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Agricultural Engineering

Farm Structure-Poultry Shed

A poultry is housed for comfort, protection, efficient production and convenience of the poultry man.

Location of Poultry House

  • Relation to other building

The poultry house should not be close to the home as to create unsanitary conditions. It should be located considering at least three trips in feeding, watering, gathering the eggs, etc.

  • Exposure

The poultry house should face south or east in moist localities.

  • Soil and drainage

A sloping hillside provides good drainage and affords some protection. A fertile well drained soil is desired.

  • Shade and protection

Trees serve as a windbreak in the winter and for shade in the summer.

  • Ventilation

Ventilation in the poultry house is necessary to provide the birds with fresh air and to carry off moisture.

  • Temperature

Hens need a moderate temperature of 500F to 700F. Cross ventilation is also aids in keeping the house is always an ideal condition.

  • Light requirements

About 10 lux (one ft.candle) is normally considered enough for production.

  • Sanitation

The worst enemies of the birds, i.e., lice, ticks, fleas and mites are abundant in poultry houses. The design of the house should be such which admits easy cleaning and spraying. Absolute dry conditions inside a poultry is always and ideal condition.

  • Floor Space

For economic production of laying hens it is always better to keep them in small units of 15 to 25 birds. This number can go up to a maximum limit of 250 birds. In commercial poultry farms, units of 125 or so are advisable. Where there is a long house, partitioning at every 20 feet should be made to eliminate drafts, etc.

Styles of Poultry Houses

  • Shed types

They are the simplest of poultry house and by far the most useful and practical type of house that can be used under different climatic conditions. The slope of roof needs only be slight in the plains, while in the hills where snowfall is heavy or in heavy rainfall, it ought to be sufficiently steep. The shed-roof types of houses may be either portable or stationary.

  • Gable type

The type is more suitable in rainfall areas. Gable type may be stationary or portable.

  • Combination type

Such houses have double pitch roofs in which the ridge between the two slopes is not midway from front to back. Most of the houses have the long slope to the rear.

House Construction

  • Roofs

In India the cement-asbestos sheeting, corrugated iron and zinc sheets are commonly used as roofing material.

  • Floors

The floor of a laying house should be free from dampness, with a smooth surface without cracks, easy to clean and disinfect, rat proof and durable.

  • Concrete floor

A well laid concrete floor is the safest way to meet these requirements.

  • Wire mesh floor

Wire mesh floor or preferably mesh of expanded metal is the best for portable houses. The expanded metal having " X " mesh, nailed to the bottom of the house makes excellent flooring through which all the excreta drop out ensuring best sanitary condition.

  • Katcha floor

The poor village farmer sometimes prefers this sort of floor due to low cost, but it is difficult to keep clean.

  • Walls

The walls should be water-tight, wind-proof, and finished with interior surface that are easy to clean and disinfect. For the hills open type houses with necessary adaptions prove quite suitable. In plains the walls may be of expanded metal wire mesh on all the sides and the roof will be on some special iron frame.

  • Ventilation

If built of brick, the south side of the house ought to be enclosed with half-inch mesh wire netting; on the north, east and west, high up near the roof, there should be some openings, 12’X6’, covered with the same kind of wire netting.

  • Door

The door of the house must be on the south, and made of an angle iron frame covered with ’ mesh wire netting.

  • Windows

At least 1 square feet openings for each 10 square feet of floor space is recommended for the plain areas of India. In the hill regions this size may be reduced to half.

Systems of Housing

  1. Free-range system
  2. The birds are kept on land where they can find an appreciable amount of food in the form of herbage, seeds and insects, provided they are protected from predatory animals and infectious diseases including parasitic infestation. At present due to advantages of intensive methods the system is almost obsolete.

  3. Semi-intensive system
  4. This system is adopted where the amount of free space available is limited, but it is necessary to allow the birds 20-30 square yards per bird of outside run. This space should be divided giving a run on either side of the house of 10-15 square yards per bird, thus enabling the birds to move onto fresh ground.

  5. Folding-unit system
  6. In portable folding units birds being confirmed to one small run, the position is changed each day, giving them fresh ground and the birds find a considerable proportion of food from the herbage are healthier and harder. The most convenient folding unit to handle is that which is made for 25 hens. A floor space of 1 square foot should be allowed for each bird in the house, and 3 square feet in the run, so that a total floor space to the whole unit is 4 square feet per bird, as with the intensive system. The part nearest the house is covered in and the remaining 10’ open with wire netting sides and top.

  7. Intensive system

Under the intensive system, Battery (cage system) and Deep litter methods are most common.

  • Battery system

This is the most intensive type of poultry production and is useful to those with only a small quantity of floor space at their disposal. The usually floor space is 14x16 inches and the height, 17 inches. The floor is of standard strong galvanized wire set at a slope from back to the front, so that the eggs as they are laid, roll out of the cage to a receiving gutter. Underneath is a tray for droppings. Both food and water receptacles are outside the cage. Many small cages can be assembled together, if necessary it may be multistoried. The whole structure should be of metal so that no parasites will be harboured and thorough disinfection can be carried out as often as required. This system has proved to be remarkably successful in the tropical countries. To supply vitamins A and D, codliver oil, yeast, dried milk powder are useful, and fish meal or other animal protein, and balanced minerals and some form of grit must be made available.

  • Deep litter system

In this system the poultry birds are kept in the large pens up to 250 birds each, on floor covered with litters like straw, saw dust or leaves up to depth of 8-12 inches. Deep litter resembles to dry compost. In other words we can define deep litter, as the accumulation of the material used for litter with poultry manure until it reaches a depth of 8-12 inches.

Care during deep litter

  • Do not have too many birds in the pen-one bird for every 3 to 4 and preferably 5 square feet of floor space.
  • Keep the litter dry.
  • Turning the litter (just like digging in a garden) at least once weekly is very important in maintaining a correct build-up of deep litter.


Suitable dry organic materials like straw (needs to be cut into 2 or 3 inch lengths), saw dust, leaves, dry grasses, groundnut shells, broken up maize stalks and cobs, bark of trees in sufficient quantity to give a depth of about 6 inches in the pen should be used. In about 2 months, it has usually become deep litter, and by 6 months it has become built-up deep litter. The deep litter pen should be started when the weather is dry, and is likely to remain so for about 12 months for the operation of the bacterial action, which alters the composition of the litters. Start new litter with each year’s pullets and continue with it for their laying period.

  • Deep litter in wet areas

Sometimes the litters may get damp in spite of all precautions, at that time about 0.5 kg of super phosphate may be thoroughly mixed up with litters spreading in 15 square feet of floor space.

Advantages of deep litter system

  • Safety of birds

When enclosed in deep litter intensive pen, which has strong wire netting or expanded metal, the birds and eggs are safe.

  • Litter as a source of food supply

They birds obtain protein factor from deep litter when a suitable feed ration to be prepared with only a vegetable protein such as groundnut meal included in the feed.

  • Disease control

Well-managed deep litter kept in dry condition with no wet spots around waterer has a sterilizing action.

  • Labour saving

This is one of the really big features of deep litter usage. Well managed litter there is no need to clean a pen out for a whole year; the only attention is the regular stirring and adding of some material as needed.

  • The valuable fertiliser

This is a valuable economic factor with deep litter. The level of nitrogen in fresh manure is about 1% but on well built-up deep litter it may be around 3% nitrogen. It also contains about 2% phosphorus and 2% potash. Its value is about 3 times that of cattle manure.

  • Hot weather safeguard

The litter maintains its own constant temperature, so birds burrow into it when the air temperature is high and thereby cool themselves. Conversely, they can warm themselves in the same way when the weather is very cool.