Tips for feeding chickens in a start-up poultry business

A small poultry enterprise offers many opportunities, along with an equal or even greater number of challenges.


Starting a family poultry business in a developing country is perhaps one of the most commendable ways of increasing one’s fortune, especially since agriculture is not always considered the most prestigious occupation. Yet, a small poultry enterprise offers many opportunities, along with an equal or even greater number of challenges. One of these challenges is how to feed these birds, especially if the owner has no previous knowledge.

Western standards

The internet is a wonderful tool, but at the same time, it can become a handicap. Searching for advice on the internet can yield numerous results and an overload of information. Naturally, one is expected to be impressed by the over-efficient production results attained in commercial poultry farms in more developed countries. Along with a number of other variables, nutrition for such extraordinary results is complicated and often impossible to implement in a start-up business. So, as the first step in setting up a nutritional program for poultry raised in a developing country in a semi-extensive setting is to accept a level of performance that is more in line with local reality. It is not a bad thing to shoot for the stars, but when one begins, it is best to find its standing place before raising expectations that cannot be realized from a practical point of view.

Local ingredients

Using local ingredients is different from using the so-called corn-soy diets employed in modern commercial farms. A local advisor/consultant is required to inform a start-up business regarding which local ingredients can and should be used to enable the start-up poultry business to grow and profit with limited capital. On the other hand, if imported corn-soy complete diets are available, and the capital is there, then by all means, this is the easiest, if not the least expensive, way to ensure proper nutrition and maximal performance.

Learn more: 7 questions to ask when purchasing broiler feeds

Birds require all nutrients

Birds raised in the U.S. or Nigeria still require ample energy and all nutrients to grow or produce efficiently. Otherwise, nutrient deficiencies will occur, leading to reduced performance, nutritional abnormalities and possibly death. Thus, just feeding corn to poultry might have been what our grandma used to do, but recall those hens used to graze. If you pen them up without the ability to supplement their diets from nature, they will soon become protein (and vitamin and mineral) deficient, and start pecking at each other’s feathers! So, a complete diet is required for confined poultry, whereas a supplement is required for birds that are allowed to graze or offered some form of food waste. Again, a local advisor/consultant should be inquired as to what is best under specific conditions.

Super-dense diets or normal ones

Feeding a super-dense diet (or the one recommended by the genetic houses) might not be the most profitable solution for a local family farm in a developing country. An adjusted diet might be a more logical solution from many points of view. In addition, feeding maximal performance diets implies birds are housed in the most modern facilities, receive top-notch management, enjoy maximal health benefits and a host of other variables that might not be possible in a small back-yard operation. Thus, having a super-powerful feed might be a simple waste of money if birds cannot utilize it because other lacking variables limit their growth or productivity.

Normal or niche?

Producing normal broilers or eggs might be what a start-up business should aim for. This is a business decision. But, if imports from neighboring countries make such business impossible, then an alternative solution is required. For example, if eggs can be imported for 10 cents and local production cost is 18 cents, it is not reasonable to start a business to compete with such low-cost products. Instead, local advisors will recommend setting up a business that offers a local advantage. Perhaps village buyers would prefer to spend a few cents more if they know their eggs come from hens that graze on green pastures, if only because this coincides with their traditional notion on how chicken are kept. There are many such ideas, and it is always best to consider what is locally accepted as higher quality if one is to create a niche market for poultry products.

International or local suppliers?

Local suppliers of nutrition products, be it complete feeds or supplements, often know what is best for a start-up business. Such knowledge comes with a price, which is included in the price of products. If such a local supplier can be trusted for their advice, then this is the most sound investment. Otherwise, an international supplier might be a more safe approach, although if volume of business is insignificant, access to talented and knowledgeable technical staff might be difficult. Luckily, some such firms have a separate department or line of feeds that cater to the needs of small farmers.

Bob’s your uncle

If you know of anyone who has succeeded in what you want to do, then ask them to hire you without a salary for as long as you can afford. Being paid is even better, but not always possible, especially with successful poultry producers. Learning first-hand how this business works will provide invaluable knowledge that will save you time, money and effort. But make sure you make your intentions clear and also ensure you are not trying to learn from someone who will end up being your competition in the same market.

Attend a local farm school

For those young enough, in age or heart, going to school — a farm school — is perhaps the best way to learn things right from the very beginning. It might not be a bad idea for large international companies to offer such classes, long-distance, to potential customers. This service — paid or free of charge — can be provided not only by nutrition suppliers, but also by those who cater to health, management, facilities and genetics. It would be best if local governments had the insight to divert the minimum funds required to set up such schools, but with politics involved, we all know why such attempts rarely succeed.

International advisers

An international consultant should be the last person to give you advice for a small start-up local poultry farm. This is because such a person does not know all the variables needed to make a professional proposal as to what is best for each such effort. The best advice I keep offering, almost daily through emails, and now I must repeat here, is to find someone who knows local conditions. International advisers are best in consulting large firms that employ the latest state-of-the-art technologies, genetics, management, facilities and health procedures in commercial settings. They might be knowledgeable for a couple of countries, but not all of them! So, finding the right person to be your mentor remains priority one.

Page 1 of 72
Next Page