Livestock management is the rearing of animals and birds in a farm.

Poultry refers to group of birds reared for food and other purposes. These include domestic fowl, turkey, goose, guinea fowl and duck. These birds are reared mainly for meat, egg and manure. They are non-ruminants.


Terms Used in Poultry

  1. Cock – male fowl above one year of age.
  2. Cockerel – male fowl below one year of age.
  3. Hen – female fowl above one year of age.
  4. Pullet – female fowl below one year of age.
  5. Chick – A young fowl (0-6 weeks old).
  6. Capon – A castrated male fowl.
  7. Caponization – Process of castration in fowl.
  8. Treading – Act of mating in fowl.
  9. Grower – fowl between 7-19 weeks of age.
  10. Layer – female fowl over 20 weeks of age that can lay eggs.
  11. Broiler – fowl reared for meat.
  12. Clutch – A group of young chicks.
  13. Flock – A group of fowls.
  14. Chicken – meat of fowl.


Breeds of Domestic Fowl

The various species of fowls may have had a common ancestor, the primitive fowl called gallus. The various breeds of fowls can be classified into three main groups:

  • egg producers e.g white leghorn, brown leghorn.
  • the meat producers (broilers), e.g. Sussex, Cornish, and Cochin.
  • the dual purpose ones (i.e. both meat and egg producers), e.g ., Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, and New Hampshire.


Summary of Breed of Fowl

  • White leghorn – best egg producer.
  • Brown leghorn – egg producer.
  • Barred Plymouth rock – egg and meat producer.
  • Astrawp – egg and meat producer.
  • Rhode Island Red – egg and meat producer.
  • Plymouth Rock – egg and meat producer.
  • New Hampshire – egg and meat producer.
  • Sussex – good meat producer.
  • Cornish – good meat producer.
  • Cochin – good meat producer.


Poultry Equipment and their Main Uses

  1. Folus – for housing poultry birds housing of mainly layers.
  2. Battery cage – housing of mainly layers.
  3. Debeakers – reducing beak lengths.
  4. Incubator – hatching fertile eggs.
  5. Candler – detecting unfertile eggs.
  6. Buckets – fetching water.
  7. Feeders/hoppers – feeding birds.
  8. Drinkers – provision of water
  9. Hypodermic syringe /Needle – injecting birds.
  10. Nesting box – for egg laying.
  11. Creep feed coop and run – housing a brooding hen.
  12. Brooder – provision of warmth for chicks
  13. Mash box – feeding young chicken.
  14. Egg trays/crates /storing eggs – collection of eggs.
  15. Roost/perch – for resting and sleeping upon by birds
  16. Broom – to sweep off waste.
  17. Shovel – to remove poultry waste.
  18. Wheel barrow – carrying feed or waste.


System of Poultry Management

The system of management defines the extent to which birds are exposed to sunshine, pasture and also housing pattern. There are three systems of poultry management. These are extensive, semi-intensive and intensive systems.


a) Extensive System: Under this system, the domestic fowls are allowed to roam about in search of food and water. There are no proper housing, care and feeding for these birds. Unlimited grassland is available to the birds. The capital investment is small and the birds population per hectare of land is minimal and production is usually very low. The use of technology is also limited. Example of the extensive system of rearing poultry is the Free range system.

Free Range System: Under the free range system, birds are allowed free access to a range of grassland. The birds are allowed to run freely over a large fenced area where they experience nearly natural conditions. The birds are confined in a hut or a shed at night and are allowed to roam within the fenced area during the day. During unfavourable weather conditions, the birds find shelter under trees, bushes or hedges within the range while some run to the range shed or hut to take cover.



Advantages of the Free Range/ Extensive System

  1. Initial capital requirement is small.
  2. The labour involved is also very small.
  3. It is most suitable for the management of breeding stock.
  4. It minimises the incidence of ectoparasites.
  5. Fowls get vitamins and minerals from the grasses they feed on, thereby promoting resistance to diseases.


Disadvantages of the Free Range/ Extensive System

  1. There is lack of land because it requires large area and therefore not good for commercial purposes.
  2. It also requires large labour force to collect eggs.
  3. It exposes the birds to extreme weather conditions.
  4. Economic losses through predators, thieves and laying of eggs in the bush.
  5. When badly managed, it may result in the accumulation of germs and parasites.


b) Semi-intensive System: The semi-intensive system is mid-way between intensive and extensive system. The birds are housed in a fixed building but are allowed to move about within a fenced area during the day. Their buildings are made up of wood and are raised above the ground with wire netting on the floor to permit easy dropping of faeces. A good example of the semi-intensive system is the fold unit system.


Advantages of the Fold unit/Semi-intensive System

  1. The birds have access to natural vegetation which provides vitamins and minerals.
  2. There is protection against adverse weather conditions.
  3. Labour is not needed for locking up the birds at night.
  4. The birds are safe from the attack of wild animals.
  5. The birds are kept in small groups and culling is made easier.
  6. The outbreak of any infectious disease is easier to isolate and handle.
  7. The system is useful for all ages and all kinds of birds.


Disadvantages of the Fold unit/Semi-intensive system

  1. There is a high cost per house when compared with the range system.
  2. It leads to low egg production.
  3. It also leads to high cost of feeding the birds.
  4. Labour requirement is significant with the daily moving of the folds. More labour is required to water and feed small units of poultry.
  5. Vices such as feather picking, egg eating and cannibalism may occur.


c) Intensive System: Under this system, the birds are confined within the building and are not allowed to move out. It prevents the birds from having access to pasture and sunshine. There is high stocking density which implies a closer contact among the birds. Feeds, water and all medications are provided for the birds. Two examples of the intensive system of poultry management are:

  • Deep Litter System.
  • Battery Cage System.


Deep Litter System

Features of a Poultry Deep Litter House

  1. The floor of the house is made of concrete.
  2. The walls are made of sandcrete, mud, zinc or wood, and usually about 60cm – 90 cm high.
  3. The roof is made of asbestos sheets, corrugated iron sheets or it is thatched.
  4. The space between walls and roof is covered with wire-nettings for good ventilation.
  5. The floor is uniformly covered with woodshavings to serve as litter for absorbing poultry droppings.
  6. Poultry set such as feeding and drinking troughs are placed in convenient places inside the pen.
  7. Such equipment may be placed on the floor for the young chicks and on raised platforms or hung from the roofs for the older birds.
  8. The number of birds housed depends on the size of the house and the age of the birds. Usually, three adult birds to Im of floor space.
  9. The direction of wind and sunshine is normally considered when siting the deep-litter house (east-west direction).
  10. Disinfectant bath or foot dips are usually provided at the entrance of the house to prevent introduction of disease pathogens by visitors.
  11. Litter is normally changed periodically as occasions demand to prevent disease build-up.
  12. The house may be partitioned into pens to house different age groups for convenience of management and avoidance of disease spread.
  13. Laying nests are adequately provided.
  14. Gutter with insecticide – treated water around the house are provided to prevent the attack of soldier ants.


Apart from woodshavings, other suitable litter materials include crushed cobs of maize (after removing the grains), crushed dry kenaf stems and peanut shells. Saw-dust must never be used as litter material because of certain disadvantages such as:

  1. Due to its fineness, it is not durable as litter material.
  2. The birds inhale the dust which creates chest congestion, leading to respiratory problems.
  3. Saw-dust cakes up easily.
  4. It habours more bacteria than other systems.
  5. It also contains more foreign bodies like nails, etc than other systems.


Advantages of the Deep Litter System

  1. It increases efficiency in poultry management.
  2. It facilitates the management of very large flock.
  3. It maximises the use of land.
  4. It increases the rate of growth and production.
  5. It maximises the use of labour.
  6. It reduces the loss of eggs to vermins, snakes and thieves.
  7. Birds are protected from harsh weather conditions.
  8. It facilitates the ease of identification of sick birds.


Disadvantages of the Deep Litter System

  1. The cost of construction of deep litter house is high.
  2. It requires a large quantity of litter which adds to the cost of production.
  3. There is wastage of feed by birds.
  4. Cannibalism and pecking of eggs are common.
  5. There is high spreading rate of disease and parasite.
  6. The litter makes eggs dirty.
  7. It is difficult to detect unproductive birds.
  8. It is very difficult to catch birds on deep litter system.


The Battery Cage System

In the cage system, the birds are housed in individual cages, each accommodating a limited number of birds, mostly one or two. This individual cage compartment is the basic component unit of the cage system and it is essentially a laying nest with a sloping floor, feed and water troughs.

It is constructed to permit ventilation from all sides. Usually the sides, top and floor are constructed with heavy galvanised iron.

The cages vary in their degree of automation. On the one hand, all operations may have to be performed manually, while at the other extreme, practically all the various operations, including manure removal may be automated.

The poultry droppings fall into a pit (a shallow duct) and are cleaned off with a mechanical scrapper. Under skilled management, the battery system of housing has proved to be the best in regard to egg production, efficiency of food conversion and reduction in mortality.



Advantages of the Battery Cage System

  1. This system is used as a labour-saving device.
  2. There is less trouble from parasitic diseases such as worms and coccidiosis because the birds do not come in contact with their droppings.
  3. There is a drop in feed consumption of about 2.5kg per bird during laying period. Less feed is needed because the birds have less exercise and a more constant temperature.
  4. It saves space as the batteries are set up in tiers.
  5. It provides the best opportunity for close individual supervision so that the capabilities and productiveness of each bird can be ascertained.
  6. Selection is made easier during culling. The birds are directly within view and reach.
  7. The poultry house is less noisy; and higher eggs and body weights are attained by the birds.
  8. There are fewer eggs with dirty shells.


Disadvantages of the Battery Cage System

  1. The battery equipment is more expensive and deteriorates quickly.
  2. The battery equipment is suitable for only one purpose.
  3. There is more possibility for technical faults/problems because of automation; higher maintenance costs are encountered.
  4. The birds may be bored and battery or cage fatigue can develop.
  5. Complete feeds for cage layers are expensive.
  6. More eggs are cracked, especially very thin shelled eggs.


Reasons for providing suitable housing for livestock

  1. To protect animals from rain/cold weather conditions.
  2. To protect animals from the direct rays of sunlight.
  3. To restrict the movement of the animals.
  4. To protect the flock from theft.
  5. To facilitate management through grouping of livestock according to age and purpose.
  6. To protect the young ones from danger/predator.
  7. To prevent indiscriminate mating.
  8. To ensure maximum utilization of feed and water.
  9. To facilitate close observation/monitoring/veterinary care.
  10. To prevent damage of cultivated crops.
  11. To prevent them from contracting diseases from outside.
  12. To prevent them from pest infestations.
  13. To facilitate accurate record keeping.


Characteristic Features of a Good Layer

  1. A good layer has a broad and square head.
  2. It has a short beak.
  3. It has a bright and bulging eyes.
  4. It possesses a smooth and lean face.
  5. It has a large but thin comb.
  6. It has bright red comb and wattles.
  7. It has soft and pliable abdomen.
  8. There is absence of cannibalistic tendencies or aggressiveness
  9. It has a broad flexible pelvic bones.
  10. It possesses a wide, moist cloaca.
  11. It has pale coloured shanks.
  12. There is absence of broodiness.
  13. It possesses a glossy plumage.
  14. It must have a short clutch.

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