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T H E ROLE OF P O U L T R Y P R O D U C T I O N ON S M A L L F A R M S 1 ,2,3

D. H. Bushman 4

Poultry Research Institute, Karachi, Pakistan

SUMMARY stages of development greater strides can be

The role of poultry production on small obtained by improving the simple hand tools
farms is discussed as it relates to: 1) subsistence now in use. In other areas if population growth
farming; 2) only farm income with a high profit can be checked the potential to adapt to
margin; and 3) its maximum use with other mechanization is much greater.
farm enterprises. Data are presented pertaining Poultry, historically, have always played an
to poultry production on small farms in Paki- important role on small farms. They serve not
stan under each classification, but are appli- only to provide high quality protein for con-
cable throughout the developing world. Particu- sumption by the farm family, but may also give
lar emphasis is placed on the role of ducks and the farmer a small supplemental income. For
their ability to produce high quality protein at instance it was not too many years ago that
a very low cost for consumption by the farm farmers in the United States had a few hens to
family. produce their own table eggs plus a few eggs to
(Key Words: Poultry, Ducks, Egg Production, sell. While this type of production has passed in
Small Farm.) most of the developed countries, and is becom-
ing outdated in much of the developing world,
INTRODUCTION it still plays a prominent role in some of the
lesser developed areas. For example it is esti-
The role of the small farm in current day mated that 75% of the poultry population in
agriculture is very difficult to assess in the Pakistan is composed of indigenous, nonde-
minds of agriculturists living in developed coun- script breeds of birds known locally as desis.
tries where production is geared to large scale, These native birds account for 70% of the
mechanized farming. There is little doubt that poultry meat and 44% of the eggs produced in
mechanization and other modern improvements Pakistan. Further approximately 20% of the
are important aspects for increasing food pro- commercial or improved layers are found on
duction. However, attempts to introduce mod- farms with flocks of fewer than 101 birds, and
ern equipment in developing countries have not over 50% on farms with fewer than 501 birds
always met with success. This is especially true (FAO/IBRD, 1974).
in areas of southeast Asia and the subcontinent
where agriculture is based upon very small farm
units coupled with the utilization of high ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF
concentration of available manual labor. In
these areas it is quite possible that in the early Poultry have several advantages over other
classes of livestock when thinking in terms of
production on small farms. The space require-
i Published with the approval of the Project Manag- ment per bird is very low; ranging from six
er, Poultry Research Institute, Karachi, Pakistan. layers per square meter on the floor to 12 birds
Invitational paper presented at the Symposium on per square meter with cage layers. With broilers
Livestock Production on Small Farms in Developing it is possible to maintain 14 birds per square
Countries held during the 67th Annual Meeting of the meter, or more in areas where small birds of
American Society of Animal Science, Ft. Collins, CO,
July 27to 30, 1975. 1.15 to 1.35 kg live weight are preferred. The
aThe author expresses sincere appreciation to Mr. time required to receive a return on the
Aijaz Ahmed Sheikh and Mr. Iftikhar Aziz for their investment is very short; a flock of broilers can
assistance in collecting cost data for the production of be produced in 9 weeks or less. It only takes
eggs and broilers, respectively.
4Present address: American Soybean Association, about 5 months before one can begin selling
Rio Sena 26-201, COl. Cauhutemoc, Mexico 5 D. F., eggs when starting with day-old chicks, and less
Mexico. time if one starts with pullets in the rearing

stage. The land site required for t h e buildings highly perishable p r o d u c t s and must be sold at
can be adapted f r o m non-fertile land. F u r t h e r t h e proper t i m e or held in cold storage; t h e
one man can easily care for a flock of 1,500 to latter is not possible for small farmers in
2,000 broilers or hens on the floor, and 2,000 developing countries.
to 3,000 cage layers w i t h o u t the help of The key to successfully operating small
automation. p o u l t r y farms is to keep overhead cost a n d / o r
Thus, at first glance p o u l t r y appear to be feed cost to a m i n i m u m . Construction costs are
ideally suited for small farming; however, t h e y usually fairly well fixed d e p e n d e n t u p o n the
also have their drawbacks for a d a p t a t i o n to materials available in t h e area. However, t h e
small farms. F o r e x a m p l e establishment o f a buildings can also be constructed rather inex-
new farm, especially a caged layer farm, re- pensively utilizing a wide variety of materials
quires a large capital o u t l a y when the invest- which m a y be available on the farm itself. F o r
m e n t is considered in terms of the average e x a m p l e in southern Pakistan where w o o d is
man's salary in m o s t developing countries (see very scarce and expensive, most o f the p o u l t r y
Table 1 for the estimated cost o f starting a houses are c o n s t r u c t e d of sand-concrete blocks.
layer and broiler farm in Pakistan). However The blocks can be m a d e on the f a r m or
the m o s t serious problem, particularly in m o r e purchased locally. In tropical countries build-
r e m o t e areas, is that o f obtaining g o o d quality ings are often constructed f r o m wire netting
feed and marketing t h e produce. Both eggs and and b a m b o o poles, utilizing a m i n i m u m of
m e a t f r o m broilers as well as cull birds are c o n c r e t e blocks around the base of the house to



Item Amount (U.S. money)

1. Land $4.30 to 7.50/m 2 purchased from government in country and town,
respectively - usually not charged against poultry operation
since land normally increases in value.
2. Buildings $13.00 to 16/m 2 - depreciated at 10%.
3. Feeders and waterers
a. Floor layers $.13/bird initial cost - depreciated at 20%.
b. Broilers $.10/bird initial cost - depreciated at 20%.
4. Cages (cage layers only) $2.40/3 hen cage complete with waters and feeders - depreciated
at 15%.
5. Interest 15% per annum including commission charges - maximum loan
available equals 60% of items 1 through 4.
6. Birds
a. Layers $2.40/pullet at 16 weeks of age.
b. Broilers $. 38/chick.
7. Feed $15.50 to 16.50/100 kg.
8. Labor $25.00/man/month
9. Miscellaneous
a. Cage layers $.38/bird/laying cycleb
b. Floor layers $.30/bird/laying cycle b
c. Broilers $2.60/bird/cycle c

1. Layers
a. Eggs $9.00 to 19.00/crate of 30 doz, normal fluctuation average for year
approximately $15.00.
b. Cull birds $1.15/bird.
2. Broilers $.65 to 1.05/kg live weight - average approximately $1.00/kg.
Certain cost higher on small farms due to additional transportation cost, et cetera.
bone cycle, calculated at 17.5 months, includes time required for birds to mature from 16 weeks to start of
lay, 15-month laying period, time for disposal of flock and cleaning house.
COne cycle, calculated at 10 weeks, includes 9 weeks for finishing each flock plus 1 week for cleaning house.

help control rodents and other pests. The roof The problem of obtaining good quality feed
can also be made from a variety of materials in the lesser developed areas is much harder to
such as thatch, clay tiles, corrugated asbestos solve. In areas where protein supplements con-
sheets, et cetera. The essential features which taining vitamins and minerals, et cetera, can be
must be present in all poultry houses are: obtained, the farmer can utilize these supple-
proper ventilation must be provided; pests and ments with almost any cereal grain produced on
predators must be kept out; and in warm the farm or in the immediate area. Unfortunate-
climates the sun should not shine directly on ly supplements of this t y p e are not commonly
the birds, especially if they are in cages. Means available in many areas. Also for most farmers
of heating the houses are required only in very waste products, inexpensive grains or similar
cold climates, except of course for brooding. by-products are available which can be utilized
However, in developing countries "poultry as a major part of the feed then it may be
houses" like the one shown in figure 1 are possible to reduce feed cost considerably.
frequently employed. This type of shelter
consisting of a simple shade placed over the
cages will not work with chickens except under D I V E R S I F I E D ROLES OF P O U L T R Y
very limited micro-environments and certainly Just as one must adjust his thinking when he
is not recommended. Unfortunately, farms of begins talking about small farms he must also
this t y p e increase during periods of high egg vary his thinking concerning the role and type
prices, but disappear during times of marginal of poultry production to be employed in
profit, market crashes, or the first outbreak of different areas of the world. For example the
disease. role of poultry on a small cattle farm of 100 ha
Equipment costs are also of a relatively fixed in the sparsely populated Llanos of South
nature. Savings on the initial investment can be America would be quite different from its
made by using a floor system for layers rather potential role on a farm of 5 to 10 ha in the
than cages. Also in most areas of the developing more densely populated areas of Latin America
world earthen-ware waters can be constructed and Africa, and different still on "farms" of a
at a very low cost. The initial cost of brooding few square meters in Asia.
equipment in warm climates can also be re- The potential roles of raising poultry may be
duced by the use of infrared heat bulbs if classified as follows: 1) subsistence farming; 2)
electricity is available. Advantage can be taken as the only farm income with a high profit
of all of these aspects as means of reducing margin; and 3) its maximum use with other
initial cost without affecting the rate of produc- farm enterprises.
tion. Subsistence Farming. In very extensive agri-
cultural systems, and possibly in the isolated
areas with intensive farming systems the role of
poultry is that of providing eggs and p o u l t r y
meat for consumption by the farm family with
only limited potential for sale of these products
to neighbors, or in small villages if the farm is
located near a village. This type of operation
must be based upon a very low cash input. As
already mentioned this type of production
plays a common role in the production of eggs,
and even poultry meat in Pakistan. Nearly every
farmer has a few desi birds running loose on the
farm. The production of eggs is very inefficient
in the case of the desi, their production being
about 30 to 60 eggs a year. However, the
apparent cost of production to the farmer is
exceptionally low since these birds feed on
what they are able to scavenge and any left over
FIG. 1. Simplest form of "poultry house." This
type of house will be adequate only under very limited table scraps. Further the farmer has little or no
climatic conditions, and is not recommended for investment in buildings and equipment.
chickens. Production even under these marginal condi-

tions could be improved considerably by the principal sewage lines in the city. The only
use of ducks, and a minimal improvement in supplemental feed they received during the
management practices. Ducks probably repre- rearing period was dry stale bread and a small
sent the brightest spot in poultry production on amount of wheat bran; the remainder of their
this type of small farm. While the duckling does feed including all of the supplemental protein
require some care for the first few days, was obtained by feeding in the river.
particularly as regards brooding temperature The ducks were turned out of the shed in
and protection from predators, they are recog- the morning and driven one block to the river.
nized as being much hardier than chicks, and They were driven back to the shed about 5:30
can survive and grow relatively well under pm and given the supplemental feed at that
rearing conditions which would lead to disas- time. The ducks became accustomed to this
trous results in the case of other species of system of feeding and management very rapidly
poultry. and began returning on their own at feeding
The Khaki Campbell duck is also one of the time.
most efficient egg producing fowls known in The ducks began laying at approximately 8
the world, and under adverse conditions far weeks of age, and reached a peak lay of over
exceeds the best laying strains of chickens. 95% which lasted for almost 2 months. The
They have an additional advantage in that they feed during the laying period consisted of
are immune to most of the diseases prevalent in approximately 109 g dry stale bread and 3 g of
other fowl, and consequently usually do not fresh lucerne (Medicago sativa) per bird daily,
require vaccination during either the rearing plus what they were able to scavenge from the
stage or adult life. This fact alone makes them river. They were kept in the shed until 11:00
extremely useful in areas where veterinary am when they had essentially finished laying
services are limited. They also are very versatile and then were allowed to go to the river,
in that they can be kept in cages, on the floor, returning at 5:30 pm for their supplemental
and in tropical and subtropical climates they feed. The mortality to date has been only 2.4%
may even be maintained in open pens with no even without vaccination or other medication.
housing whatever. Only Farm Income. In 1972 it was estimated
Experimental work both in Colombia and that approximately 43.5% of the farms in
Pakistan has shown that these ducks do very Pakistan consisted of fewer than 3.1 ha and
well in the backyards of the poorest homes that the average size of these farms was 1.5 ha
with little or no commercial feed after they are (Government of Pakistan, 1972). On such farms
5 to 6 weeks old, and when provided with small the area available for production of livestock is
amounts of supplemental feed they perform too small to really be of consideration except
exceptionally well. for the production of poultry and possibly
The following data obtained on a small farm swine, however, the latter is not consumed in
located in a poor neighborhood in Karachi serve Pakistan. If poultry are to serve as the only
as an excellent example of the production source of income from these farms the margin
which can be obtained with ducks under of profit per bird must be relatively large to
adverse conditions. In April, 1974 this farmer justify such operations. Pakistan during the
purchased a flock of 120 female day-old duck- early 1970's served as an excellent example of
lings from the Poultry Research Institute (PRI). the role of poultry farms under this classifica-
After purchasing, they were reared on a dirt tion. During this period of time, profits of 15
floor without litter in a crudely constructed cents to 40 cents per broiler were realized, and
shelter with a thatched roof. A kerosene brood- with layer profits of 90 cents to $1.20 per bird
er provided heat during the first 2 weeks of the were obtained over a 15-month laying cycle.
brooding period. For the first 8 weeks, the This t y p e of profit has made it worthwhile to
ducklings received a home-mixed feed consist- establish the large number of small poultry
ing of dry stale bread, broken rice, wheat bran farms commonly found in Pakistan. However,
and a commercial chick starter. The quantity of as the margin of profit begins to narrow, as has
the chick starter was reduced from approxi- been the case during most of 1975, many of
mately 75% of the mixture during the first 2 these farms have begun to give way to larger
weeks to 0% by the end of the eighth week. farm operations on small profit margins as they
After reaching 8 weeks of age the ducks were have in many areas of the world. To illustrate
allowed access to a river which is one of the what can be accomplished with poultry under

these conditions two farms ranging in size from profit or loss on such farms because of their
90 sq m to 1.0 ha have been selected for review. unawareness of such factors as building and
The first farm is located in a lower income equipment depreciation, on-again off-again t y p e
area of Karachi, and consists of a small concrete of operation, et cetera. When one begins to
block building of only 90 square meters. The discuss the economics of production with own-
building had previously been sitting idle and ers of these farms the standard reply is "I get so
was converted for essentially no cost into a many eggs per bag of feed which cost X number
poultry house for 500 floor layers. of dollars and I sell the eggs for Y number of
Since the farm is located in the city of dollars." In spite of this, if this farmer, a
Karachi, the marketing of eggs is relatively government civil servant earning between
simple. However, the eggs still have to be $30.00 and $40.00 monthly, realizes a profit of
transported almost 8 km for sale through one 90 cents per bird during the 15-month laying
of the principal markets in the center of the cycle he can almost equal his monthly salary
city. Even though the eggs may be sold one at a from the government.
time to consumers in this central market, the The second farm consists of 1 ha located in a
people in the immediate neighborhood where lower middle class area of Karachi, and illus-
the eggs are produced prefer to go to the trates what can be done with poultry on very
central market to make their purchases, and small farms. This is the only source of income
further the farmer is not interested in selling for this farmer. He started in the broiler
the eggs a few at a time. business 4 years ago with two sheds totalling
From the farmer's viewpoint overhead costs 464 sq m of floor space, plus a small room used
are very low. He already owned the building for brooding purposes. He has since constructed
which was sitting idle; thus, he does not charge a third shed with an additional 167 sq m of
any depreciation for the use of the building floor space.
against his poultry enterprise. The nests consist This farmer normally produces 2,000 broil-
of placing one layer of sand-concrete bricks ers every 2 weeks. However, the number of
about 30 cm from the wall and adding a small birds on the farm at any one time is highly
amount of extra litter in this area. As a result dependent upon the market price. When prices
his only initial costs were approximately are high he will have as many as 9,000 birds at
$17.00 for litter, $62.50 for feeders and water- one time of varying ages, and in times of low
ers and $150.00 for pullets. market prices he will reduce the number to
With such small farms it is not usually 3,000 birds. At present he has greatly reduced
feasible to raise one's own replacement pullets. the number of birds due to a severe drop in
In addition to the lack of space, the specialized market price.
brooding equipment would be used for a very In addition to facing the same problem of
limited time. In Pakistan there are a number of obtaining feed in small deliveries, the small
farmers who raise replacement pullets for sale broiler farmer faces an additional problem of
at 14 to 16 weeks of age. Payments can be obtaining chicks during periods of high market
made on an installment basis, the number and prices for the finished broilers. Since it is easy
size of these installments depending upon the to get in and get out of this type of production,
age of the chicks when they are booked. when market prices are high everyone wants in
On the other hand this farmer's feed costs and there is not a sufficient number of broiler
are very high, $16.00 per 100 kg of diet. Part of chicks produced by the local hatcheries to meet
this high feed price is reflected in the fact that demands. These farmers usually resort to buy-
this farmer must pay at least 20 cents extra per ing fertile eggs on the black market and
100 kg as transportation cost for small deliver- hatching them in homemade electric or kero-
ies. Furthermore, delays in feed delivery to this sene incubators.
farm are common, especially when there is a It normally takes this farmer 9 weeks to
shortage of feed on the market. produce a flock of broilers averaging 1.25 kg
Farms of this t y p e are very common in live weight, with a feed conversion ratio of
many areas of Karachi, and most of them make 2.7:1 to 3.3:1. In spite of these problems and
a fair profit when egg prices are high, fold when the inefficient conversion this farmer's average
there are market crashes, then start operations monthly income was over $400.00 in 1974.
again when prices begin to increase. It is M a x i m u m Use. To illustrate the potential
virtually impossible to obtain accurate data on role of p o u l t r y under classification number

three, one o f the larger layer farms in the During these 3 days many of the poultry farms
Karachi area will be discussed. The farm is lost 10 to 20% and in some instances 50% or
operated primarily for egg production and has a more of their chicken layer flocks. The mortali-
capacity of 30,000 cage layers. In addition to ty in the ducks on this farm as well as at the
egg production with cage layers the farm also PRI and on the subsistence farm was absolutely
contains a flock of ducks for egg production, a zero.
fruit orchard and plans are being made to Duck eggs sell for less than chicken eggs in
include a small dairy operation. most countries due to consumer preference for
The owners of this farm are very progressive the latter. However, the ducks easily produce
and collaborate in many programs with the PRI 15% more eggs per year, even when maintained
in helping to promote the poultry industry. For under the conditions just described, and the
example early in 1974 they purchased 100 cost o f production is considerably less when
female day-old Khaki Campbell ducks from the one takes advantage of the waste and otherwise
PRI for experimental purposes. The data ob- unused feed or scraps from human food.
tained with these ducks further support the As a result of their first experiment with
results obtained on the subsistence type farm ducks the owners of the "maximum use farm are
indicating that ducks can be utilized for the now expanding their facilities for maintaining
production of eggs under adverse conditions. ducks to a capacity of 1,200 or 40 ducks per
The ducklings were fed a commercial chick 1,000 hens. Ducks not only increase t h e total
mash for the first 4 weeks. After that time they farm income through the utilization of feed
received only the floor sweepings from the which would otherwise be lost, but the profit
aisles of the cage houses for the chickens. These from the ducks can support the egg production
sweepings contain approximately 60% waste from the hens during market crashes.
feed and 40% droppings and dust from the In order to utilize the waste water from the
chicken house. Also the only water the duck- chicken houses more efficiently a duck house
lings received was the waste water from the has been constructed in very close proximity to
chicken houses. They received no supplemental each cage house for hens as shown in figures 2
feed, vitamins, antibiotics, et cetera whatsoever and 3. This allows the water to flow directly
after 4 weeks of age until the beginning of the from the hen houses to the duck houses.
laying period. The total "feed" consumption The waste water after passing through the
during this period was 7.95 kg per bird, the cost duck houses is collected in a small lagoon
of which was only the small labor cost involved recently constructed. The lagoon is being
in sweeping the floor of the chicken houses, stocked with fish, Tilapia mossambica. The
and the small amount of feed required during
the first 4 weeks.
The ducks began laying at 19 weeks of age
and laid at over 90% for nearly 3 months. The
feed given during the laying period consisted of
198 g of sweepings per bird daily. They also
received the waste water from the chicken
houses. The only supplementation that the
laying ducks received was a dose of water
soluble vitamins which was given 1 day each
The mortality in these ducks from day-old
through 1 year of lay has been only 3.0%. This
compares to a mortality figure of 28% over the
same period for chickens raised on this farm.
Their approach to egg production with chickens
is quite different from that with the ducks, the
chickens receiving a very high quality feed, and
the management is among the best in Pakistan.
It is also interesting to note that during 3 Figure 2. Drainage system for carrying waste water
days in the summer of 1974 the temperature in f r o m the cage layer house on the left to t h e small d u c k
Karachi and the surrounding area reached 49 C. house on the right.

droppings from cage layers or litter from

broilers could be used to replace part or all of
the cottonseed meal and/or other feed ingredi-
ents for dairy animals the cost of milk produc-
tion could be reduced considerably (E1-Sabban
et al., 1970; Fontenot et al., 1971; Thomas and
Zindel, 1971; Tinnimit et al., 1972).
In addition to the potential use as a feed
source the animal droppings can also be used as
a fertilizer and possibly for the production of
Figure 3. Inside of the duck house shown in f'~aare methane gas for domestic consumption. For
2. The waste water from the chicken house flows example 1,000 cage layers will produce suffi-
through the channel on the left. The earthen-ware cient droppings yearly to fertilize 4.5 ha of
bowl on the right serves as the feeder for these ducks. land when applied on a fresh weight basis at a
rate of 9 metric tons per hectare. Recent results
from the Pakistan Council of Scientific and
lagoon is also connected to one of the duck Industrial Research (Abdul H. Choddani, per-
houses which will be used during the rearing sonal c o m m u n i c a t i o n ) indicate that droppings
period allowing the ducks free access to the from cage layers can be used for the production
lagoon. The ducks can feed on the fish in of gas for domestic purposes. The yield of gas
addition to the sweepings thereby increasing from these droppings is approximately .78 m 3
the number of ducks which can be raised. per kilogram of air dry droppings, which is
The lagoon in addition to providing addi- about double the quantity of gas that can be
tional low cost feed for the ducks also serves as obtained from cattle manure.
a source of irrigation water for a 1-ha plot of
land which is currently under cultivation with
bananas and various forages. Approximately 30 CONCLUSIONS
m 3 of waste water are collected daily. The
Poultry does have a role to play on small
excess water is pumped out every fifth day for
farms. While the circumstances for obtaining
use in irrigating this small plot of land.
the high profit margins which were present in
The owners are not stopping here. Since the
Pakistan during the early 1970's may not exist
sweepings are collected only from the aisles
in many areas of the world, the opportunity to
between the rows of cages the majority of the
produce high quality protein at a low cost for
droppings remain underneath the cages. This
consumption by the farm family certainly
amounts to nearly 35 kg of air dry droppings
exists, especially through the use of ducks. Also
daily per 1,000 hens. The owners are now in
small scale poultry production fits in very well
the process of planning experiments for the
with almost any farming enterprise, particularly
utilization of these droppings as supplemental
if one considers the use of by-products or waste
feed for dairy cattle.
In Pakistan the water buffalo or the small
native dairy cattle such as the Red Sindhi are
commonly used for milk production. They are
maintained in dry lot, especially in southern
EI-Sabban, F. F., J. W. Bratzler, T. A. Long, D. E. H.
Pakistan, and receive a typical diet of 50 to
Frear and R. F. Gentry. 1970. Value of processed
70% wheat straw, 15 to 25% of an energy poultry waste as a feed for ruminants. J. Anita. Sci.
supplement such as broken grains, wheat bran, 31:107.
rice polish, etc., and 15 to 25% of a protein FAO/IBRD. 1974. Report of the Pakistan Livestock
supplement which is normally undelinted cot- Sector Survey, Vol III, Annexes 5 to 7. FAO/IBRD
Cooperative Programme, FAO-Rome.
tonseed meal containing 25 to 30% crude Fontenot, J. P., K. E. Webb, Jr., B. W. Harmen, R. E.
protein. The cost of these ingredients varies Tucker and W. E. C. Moore. 1971. Studies of
from $2.15 to $4.30 per 100 kg for wheat processing, nutritional value and palatability of
straw, $6.70 to $11.00 per 100 kg for the broiler litter for ruminants. Proc. Internl. Symp. on
Livestock Wastes. A.S.A.E. Pub. PROC 271:301.
energy supplement, and $10.50 to $13.50 per Government of Pakistan. 1972. Pakistan Census of
100 kg for the protein supplement. If, as several Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture.
authors have indicated, poultry waste such as Thomas, J. W. and H. C. Zindel. 1971. Feeding

dehydrated poultry waste to dairy cattle. Poultry Tinnimit, P., Yu Yu, K. McGuffey and J. W. Thomas.
Pollution: Research Results. Research Rep. 152:8. 1972. Dried animal waste as a protein supplement
Michigan State University. for sheep. J. Anita. ScL 35:431.