Low maintenance and a string of other issues associated with it. The birds vary in their practices. With backyard farming, the traditional birds act and behave differently to commercial varieties. The advantages of better health of the birds and higher price for the product itself is good but they do have their drawbacks. Let’s look at some of the limitations when it comes to backyard poultry farming.
- Slow Growth: when Commercial birds reach full maturity in 6 weeks and are ready for meat production, the backyard poultry birds are usually in full maturity by 4 months. To achieve full weight it may take up to 40 weeks for some variety of birds. The slow growth means more time for the farmer without revenue. This is the same for egg production too. Commercial varieties will start laying eggs in as little as 18 weeks while egg production in native varieties takes a long time, usually around 6 months.
- Low body weight: While the commercial variety of birds is fed and caged with no exercises, they gain rapid weight and achieve production weight by the end of 6th week. It is usual for commercial poultry farmers to sell out birds by the end of 8’th week and gain the target weight in birds. With Backyard poultry farming, the birds scavenge for food and are rarely supplemented by external sources. Though they feed with external feed, the weight of the birds will increase relatively slowly with birds being free and getting more exercise. Though the birds in backyard poultry are healthier and more muscular, they do not achieve the weight potential of commercial birds in their natural habitat.
- Late sexual maturity: While most Commercial varieties of egg-laying birds start laying eggs in 18 weeks, the Desi variety or the native ones will begin producing eggs only in 6 months. This has to do with the sexual maturity of the birds themselves. The birds reach sexual maturity very late compared to commercial breeds. Commercial breeds are also induced to lay more eggs faster than native varieties artificially.
- Lower egg production: Most native varieties will produce an average of 70 eggs annually. While some may only produce 50-60 there may be others that may go a bit higher at 70-80 eggs per year. In commercial varieties, it’s not uncommon to see birds laying an average of 200 eggs a year and up to 250 in some varieties if cared for. this is 3-4 times more than the native varieties. With lower egg production, there is always a lower income through eggs.
- Smaller eggs: Besides lower egg production, the eggs are small too. Most native variety eggs are at least 20% smaller in size compared to commercial varieties. Fortunately, egg prices are always higher than commercial varieties and fetch a bit more. The fact that these eggs are rich in nutrition when compared to the commercial varieties also plays a more significant role in people’s minds when they purchase native-variety eggs.
- Prolonged broodiness: one of the major drawbacks of native birds is broodiness. While broodiness is a good trait in birds especially when you expect the birds to hatch their own eggs, it may be a problem when the broodiness is prolonged and the egg-laying cycle is delayed. Also, birds with broodiness tend to eat little and lose more weight, thus not recommended for meat production. Broodiness in native birds can go up to 2 months in some cases.