SMALL-SCALE EGG PRODUCTION
Reasons for keeping hens
- You can provide eggs for your family by keeping
12 hens. The hens will lay 9 to 10 eggs each day.
In this way you can even start your own small business.
- Of the 10 eggs you can sell 4 to pay for the
feed of the hens. That will leave the family with 5 or 6 eggs per day for
household consumption. Eggs are a valuable source of protein required for
normal growth, especially for children.
- If the demand for eggs in your area is high you
could expand and sell more of the eggs.
- It is best to keep the hens in a cage.
- This means that
— the hens can be kept in a small space
— the hens are kept in a cleaner environment
— the eggs are not easily broken
— the eggs stay clean
— the eggs can easily be collected
— the hens get fewer diseases
— less chance of the hens being stolen
— they need very little care.
- You can buy a cage or make your own.
- It is much cheaper to make
the cage yourself.
- Be sure to make the cage
strong enough for the weight of 12 hens.
- The size of the cage for 12
laying hens must be: 1,2 metres long by
0,7 metres wide by 0,45 metres high.
- You can build it from:
galvanised weld mesh, cane, bamboo or wattle sticks.
- The floor of the cage must be
made of wire (weld mesh) so that the hens' droppings will fall
through—this ensures that the floor on which they stand stays clean.
- Fit a feed trough to the
cage. It must be as long as the cage. Plastic or metal gutters can be
used as feed troughs.
- Plastic cooldrink bottles
with drinking nipples are used as drinkers. (The drinking nipples can be
obtained from Medunsa.)
- The cage should not stand on
the ground to ensure that the manure falls through. Put the cage on
poles, bricks,or old tyres or fasten it to the wall of the house, hut or
- You can buy day-old chicks and rear them, but
this is expensive and sometimes the chickens may die.
- It is better to buy young hens (pullets) of 18
to 19 weeks of age which are ready to lay eggs.
- The hens which you buy must be of a very good
quality and should be fully vaccinated against all known poultry diseases.
- These hens will start laying within 2 weeks of
being bought (when they are 20 to 21 weeks old).
- The hens should be kept for 1 year and then sold
as cull hens.
- If you keep them longer, they will start laying
fewer eggs and later stop laying altogether.
- You will be able to sell each cull hen for about
the same price as a replacement hen.
- In order for the hens to lay as many eggs as
they possibly can, they must have light.
- They should have 16 hours of light every day.
- This can be done simply if you have electricity.
- Put on the lights before sunrise and let them
stay on after sunset.
- If you do not have electricity the hens will not
lay as many eggs as hens with artificial light.
- In order to maximise egg production without
electricity, situate your cage outside to make maximum use of natural
- With 16 hours light everyday each hen will lay
about 280 eggs in a year.
- Without extra light each hen will lay about 200
eggs per year.
Feed for the hens
- You must give the hens the best feed possible if
you want them to lay well.
- It is therefore best to buy a good commercial
feed such as all mash laying mash.
- You can buy it at most cooperatives.
- Feed must be available in the feed trough at all
- Each hen will not eat more than 120 grams of
- One bag of feed will last approximately 1 month.
- The 12 hens will lay 9 to 10 eggs every day.
- To pay for the feed of the hens you must sell 4
eggs at about 40c per egg.
- The family will be left with about 6 eggs per
day for consumption.
- It will be best to make your own cage, as you
will then save about R200,00.
- Eggs can provide high-quality protein for your
further information contact:
Department of Veterinary Production and Ethology, University of Pretoria
This publication is also
available on the website of the National Department of Agriculture at:
Compiled by Directorate
Communication, National Department of Agriculture
Printed and published by
the National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate Communication
Private Bag X144, Pretoria, 0001 South Africa