If you have an interest in snail farming, then the first thing you may want to do is to construct housing for the snails.
The type of house you choose to build for the snails will determine whether they will be safe from predators and survive harsh weather.
In this article, you will learn the basics of constructing amazing snail pens for both subsistence and commercial snail farming.
And if you are just keeping snails as pets, then you will also find a step-by-step guide on how to make a snail house for your pet snails.
The most exciting part about this guide is that you will also find a list of cheap and easily accessible materials which you can use to construct the snail house.
Still ahead is a video of a snail farm that will give you a clearer picture of what a commercial snail farm looks like in reality.
So, if you are ready to learn how to construct a good snail housing for your snails, then continue reading till the end.
Just before we go on, in this article, snail house was used interchangeably with snailery, snail pen, and snail habitat.
So, whichever one you see as you read this article, just know that it means the same thing.
That said, let’s get into the details of this snail housing construction guide.
What are the things to consider when constructing snail housing?
Before we start listing the types of the snail housing system in this post, you need to consider all of these factors.
- First, you need to know that the type and dimension of your snail housing depend largely on the snail growing system you choose.
- Secondly, it also depends on the number of snails you intend to produce on your snail farm.
- In addition, the age of the snail, temperature, location, weather conditions, and flooding vulnerability of your snail farm, are all factors you must consider.
Types of Snail Housing System
A lot has been said about the benefits of the snail farming business.
Especially because it requires very little startup capital.
However, as management activities and level of financial inputs differ from one farmer to another, so also does the snail housing type differ.
This further affects the capital one needs to start up a snail farming business and the capacity to operate.
The snail housing system can be classified into three categories; intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive.
#1. Intensive snail housing system
This system of snail housing tries to recreate the natural habitat of snails.
Plastic tunnel houses, greenhouses, free-range snail pens, and buildings with controlled climates fall under this category.
This system is usually practiced by farmers who do snail farming business on a large scale and occupy a large expanse of land.
#2. Mixed, or semi-intensive snail housing system
In this system, egg-laying and hatching occur in a controlled environment.
The young snails are removed after 6-8 weeks to outside the snail house for further development and growth.
#3. Extensive snail housing system
Practiced mostly by small-scale farmers and subsistence farmers (mainly for consumption).
Snail farming in this system is done using relatively cheap and readily available materials like old car tyres, baskets, old tanks or drums, pots, etc.
Video of a snail house construction in Nigeria
Characteristics of a Good Snail Habitat
- Your snail housing must have enough space for your snails to graze freely. Overcrowding your snailery impedes the development of snails and therefore should be avoided. A well-spaced snail housing reduces the risk of disease outbreaks caused by overcrowding.
- A good snail housing should be able to protect snails against predators, poachers, and insect infestation. predators feed on young snails whereas poachers steal snails. As for insects, they lay their eggs on the snails: these eggs develop to the larvae stage, and then feed on the snails from inside their shells, thereby causing high snail mortality leading to loss of investment.
- It must be easily accessible for carrying out management activities. Snail housing should be built in such a way that will enable managers to handle snails, place feed, carry out cleaning activities, and other tasks.
- The snail housing must prevent snails from escaping. No matter how slow snails can be, they can still wander off through open spaces and invade your house or garden. Therefore, all possible snail escape routes should be tightly closed.
- Snail housing must be well ventilated and provided with adequate shade.
- An adequate snail housing must be able to protect the snails from excessive wind. Wind increases the rate of moisture loss in snails which in turn, leads to dryness for the animal. Planting (fruit) trees around snail pens will help to reduce wind speed and improve the micro-climate. It will also protect the snails from the scorching sun or torrential rain.
- A good snail house must have all the necessary equipment for snail farming.
Materials Needed for Constructing Different Snail Pens
Depending on price and availability, you will need the following snail housing materials;
- Storage containers
- Concrete blocks or bricks
- Polythene sheets
- Galvanized sheets
- Mosquito nets or nylon mesh
- Chicken wire.
Decay and termite-resistant timber play an important role in the construction of snail housing.
In West Africa, favorable tree species that produce such timber include opepe, iroko, and mahogany.
Disposable materials like car tyres, baskets, oil drums, and old water tanks are also good materials for constructing a snail house.
How to Construct Different Snail Houses
1. Using Baskets
A basket is a good material for locally made snail cages.
It is used for raising hatchlings of less than three months of age or for the incubation of eggs.
The major limitation in the use of the basket for raising snails is poor durability.
To make snail housing using baskets, the following procedures should be followed:
- Get a good basket and lay a sack on the bottom to hold soil.
- Fill the basket with humus or loamy soil to a depth of 15-20cm.
- Put dry leaves on the soil for mulching.
- After that, cover the basket with a lid, or chicken wire mesh placed between two mosquito nets and fastened with a wooden frame, to provide protection against insects.
2. Hutch Box (Wooden Snail Cage)
A hutch box is a square or rectangular, single, or multi-chamber wooden box with lids, placed on wooden stands.
Hutch boxes are useful in semi-intensive snail breeding systems.
They are very suitable as hatchery and nursery pens because eggs and young snails can be easily located and observed.
Steps involved in the construction of a hutch box
- The dimension of the hutch box should be about 100cm x 100cm x 50cm with a stand of 35cm.
- You need to make the box have a cubical wooden frame.
- Next thing is to build the base of the box with hardwood with a little space underneath to allow free drainage of excess water.
- After constructing the box, sieve humus or loamy soil into it to a depth of 20 – 25cm.
- Cover the box with a lid made of chicken wire mesh reinforced with mosquito nets. The lid should be fitted with a padlock to discourage poachers from stealing your snails.
- Make the stand of the box to be at least 35 cm high
- When you are done building the hutch box, place the stands (legs) of inside a container or bowl and fill it with water plus kerosene. You can also use condemn engine oil or any other disinfectants to protect the legs of the box. The reason for this treatment is to prevent insects from crawling up the box to attack the snails.
- Always remember to change the soil in the hutch box to reduce the accumulation of slime and snail droppings. An accumulation of droppings and slime tends to increase the chances of disease development in the snail house.
- A box of 1sqr.m can be used to rear 4 – 6 mature snails.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Hutch Boxes
A major advantage of hutch boxes is that they can be placed close to the farmer’s house, ensuring good supervision and protection.
The height of the hutch boxes makes them comfortable to work on and facilitates feeding and handling of the snails.
In contrast, hutch boxes are somewhat expensive to construct, and they come in limited sizes, which restrict the number of snails that can be kept in them.
3. Construction of Snail House Using Old Tyres
Old tyres are less expensive and readily available in urban areas.
It can be sourced from local mechanics or vulcanizers.
For those who want to rear snails in their backyard, this is a very snail farming structure that will fit.
Although tyres have poor ventilation, you can improve ventilation by perforating them using a hot pointed metal rod.
To construct snail housing using old tyres;
- Select an appropriate site under a shade.
- Stack 3 – 4 tyres upon one another as shown in the image above.
- After stacking, fill the tyres with suitable loamy soil to a depth of 10 – 15cm.
- Cover the tyres with chicken wire and mosquito mesh, placed between the topmost tyre and the second one from the top for protection.
Car tyres can hold up to 3 – 6 snails, depending on their sizes.
Tyres of larger diameters can hold between 5 and 10 mature snails.
There is, however, an argument that snails can eat into the tyres in search of calcium.
This singular reason renders tyres unfit for snail farming to protect the humans that eat the snails.
4. Drums/Old Tanks used for Construction of Snail Pen
In place of tyres for the construction of snail pens, you can use oil drums and old tanks.
Instead of disposing of your oil drums and old tanks, you can put them into productive use.
This is recycling 101.
Old tank drums are good for small-scale production (especially for family consumption).
To construct snail housing using oil drums or old tanks;
- Lay sacks on the bottom of the tank to hold the soil and then fill with humus or loamy soil to a depth of 10-15cm.
- Place dry leaves on the soil layer as mulching.
- Cover the box with a lid made of chicken wire mesh reinforced with mosquito nets.
- The tank could be placed on a stand if available.
5. Trench Pen Snail House
A trench pen is a type of snail habitat that is built in a shallow pit.
To construct trench pens,
- Select an appropriate site and peg out the position of your pen.
- The trench is either dug into the ground or raised 40 – 50cm above ground level using cement blocks.
- Ensure that the trench is well-drained to prevent water-logging
- Fill the trench with good loamy soil to a depth of 10 – 15cm.
- Concrete can be levelled on the floor of the trench before topping with the soil.
- Construct feeding and water trough to a height 5 –7cm above the soil level.
- After that, cover the pen properly with a well-fitted framework of chicken wire plus a mosquito net.
- Trench pens have the advantage of being flexible, especially when sorting snails according to their sizes and phase in the growing cycle. The snails are always easy to locate, for handling, feeding, selection, and final sale or consumption.
- Trench pens also have the disadvantage of being expensive to construct (especially the raised trench pen). Secondly, the farmer may end up having backache because of long stooping or kneeling due to the low height of the trench. Therefore, you should consider constructing your snail trench pen to a reasonable height.
6. Free-range Snail Farming System
Free-range snail farming is a type of snail farming structure in which snails are allowed to roam freely and feed on open pastures of living food crops, rather than being densely confined in small enclosures and fed only compound foods.
The freedom to roam in large areas allows the snails to avoid each other’s slime trails.
Over-slimed ground and excess faeces can change snail behavior by putting out chemical signals like *pheromones which are detrimental to reproduction and growth rates in snails.
* A pheromone is a chemical an animal produces that changes the behavior of another animal of the same species.
Allowing snails to breed at their own pace and encouraging the natural biological cycle in an ecological farming system, results in better breeding performance, a faster rate of growth, higher reproduction yields, and it meets the highest standards of quality and sustainable accountability.
The free-range snail housing system, however, has its own disadvantages.
- It requires more land than other types of snail farming.
- It is difficult to locate and protect eggs and newly born snails when using the free-range system.
- A fully enclosed and roofed pen is relatively expensive to build.
- In the open type of free-range pen, it is more difficult to keep out predators and poachers.
- It may be difficult to control disease outbreaks because of the farm size.
How to Make a Snail Habitat for Pet Snails.
Okay, if you are just looking for a way to build a snail house for your pet snails, then this is for you.
You don’t need to spend so much to build a snail habitat for pet snails.
After all, they are just pets, and will not take up so much space as those keeping snails commercially.
You can use simple and affordable materials for making the snail house.
A good material to use in this case is the storage container.
Below is the step-by-step process of building a snail house for pets.
You can decide to build this snail house indoors for decoration.
Steps in Building a Snail House for Pet Snails
- Buy a clear storage container from the store.
- Make sure it’s large enough to contain all of your snails.
- Next, drill plenty of air holes in the lid of the snail habitat so that the snails can breathe.
- If you don’t have a drill, you can use a sharp object to punch the holes. A nail will do the job very fine.
- Make sure the holes are small enough so that the snails do not escape.
- At the same time, the holes should be big enough so that the snails have plenty of air.
- After drilling, rinse the storage container with warm water and dry it thoroughly.
You should be proud of yourself, you are almost done producing your own snail habitat.
- Now, add a layer of dirt to the bottom of the habitat.
- Make sure you treat the dirt by heating it before putting it in the snail habitat.
- Next, put some eggshells in the snail house to supply the calcium necessary for healthy snail growth and proper shell formation.
- You can also add sticks, rocks, or plastics to beautify the snail habitat.
- Finally, add your pet snails to the snailery. Voila
- The snail house will look just like the one in the image below.
I hope the steps are not very hard to understand and implement?
Constructing good snail housing is not that difficult after all.
All you need is to know the right materials to use and then build a comfortable snail house that you can afford.
The scale of your snail farming operation is also another factor to consider.
But with the right snail housing selected from the list above, you will be well on your way to success in snail farming.
Now that you know how to construct a good snail housing, please share this article.
Frequently Asked Questions about snail housing
- What is the size of a snail pen?
A good size for a pen is 5ft x 5ft for square pens or 7ft x 2.5ft for rectangular pens. These small sizes make it easy to maintain the pens.
- How many months does it take to grow a snail?
It takes about 8 to 18 months for snails to reach maturity, depending on the specie that you are growing and the purpose for which you are growing them. Ideally, Point of Lay (POL) snails should be about 12 months old while mature jumbo snails should be about 18 months.
- How do you prepare the soil for snail farming?
You need to till the soil and till it proper to kill insects and pests present in the soil. Learn how to treat the soil for snail farming in this article.
The best type of soil is one that soil supports the good growth of cocoyam, tomatoes, and leafy vegetables.
- What do you put in a snail house?
Garden snails love fresh raw vegetables, non-acidic fruits, and a lot of calcium supplements for their shell growth. So, add vegetables like spinach, lettuce, carrots, dandelion leaves, cucumber, apples, and flowers. Also, provide them with ground eggshells or oyster shells to provide calcium
See other articles that will help you to succeed in snail farming
- How to Treat the Soil for Snail Farming
- How to Feed a Snail and What do Snails Eat and Drink?
- Benefits and limitations of snail farming Business
- How to Build Good Snail Housing [With Pictures]
- How to Hatch Snail Eggs in 6 Simple Steps
- How to get rid of insect pests in a snail farm
- How to Start and Make Money From Snail Farming Business
- Equipment Needed For Snail Farming in 
- Types of Land Snails For Snail Farming