Two small chicken houses in Limpopo province near Giyani and not far from Thohoyandou. The poultry stuctures were built in Northern Limpopo in a place called Nzhelele, in a village called Ramavhoya. We used the standard Yellow door poultry house plans.
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The poultry runs are for broilers and are 15 meters long x 3 meters wide. The poultry structures were built for a government grant scheme and will hold 680 fowls in each hen house. The steel structures are well spaced so the poultry farmer can place birds at different ages. This method of farming suits small rural villages, ideally the poultry farm wants the day olds ready for market more often than every 6 weeks to eight weeks. With two steel structures the farmer will be able to stagger production and have birds ready for slaughter every 3 weeks. On the same farm is a broiler facility 30m x 6 meters - it was built on budget and unfortunately the farmer used wooden gum poles to support the roof - cheap yes, but now after some time, the water and the heat is taking it's toll on the structure. There is also the threat of disease. The farmer also spilt the coop into sections and was farming with broilers of different ages in the same structure - a very bad idea! None the less the project was successful - producing broiler birds for slaughter (which the farmer does himself in a different location). There are no slaughtering facilities in the area - all slaughtering is done by hand. Buckets of water are boiled over a fire and the carcases are cleaned and de-feathered by hand as well - not a great method - but it works. The department of health would have a fit if they saw what was going on. But I have to hand it to these people - they know how to make a plan and they work very hard - everyday, Saturdays and Sundays. I hope some of the locals take note and follow their lead - getting the grant for the poultry project is usually the biggest stumbling block - with local government and the department of agriculture one has to "know someone" or your application gets shunted around endlessly - such a pity because there are many motivated people out there that just cannot access government money and resources - and the richer people who are connected get the loans and grants - not exactly what the fund is in place for and I am sure, not what the founding fathers of the ANC had in mind. You will need to do an excellent business plan - make sure that it is professionally presented - think through all the possibilities and outcomes. Plan a business, not a fund raising document - this means that you will need to think 5 years from now. Where do you want to be, how much do you want to earn, how many people will you be employing. Remember that any type of help from government is going to be given to those operations that create employment - so the more people you can employ, the more favourable the committee will look upon your plan and your application - and therefore be quicker to grant you the money that you need. Interact with other local businesses - you will be needing stationary, supplies, and all manner of consumables like gumboots, disinfectants, computer supplies, wheel barrows, rakes, buckets and a a whole bunch more. If you can buy local and support your neighbors this will help with your standing in the community - and you will need all the support you can get. If you need fencing - buy from the businesses close to you - make sure they know that you are supporting them rather than the bigger retailers.
When you do the layout of you farm think about the future - if you slap the structure dead center you may regret it - plan for more coops - make sure that they all have access to the main road and that they are not too close. Which way does the wind blow - make sure that your mortality pits are down wind and that you admin offices are upwind. Where and what will you be doing with the litter - if you are farming vegetables then it should be turned to compost - but down wind from your steel structures and offices. If you are not going to use the litter (the old shavings mixed with the chicken poop) then find someone to sell it to - local farmers love chicken manure for their garden beds - you could even sell it to homeowners for their flower beds. While on that subject - make your farm pretty - keep the grass cut and the paths clear. Grow some flowers and trees. Try to have some kind of paved path between the structures - this will cut down on mud and mess being trekked into each coop. If you have customers walking onto your farm to buy grown broilers make sure their is an area for them to sit and wait, preferably under a tree for the shade - and this should ideally be right at the entrance to your poultry farm - you do not want the public coming close to your houses - and definitely not into your houses. Some small farmers allow the public to choose the broilers they want to buy - not, in my opinion, a good idea. The fewer people you allow on your farm the less chance of disease. You will need to decide and take the risk, I know many small poultry producers depend on local one off sales and choosing the broiler is a big part of that. If you must let them choose make sure they are wearing fresh gumboots and that they do not move from coop to coop!
The poultry structures were built in a field that had been ploughed, making it a difficult job to level. Not only was the field at a slope but the ploughed up sand in ridges gave us no firm surface to work on! We were asked to put down a concrete topping on the floor of the structures. We first hammered steel stakes deep into the ground and welded a level platform to work off. We built the frame on the platform and when the structure was finished the farmer dug a shallow foundation and the built bricks up under the slopes. This is a common method to try and level the structure and works even on the most extreme slopes - it does make the structure weaker until the bricks and foundation have been added. Depending on the size of the structure it can also add costs - for the extra steel and labour. We then filled the floor until it was level and then stamped it down. After that we threw a slab, if you can call a 20mm thick topping a slab. After 3 days we came back and fitted the broiler unit out with the drinkers and feeders and heaters. We used automatic drinkers and fed the water off of a tank on the roof. We had to bring the water in by donkey cart and fill the tank using a ladder. Running this farm will be a challenge - it is fairly far from the main road, and the dirt road in is not in good condition. Without basic services like electricity and water the work load of the people working there will go up. Poultry lights are not going to happen unless the farmer uses solar lights - which is not a bad option considering the cost of Eskom power. A borehole will need to be sunk as soon as possible - monitoring the broilers intake is now very important - while the tanks on the roof of the steel structures will provide water for a few days - there is no way to easily see what the level is - the farmer will have to climb up on the roof every time - and will need to fill the tanks by hand - pretty difficult. Once the borehole is in place with a separate 1000 liter tank on a stand it will be connected to the small tank on the roof. The small tank has a ball valve. This will mean that as long as there is water coming from the main holding tank then the small tanks will always be full.
?Chicken Houses in Northern Limpopo can get very hot! We kept the slab wet for 3 days so as to allow the concrete to harden and give it strength. We got our materials from local builders, sand and stone from the quarries and cement from Giyane - Thohoyandou was a bit too far for hiring mechanised stampers and de-bubblers and Giyani had no such tools for hire. Building a poultry run in any remote area is going to present challenges - and this site was no exception - no running water on site and no electricity (we used a small generator for welding and at night to run the lights. We cooked on gas and open fires - but what friendly people the Vendas and the Giyane locals are. Our installation team bounced between Nzhelele and Giyane, where we are also building a thirty meter by seven meter layer facility - also with a cement slab. After putting up poultry structures all around South Africa I can easily say that the people from Venda and from Giyani are by far the most pleasant and helpful. After we had all the poultry equipment in we had a short poultry training session to teach the farmers how to use the gas heaters, the min max thermometer and the drinkers and feeders. Even though the poultry farmers have been raising broilers for some time they did not know about the heaters and thermometers. Automatic drinkers were also a first for them. These two broiler coops are located under the mountains of Nzhelele - what a beautiful place to farm. The road in to the site in Ramavhoya is not great - so bringing in tonnes of food by truck may present a challenge - but like most poor people in South Africa they will make a plan. The poultry farm in Giyane, near to Ga-Maup village is right on the main road - so logistics will be a breeze for this poultry farm. The farm in Nzhelele is also used by other farmers - maize and tomatoes. Perhaps the poultry farmer will be able to get together with the vegetable farmer and make use of the crops that are not good for sale - the birds will love a few fresh tomatoes to compliment their diet.