The Complete Beginners Guide to Poultry Housing Systems

slat-or-slot-cum-litter-poultry-farming-house

When it comes to poultry farming, one thing is very important for success.

If you cannot get this one thing correctly, you should never think of starting a poultry farming business because you are going to fail.

The one important thing you should consider when starting your poultry farm is the type of housing system you are going to use.

This may sound lame to you.

But, to prevent you from having a problem with space in the future, you need to plan your poultry farm from the start.

When going into poultry farming, you need to consider the capacity of the farm.

Do not neglect this!

The capacity of the farm will determine how much capital you’ll need to set aside.

Poultry farming is not the type of business that you go into without planning properly.

You cannot assume that the funds you will need for the farm will come sometime later.

Never assume!

Make sure you have all the funds that will sustain your farm until maturity.

That way, even when things become tough for you, you will still have money to sponsor your poultry farm.

I just felt I should let you know this because a lot of farmers fail in the poultry business for this reason.

This article focuses on the different types of poultry housing systems you can find out there.

You will also get to learn the pros and cons of each of these poultry housing styles.

So, if you are excited to learn more about poultry farming and housing types, let’s dive right in.

What is Poultry Housing?

commercial-poultry-housing-deep-litter-system

Poultry housing simply refers to a building for keeping poultry. 

There are different types of poultry houses, which you can group according to the species and age of the poultry.

The type of house you build for your poultry may also depend on the economic use and the system of maintenance. 

It also depends on the environmental requirements of the birds during various stages of growth.

You can have buildings like brooder houses, batteries, and acclimators for raising chicks on your farm. 

In the same way, you can build special poultry houses like cages or even on the floor for raising commercial flocks.

You can conveniently raise adult chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese in commercial poultry housing. 

Generally, poultry houses can be a single storey or have up to four- to six-storeys.

This large size of poultry buildings can house layers up to 120,000–150,000 hens or broilers reaching 80,000 birds.

Ideally, every poultry house has water-supply lines, a system for the disposal of droppings, and central-heating and ventilating systems. 

In some cases, the equipment for constructing the poultry building is industrially manufactured to ensure optimal mechanization of production processes.

What are The Different Types of Poultry housing 

Like I said earlier, different kinds of poultry housing exist for different purposes.

You can have a separate poultry house for broilers while you have another for layers. 

The major reason for separating birds into different poultry housing is because each type of bird has a different management requirement.

Also, separating your birds into different poultry houses helps you identify the category each bird belongs too.

To save you the long story, here are the common types of poultry housing that you can find in a poultry farm.

1. Brooder/chick house

brooder-chicken-house

A brooder is a type of poultry house for raising baby poultry, whether they are baby chicks, turkey poults, or goslings. 

It usually includes a heat lamp, a source of food and water for the chicks and bedding such as pine shavings. 

With the brooder house, you can grow chicks from age 0 to 8 weeks.

2. Grower poultry housing

The grow house is the type of poultry house you use to grow layers poultry from 9 to 18 weeks of age.

This is where you prepare the birds until they reach maturity and are ready to start laying eggs.

The grower poultry house is very important especially for layers poultry farmers.

3. Brooders cum grower chicken housing

This type of poultry housing combines both the feature of the brooder poultry house and that of the grower.

With this type of poultry housing, you can rear birds from 0 to 18 weeks of age straight without a need to transfer the birds.

This housing type saves you the cost of transferring the birds and the cost of building two different structures.

4. Layer poultry house

The layer poultry house is a structure you build for growing layers. 

This is where your rear birds which are over 18 weeks of age until they reach 72 weeks of age.

By this time, they must have reached the climax of their egg-laying capacity and have become too old to continue.

Because of the intense care layers need, you need to do some form of proper planning of their housing facilities.

Also, you need to have knowledge of environmental requirements during various stages of their growth.

5. Broiler house

The broiler poultry house is where you grow birds for commercial meat production.

You need to make this building available for rearing your broilers until they get to the age of 6 weeks.

Growing broilers for meat production is good business because broilers gain maturity within a very short period of time. 

6. Breeder house

The breeder poultry house is where you keep both male and female breeders at appropriate sex ratio to produce fertilized eggs.

Many broiler breeder farmers use this housing system to raise female (hens) and male (roosters) birds who are the parents of broiler chickens.

As a result, a breeder poultry farm usually has a hatchery for hatching the eggs from the farm.

7. Environmentally controlled (EC) poultry house

Environmentally-controlled-poultry-housing-system

Environmentally controlled poultry houses are the types of poultry housing which involves the manipulation of the environment.

The purpose of the manipulation is to make the environment optimum for the growth of birds.

This type of poultry house provides unmatched convenience and comfort for the birds. 

It helps you to increase your bird performance and comfort even in challenging weather conditions.

Recommended Articles

Here is a list of article you should read to help you with your poultry farming business.

Poultry Housing System

In the discussion above you will notice that the different types of poultry housing are mostly based on the type of bird or their age.

In contrast, the system you choose to adopt will depend on some other factors.

Some of these factors include;

  • The availability of land
  • Capital available
  • Cost of land
  • Type of farming activity
  • The climatic condition of the area
  • Labour availability

These 6 factors will definitely affect your choice of a suitable poultry housing system to adopt.

Types of Poultry Housing System

Generally, there are four systems of poultry housing which many farmers adopt. 

They are;

  1. The free-range or extensive poultry housing system
  2. The semi-intensive poultry housing system
  3. Folding unit system of poultry housing
  4. Intensive system of poultry housing

1. Free Range Poultry Housing System

Free-range-chicken-rearing-system

The free-range system of poultry housing refers to the method of housing birds so that they have the opportunity to roam around the farm.

So, instead of confining the birds to an enclosure for 24 hours, they have at least a part of the day to roam freely outdoors.

The free-range poultry housing system is, in fact, the oldest system of housing birds in poultry farming.

This system is perfect for poultry farmers who own a very large portion of land.

One of the features of a free-range pen is the provision of shelter, greens, feed, water, shade etc. for the birds.

In this type of housing system, the birds get most of their food by searching around the farm.

Mostly, the birds feed on herb, seeds and insects. 

You still have to protect them from predatory animals and infectious diseases including parasitic infestation. 

Free-range poultry housing is relatively cheaper to construct because the shelter only requires temporary roofing supported by poles.

The stocking density for free-range laying hens is set at no more than 10,000 birds per hectare of an outdoor range.

However, the only problem with this system is that it is now obsolete with the introduction of modern poultry farming methods.

Advantages of the free-range system of poultry housing

  • Free-range poultry housing requires less capital investment to construct.
  • It is the cheapest types of poultry housing 
  • Feed requirements are less since birds can consume a fairly good amount of feed from grassland.
  • This system helps to maintain fertility as the bird droppings mix with the soil.

Disadvantages of the free-range system of poultry housing

  • It will be difficult for you to apply scientific management practices in this system.
  • You may lose poultry eggs when the birds lay their eggs inside the dense grasses in the free-range.
  • Many farmers experience a lot of losses in this system due to predatory animals.
  • Wild birds may mix with your birds and infect them with diseases unless proper care is taken.

2. Semi-Intensive Poultry Housing System

The semi-intensive poultry housing system is a system that is common among small scale poultry farmers.

This system requires for birds to be reared partly in houses and partly on the ground or free-range

The way this works is to confine the birds to houses in the night or as per the need, then you give them access to runs.

Houses may be a simple house, thatched roof, littered earth floor or slatted.

This system provides protection from the increment in poor weather conditions and predators.

Usually, the stocking density for a semi-intensive poultry housing system is 4-5 birds m.sq. in houses.

Advantages of the semi-intensive poultry housing system

  • It is a more economical use of land in comparison to the free-range system.
  • This system provides protection of birds from extreme climatic conditions
  • To an extent, you can apply scientific management operations in this system.

Disadvantages of the semi-intensive poultry housing system

  • High cost for fencing.
  • Need for routine cleaning and removal of litter material from the pen.

3. Fold Unit System of Poultry Housing

a-folding-unit-poultry-house

The third type of poultry housing system on our list is the fold unit system.

Folding unit poultry housing system involves the combination of the poultry house and the run.

This system will require you to change the position of the poultry housing every day, giving the birds access to fresh grounds.

The birds find enough food from the herbage, feeding on insects, worms and perking on herbs.

To better manage a folding unit housing, make use of a unit that can only house about 25 hens.

Also, to get the best of this type of housing unit, make a total of 4 square feet available per bird.

One square foot will be for the bird in the house while the other 3 is in the run.

A suitable measurement for a folding house to take 25 birds is 5 x 20 feet.

The house will take up 5 x 5 feet of the space, while the remaining one-third area will be for the run.

Advantages of the folding unit of poultry housing

  • You spend less in feeding the birds as they pick most of their food from the range.
  • Just like in the free-range system, this method also helps to fertilize the soil also.

Disadvantages of the folding unit system

  • You have to carry food and water to the birds and bring them back each time.
  • This system requires some extra labour to move the fold units around every day.
  • It is more expensive than the previous two housing systems.

4. Intensive Poultry Farming System

If you want to truly go into the business of poultry farming, then you should be looking at setting up an intensive housing system.

The intensive poultry housing system requires you to keep birds together in a house either on the ground or in cages.

You may also choose to keep the birds or on a wire-netting floor or on slats.  

This system is the most efficient, convenient and economical system for modern poultry production with huge numbers.

There are different types of intensive poultry housing systems.

They include;

  • Deep litter system
  • Slated or wired-floor system
  • Combination of the slatted floor and deep litter system
  • Aviaries
  • Cage system

I will talk more about each of these types of intensive poultry housing systems as separate topics later in this post.

As for now, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of the intensive system.

Advantages

  • It does not require a very large expanse of land as in other systems of poultry farming.
  • You can easily site your poultry farm close to a market area.
  • This poultry housing system makes it easy for day-to-day management.
  • The production performance is higher as the birds tend to save more energy because of the restriction in their movement.
  • With this system, you can easily and accurately apply scientific management practices like breeding, feeding, medication, culling etc. 
  • Another advantage of this system is the ease of identifying, isolating and treating sick birds.
  • As a result, you can easily control the spread of disease in this system.

Disadvantages

  • This method affects the welfare of the birds as a result of the restriction of movement.
  • There is also a limitation on the birds to perform natural behaviour like roosting, spreading wings, scratching the floor with legs etc.
  • You have the responsibility of providing all the nutrients the birds require to avoid nutritionally deficient diseases. This is because the birds do not have access to sunlight and naturally feed sources.
  • Even though it’s easy to control diseases in this system, the chances for spreading diseases are more. This is because of the clustering of birds, especially in the litter system.

Types of Intensive Poultry Farming System

As mentioned earlier, there are different types of poultry housing under the intensive system.

The different types of intensive systems include;

  • Deep litter system
  • Slated or wired-floor system
  • Combination of the slatted floor and deep litter system
  • Aviaries
  • Cage system

1. Deep Litter System of Poultry Housing

Deep-litter-poultry-farming-system-with-chicken-coop

The deep litter poultry housing is an indigenous system of raising chickens. 

I will quickly use bullet points to outline the important features of the deep litter system so that it is easy for you to remember.

  • This system requires you to cover the floor of the chicken house with beddings or good litter materials.
  • A good litter material for your poultry farm could be straw, sawdust or leaves to the depth of 2-3 inches.
  • The essence of the litter materials is to prevent the direct contact of the birds with the bare floor.
  • This type of poultry house saves labour and time in the frequent cleaning of chicken droppings. However, it needs periodical stirring.
  • Bird density for the deep litter system is about 4-6 birds per square meter.
  • There is easy access to feed, water, and egg collection.
  • With low masonry walls set on a concrete floor and wire mesh on the upper part of the walls, the building excludes rats and birds. 

Advantages of a deep litter system of poultry farming

  • This system maintains the welfare of birds.
  • The manure from the deep litter system is useful for crop and vegetable farming.
  • Birds tend to suffer lesser nuisance from flies in comparison to cage systems.
  • The bacterial action on the litter in this system makes Vitamin B2 and Vitamin B12 available to the birds.

Disadvantages of the deep litter system of poultry housing

  • Because of the direct contact between bird and litter, bacteria and parasitic diseases may be a problem.
  • Respiratory problems may emerge due to dust from the litter.
  • The cost of litter is an additional expenditure on production cost.
  • Faults in ventilation can have more serious consequences than in the cage system.

2. Slatted or Wire Floor Poultry System

slatted-floor-poultry-housing-system

When you don’t want to use a deep litter system, you can opt for a slatted or wire floor poultry housing.

Here are some of the features of this type of poultry system

  • You can build the house on treated wooden piers 0.8 to 1m above the ground. 
  • This system allows a lot of ventilation into the house and is easy for removing chicken droppings.
  • The stocking for this system can be 6 to 8 per square metre.
  • You may decide to roof the building with a thatch roof or corrugated iron roof.
  • If you use the iron roof for the poultry pen, then you need to put some insulation under the roof.
  • Because of the size of this type of building, feeding, watering & egg collection is done from outside the house.
  • Cooler houses but expensive & suitable for the adult bird only

Advantages of the slatted or wire floor poultry housing system

  • Birds in this system take less floor space per bird when compared to the solid floor system.
  • There is no need to provide any form of litter or bedding.
  • It is easy to collect manure as the chicken droppings pass through the openings on the wire floor.
  • The chicken house is cleaner with better sanitation.
  • You will have big savings on labour cost using this housing system.
  • Because the birds do not have any contact with the soil in this system, it eliminates soil-borne infections.

Disadvantages

  • It involves a higher initial cost than conventional solid floors
  • This system has less flexibility in the use of the building
  • You cannot easily regain feeds in case they spill because they are lost through the slots
  • Flies can penetrate the pen through the openings under the floor thereby increasing fly problem.

3. Slat Floor Cum Litter System

slat-or-slot-cum-litter-poultry-farming-house

This system combines both the features and advantages of the slat system with that of the deep litter system.

It has slats on either side of the house against each side wall leaving the central portion for the littered floor.

The water and feeding trough for this system are placed on the slatted area so that wastes can drop to the floor through the slots.

You can also have drinkers and feeders in the litter area too.

With this system, you can maintain a bird density up to 5-7 per square meter.

This system is actually good if you are producing broilers or going into the production of eggs for hatching.

In the case of the latter, you will need to provide nest boxes on the litter area for the hens.

Advantages

  • More eggs can be produced per unit of floor space than all solid floors.
  • Fertility is better with the slat cum litter house than with the all-slat house.

Disadvantages

  • This system is difficult to manage
  • The initial housing investment is higher with the slat cum litter house than with the all-litter house.
  • The separation of birds from the manure beneath the slats commonly results in fly problems.

4. Multi-tier System or Aviaries

Multi-tier-poultry-housing-system-or-aviary

The aviary system is considered the best non-cage alternative to cage systems for large scale egg production.

This is because it allows housing of large flocks, ensuring excellent production results and low mortality.

It also offers more space and opportunities for the birds to perform highly-motivated behaviours.

The aviary system is also called a multi-tier system. 

The tiers are the most typical feature of the spacious character of the aviary and provide living space at several levels. 

Because of the multi tiers, the hens can disperse across several levels.

The tiers can be as high as 4 tiers.

As a result, it increases the total usable surface, thereby enabling higher stocking densities per square metre ground floor surface.

That’s approximately 18 hens per square metres compared to floor housing.

5. Cage System in Poultry

cage-system-of-layers-poultry

This system involves rearing poultry on raised wire netting floors in smaller compartments, called cages.

Cages can either be fitted with stands on the floor of the house or hanged from the roof.  

The cage system of poultry housing has been proved very efficient for laying operations, right from day-old to till disposal.  

At present, 75% of commercial layers in the world are kept in cages. 

In this system, feeders and drinkers are attached to cages from outside.

Unless you are using nipple waterers, in which case a pipeline is installed through or above cages.  

Because of the advanced nature of this system, everything can be automated.

You can have auto-operated feeding trolleys as well as egg collection belts in this rearing system. 

The droppings are either collected in trays underneath cages or on belts or on the floor or deep pit under cages, depending on the type of cages.

Different cages come in different sizes and this also affects the number of birds it can house.

For instance, there is a 90 unit cage which can accommodate up to 100 birds.

Also, there is a 120 unit cage which can house up to 130 birds.

In a situation where you want the house more birds, you can double the units to achieve that.

The recommended standard is to have about 4 birds in each compartment of the cage system. 

Advantages of the cage method of poultry housing

  • It is difficult for the birds to pick up pathogens that will cause them infections.
  • In this method, there is no wastage of space and food.
  • It is also difficult for disease to spread in the cage system of poultry farming.
  • You can easily identify chicks that are victims of cannibalism and remove them. Cannibalism is a situation in poultry farming in which a bird pecks at another bird.
  • In the same way, you can also identify birds suffering from infectious diseases and isolate them for treatment.
  • The system requires less labour.
  • There is less cracking of eggs in this system as the birds cannot perk on the eggs.
  • It is easy to collect eggs in this method.
  • Also, the mortality rate is less in this system.

Disadvantages of the cage system of poultry housing

  • It is difficult to clean the individual cages and to dispose of the manure.
  • Food distribution may not be accurate depending on the consumption of the birds in the cage.
  • The birds are frequently subjected to a disease called cage layer fatigue. The bird lies on its side giving an impression that it is affected with paralysis. Hence, this is referred to as cage paralysis or cage layer fatigue. It may be due to Calcium and Phosphorus deficiency but the exact reason is not known.
  • It involves a very high initial investment cost.
  • Handling of manure may be a problem and generally, flies become a greater nuisance.
  • The incidence of blood spots in eggs is more.
  • In the case of broilers, the incidence of breast blisters is more, especially when the broiler’s weight is more than 1.5 kg.

Summary

This is just a highlight of the different types of poultry houses and housing systems.

In my next series of articles, I will be explaining the deep litter and cage system more in-depth.

This is because those two systems are the best poultry farming systems to adapt for commercial purposes.

Until then, I will like to know which of these poultry housing systems is your favourite.

Will you go for the deep litter system or the cage system of poultry farming?

Do you prefer to use your large plot of land to start a free-range poultry system or a semi-intensive system?

Please leave a comment below let me know what you’ve decided.

If you’ve got any questions, don’t hesitate to ask too.

Also, don’t forget to click on the social media buttons on your screen to share this article on social media.

Cheers.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for all your information without holding back. My question is, is their any thing wrong in starting a poultry farm with (Noiler chick) am not sure if my spelling is right thanks so much, so glad to come across this website. God bless you sir.

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