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Commercial Production

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					               Commercial Production
Chickens have been an integral part of our domestic scene for egg and meat
production for a very long time. There are even records of hens being kept for
eggs and meat as far back as Ancient Egyptian and Roman times.

Chickens were domesticated from the Jungle Fowl, which is still very much alive,
although endangered, and living in the rainforest areas of SE Asia. The chickens
of today still posses instincts similar to their wild ancestors, such as foraging on
the ground for food, flying to roost at night and enjoying the canopy of plants
during the day.

Commercial Egg Production has always been a topic for debate, since intensive
production began. For hundreds of years, poultry were kept in the garden or on
larger farming properties under basically free range conditions. Population
increases, consumer demands and economic climate created the need for the
more intensive farming practices in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These intensive
practices enabled farmers to provide their produce at a reasonable price to the
consumer.

Today, poultry are kept commercially for three purposes.

     1. Egg Production – consumable
     2. Meat Production
     3. Egg Production – fertile


1.     Egg Production - consumable

Breeds

Although there are many different breeds of chickens, only three breeds are
generally used for commercial egg production. These breeds are crossed to
produce hybrids for specific egg production purposes. The genetic background
for egg producing poultry is Leghorn X Australorp, White Leghorn X New
Hampshire and New Hampshire X Australorp.

The main criteria for egg production is the number of eggs produced over a 12
month period. Pullets begin laying at 18 to 22 weeks of age.
Housing

Laying Cages

Two to three birds are housed in cages for a laying period of 12 to 14 months.
Droppings fall through the wire floors and are cleaned out regularly. Continuous
feed troughs and automatic waterers are fitted to the cages. Eggs roll out
through the front of the cage and lie in a gutter for collection.

Deep Litter Floor Accommodation

Birds are kept in sheds with ‘litter’ on the floor i.e. straw, wood shavings, rice hulls
etc. The equipment inside the sheds consists of food troughs, waterers, nesting
boxes and perches.


2.     Meat Production (Broiler)

Broiler is the name given to birds bred specifically for meat production. The
Chicken Meat industry is commonly known as the Broiler Industry.

Breeds

Breeding broilers is more complicated than breeding layers. The males are
chosen for their broiler characteristics i.e. growth rate, food conversion ratio and
conformation. The female is chosen with an emphasis on egg production as well
as growth rate.

The breeds incorporated in the genetic pool are Light Sussex, New Hampshire,
Game, White Rock and Australorp.

For broiler production, the emphasis is placed upon liveweight gain, age to
market weight and food conversion ratio (kg liveweight gain/kg food
consumption).

Housing

Broilers are usually housed in sheds, using techniques to best achieve maximum
growth rate and the best conversion of food to liveweight gain. The sheds are
equipped with automatic feeders and waterers.

Optimum live weight of a broiler is 1.8kg, which is ideally achieved by 8 weeks.
3.    Fertile Egg Production
Production of fertile eggs involves some of the same practices as commercial egg
production.

The flocks are kept on deep litter in sheds. These sheds contain feeders,
waterers and perches.

The mating ratio is normally 10 cockerels for 100 pullets.

The above are brief outlines of the housing methods used in more intensive
operations. Free range production and self sufficient production deserve a sheet
on their own, so have a look at ‘Free Range Eggs’ and ‘Chickens in the Garden’.

				
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Description: Commercial Production