Backyard poultry farming guide for beginners

Backyard Poultry Farming Guide for beginners

Backyard poultry farming is common among rural and landless families worldwide and it is a source of income. It involves low investment and yields high economic returns, and can be easily managed by women, children and the elderly. Meat and eggs from such birds are inexpensive and rich source of protein and energy for poor households.

How to start Backyard Poultry Farming
How to start Backyard Poultry Farming

Backyard poultry farming is characterized by an indigenous night shelter system, scavenging, natural hatching of chicks, low productivity of birds, scant supplementary feed, local marketing and minimal health care practices.


  1. A source of employment to small and marginal farmers.
  2. Enhances soil fertility (15 chickens produce 1-1.2 kg of manure/day)
  3. Egg and meat with low investment
  4. Helps to control ectoparasites in domestic animals
  5. Eggs and meat contain low levels of cholesterol and saturated fats and high levels of vitamin compared to meat from commercial poultry
  6. Source of nutrition for families

Profit compare the commercial poultry

  1. Housing for backyard poultry can be made with local resources and hence inexpensive
  2. Backyard birds scavenge or can thrive on leftover cereals, requiring no supplements and hence inexpensive
  3. Backyard poultry need negligible veterinary inputs, with the exception of vaccination for New Castle Disease. Commercial poultry requires viral, bacterial and parasitic control.
  4. Commercial poultry needs clean water supply while backyard
    poultry can thrive on local sources

Some Limitations in backyard poultry

  • Slow growth
  • Low body weight
  • Late sexual maturity
  • Low egg production
  • Prolonged broodiness

Improved backyard poultry

Given some of the limitations of indigenous backyard poultry breeds, research organizations and private institutions have developed improved varieties of birds for meat, eggs or dual purpose. Improved varieties lay more eggs, gain greater body weight, have attractive plumage, involve low input costs, have high disease resistance, a better survival rate and lay large brown eggs resembling desi eggs. However, desi hens can be used for brooding eggs of improved bird varieties.
The improved layer varieties have the potential to produce 140-170 eggs in a laying year under free range conditions and 160-200 eggs under organized farm conditions. The birds weigh on average 2.5-3.5 kg in males and 1.5-2.0 kg in females.


Management of improved varieties of backyard poultry

Backyard poultry can be reared for egg production in small numbers (10-20) under free range conditions if optimum natural feed resources are available.
However, if the local demand is for meat, birds can be reared in larger numbers under intensive/semi-intensive conditions by providing inputs similar to those given to commercial broilers. Consequently, they need to be reared under proper brooding/nursery management up to six weeks, after which they may be released under a free range or scavenging system.

Brooding management

• Brooding care of chicks ensures constant body temperature and protection from predators.
• The brooder house floor must have a uniform 1-2 inch spread of clean liter like sawdust, paddy husk, ice husk, coconut husk, etc.
• Litter absorbs moisture from poultry droppings and provides warmth in winter and coolness in summer.

• Rake the liter frequently and treat it with slaked lime to avoid caking. Remove moist liter and replace it with fresh litter.
• Spread newspapers on the litter to prevent chicks from feeding on it tll they are accustomed to differentiate litter from feed.
•Rear the chicks on standard chick starter ration.
• Brooding can be natural or artificial; the former involves a broody hen and the later may involve heat sources, reflectors, electric bulbs etc.

Managing adult birds

• Let the birds free to forage/scavenge during the day; provide them shelter during night.
•Provide clean drinking water before letting them out.
• The preferred flock size is 12-15 birds per household depending on the area and natural
food available.
• Extra roosters can be reared separately and marketed for meat.
• Night shelters should be well ventilated, have adequate light and protection from predators.

Feed management
• Should be reared on standard chick starter ration during the initial six weeks under nursery rearing or brooding.
In the second growing stage, besides the feed material available in free range, provide natural food or greens like waste grains, germinated seeds, mulberry leaves, azolla, drumstick leaves and subabul leaves (high protein sources).

• Extra feed will depend on the free range available, intensity of vegetation, availability of waste grains, insects, etc.
Under free range conditions, the birds meet their protein requirements through scavenging, but the risk of energy deficiency is common. Feeding with locally available cereals like maize, sorghum, pearl millet, broken rice with equal parts of polished rice or rice bran is essential. However, the nutrient intake of scavenging birds varies with place and season, crops grown and the natural vegetation available.
• Restrict feed at six months of age (age of sexual maturity in layers) to control the weight of the birds.
• During the rainy season and harvest time, worms, insects and post-harvest leftovers will be plenty forth birds to feed on.
During the dry season of scarcity, feed supplements, including household waste (kitchen leftovers) and oilseed cakes have a positive effect on egg production and body weight of scavenging birds.

  • A handful of grains or kitchen waste in the morning and evening can be given to supplement scavenging.
    • The scavenging feed base is very important for propagation of backyard birds. Soil type and
    cropping systems dominated by wheat, maize, rice, sugarcane and finger millet make up
    supplementary feed base.
    • Supplemental calcium sources like limestone powder, stone grit and shell grit at 4-5 gm per bird daily, especially during the laying phase, leads to a high rate of survival and good egg production.
  • Any feed of grain or household scrap should be given inside the shelter. When regularly provided in the evening, it will help train the birds to willingly enter the enclosure before nightfall.
    Breeding management
    • A rooster can service six to eight hens to obtain fertile eggs.
    • Collect fertile eggs from the nest regularly and store them in a cool and well-ventilated place.
    • Place 10-12 eggs under a brooding hen within two weeks of egg collection for higher hatchability.
    • Rural hatcheries can be set up using a community based approach for improved hatchability under field conditions.
    Health care
    • Vaccinate birds against Marek’s disease, Newcastle disease (Ranikhet disease), fowl pox, etc. for greater immunity.
    • Deworm birds regularly to protect from internal parasites due to their scavenging nature.
  • While debeaking is discouraged in rural poultry given that the birds need to forage and scavenge, it is recommended if the farmer is rearing about 80-100 or more birds to avoid cannibalism, egg biting, feather pecking, etc.
    • After the first deworming, repeat at three-week intervals for a total of four deworming sessions.
    • While medicating via drinking water, follow the veterinarian’s advice on the amount of medicine to be mixed in the water that chicks normally consume in four hours.
    • Provide extra water only when all the medicated water is consumed.
    • Dust and dip the birds or fumigate the house at the slightest indication of external/ ecto-parasites.
    • Take care not to dip the head and avoid dipping on rainy days.
    • Strictly follow the instructions of veterinarians and manufacturers to avoid health hazards.
  • Avoid rearing deferent species of poultry together (chicken with ducks, turkeys etc.). Separate young and adult stock.
    • Maintain hygiene in poultry houses and keep equipment clean. Ensure proper disposal of dead birds. Prevent entry of rodents. Though bio security is cost intensive, it pays in the long run in terms of fewer losses from infection and good quality production. Periodical culling is advised to control the spread of diseases.
Marketing of Backyard Poultry

While products of backyard poultry are in great demand in every corner of the world, they require the right market. Community-based approaches like Self Help Groups (SHG), Farmer Producer Organizations and poultry cooperatives can provide the right platform to market the birds without the involvement of middlemen. Encourage marketing on the basis of net weight instead of flock selling.

This article originally appeared on Veterinary Site.

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