When you are building the house make sure that the birds will have enough space. You don’t want to crowd them. If you have 25 birds the chicken house should be about 15 metres long and 10 metres wide.
So now you have a chicken house. But the birds can’t stay in the house all the time _ they need to go outside for fresh air and sunshine.
Outside they get extra nutrients from grass, worms and bugs. And although it is important for them to go outside, you can’t have them wandering everywhere, getting into your garden or your neighbour’s garden. What you need is a little yard next to the chicken house.
The yard Now it’s time to plan the yard. Measure an area that is ten metres by ten metres in size beside the chicken house. This is the right size for 25 birds. The chickens can come out a door in the house and down a ladder into the yard.
You can plant some tasty, nutritious grasses for the birds. In West Africa farmers plant species of Desmodium and Bracharia. You will probably have to ask other farmers to find out what kinds of grasses are available and what are the best kinds for chickens to eat.
Once the grasses are established, fence off small sections of the yard from time to time so that the grasses have a chance to re-grow.
Some farmers use trees as fence posts around the yard. They choose trees with leaves that the birds will eat. This is another easy way to
produce chicken feed right beside the chicken house. If you decide to use trees as fence posts, choose trees that add nitrogen to the soil such as Leucaena, Acacia, and Calliandra. The leaves of these trees are usually good feed for animals.
In the early part of the day let the birds out of the house into the yard so they can eat some grass, bugs and worms. Grass, worms and bugs contain special nutrients that will help them grow and produce more eggs.
Let them into the yard once a day, in the morning – not too early – say about 9 or 10 o’clock. When it starts getting hot outside or starts raining they will go back inside for the rest of the day.
MUSIC OR SOUND EFFECTS
Now you know what a healthy chicken house looks like. It has raised floors with spaces so that feces fall through to the ground. A ladder from the house leads down into a yard. You can see the benefits. There is less disease spread from bird to bird because the birds are not walking in the feces. They are not too crowded. And they get plenty of extra nutrients from grasses and insects when they are out wandering in the yard.
Written by Jennifer Pittet, Managing Editor, Farm Radio Network. Based on an interview with Eugene Ateh, Veterinarian, Project Coordinator, Heifer Project International-Cameroon, P.O. Box Bamenda, Northwest Province, Cameroon.
Reviewed by Dan Gudahl, Director, Africa Program, Heifer Project International.