Small-scale chicken farming is a great way to enhance family income or to improve your family’s diet with a regular source of chicken meat or eggs. It is also very flexible, as you can control and change the number of chickens between every batch. But as it remains important to get some fundamentals right, Food For Mzansi asked one farmer about the need to keep chicken litter clean and dry.
Sandiswa Kula, a small-scale farmer in eMxhelo just outside Alice in the Eastern Cape, started farming with chickens in April this year when her aunt gave her 100 day-old chicks as a start-up gift. Depending on the month, she mostly farms with between 20 and 50 chickens. She shares what she has learnt.
Chicken litter is the layer of material used on the floor of the poultry house. According to Kula, the litter helps to keep the chicks dry when they are young and provides comfort for the little creatures. It keeps the area dry for longer and also helps to keep the odour of the poultry house to a minimum.
The material used for litter should be highly absorbent, lightweight and non-toxic. You need to provide the chickens with bedding material of at least 5cm deep.
“I use sawdust, which I change at least twice a week,” says Kula.
Keeping litter clean and dry
For the health of your chickens, the litter must be kept clean and dry. Dry litter hinders bacteria and mould growth in the poultry house, and also helps to control ammonia levels.
The litter material must therefore be replaced regularly. The drinkers used in the poultry house must also be properly maintained to prevent them from leaking water.
Making use of old litter
Used litter has value and need not be seen as waste. It can be used as a fertiliser for crop production, so if you have a small farm or garden as well, make use of old chicken litter as a source of nutrients for your crops.
“I personally don’t use it in the garden because I have very rocky, infertile soil where I am,” says Kula. She uses goat droppings and chicken manure from her other free-range chickens, and don’t dilute it with the sawdust mix.
“I’m sure other people use the litter though, should they feel it is necessary,” she says. “It’s just something I prefer not to do with my little veggie garden.”
Watch the World Poultry Foundation’s training video on chicken litter here:
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