It may surprise you how limited or distorted the average Nigerian knows about the processes involved in egg production before it gets to the supermarket or neighbourhood kiosk. Recently, a friend of mine strongly insisted that commercial chickens globally are chemically induced to produce eggs, after all, how else would a hen lay eggs without being mounted by a cockerel.
Obviously we need a lot of education and enlightenment to correct various errors and distorted views. I also strongly suspect that there are many with distorted views like my friend, who are also not consuming eggs because of a false assumption about it emerging from some scientific experiments instead of natural processes
Without re-kindling the age-old debate over which poultry product came first, between the chicken and the egg, it would be nice for every Nigerian to know that they can now conveniently farm at the back yard, thanks to the new innovative Eco-Pro caging system from Gartech Poultry Equipment Co.
But before we go further into the new innovation, it is important to establish some basic facts and to clear up some misconceptions.
The Egg Cycle
Most of the eggs we eat come from hens and it is an all-day event for a chicken to make an egg and to lay it. The hen is born with many tiny yolks in her body. At reproductive maturity (usually 16 -18 weeks), one at a time, the yolk grows into full size going through its oviduct, forming the albumen (egg white), then finally the formation of the egg shell and its external pigmentation (mostly white or brown). The process repeats itself every 24.2 hours depending on the quantity and quality of feed consumed. So at best each hen can lay approximately one egg a day. Note that only hens lay eggs. Their male counterparts do not.
Backyard Farming Made Easy
Ideally, backyard farming should be done in a somewhat contained system, maximizing limited land resources, minimizing supplement or feed wastage and preserving eggs, however this is not commonly the case. Typically, backyard poultry farming is done using the deep litter (floor rearing) system because of the cost associated with having cages that would require complex and costly water supply fixtures and general investment costs. With the help of the new Eco Pro innovative cages, the most ideal and convenient backyard small scale egg farming can be done. The system has in it an in-built water containing system that house the daily water supply and feeding need for the full capacity of birds housed. In addition, feed wastage and egg soiling would be highly minimized as the cages have feeding troughs and “roll out” egg collection systems in them. Home owners would simply be required to load in the feed into the feed trough and top up the in-built water reserve tank while going about their daily business. The whole process can be observed 56 to 112 (or more) hens at a time depending on family size, appetite and market network. This would also allow the home owner-turned-farmer to see that only feed, water and good shelter are required for the hen to continue its natural process of laying egg daily
How about the litter?
Much of what goes into one end of a chicken actually comes out on the other end. In other words, every bird would produce litter daily. The same thing goes for all back yard poultry rearing system. The good news here is that due to the localized and contained state of the birds in the cages, their litter can be contained and better managed. Also, the population of poultry is relatively low, thus a lower litter burden. The manure can be piled up and composted to be further used as fertilizer for backyard vegetable farming. Manure can also be daily collected and disposed off since it’s a significantly lower population of birds thus the burden is low.
Engaging in backyard farming puts the production process directly under your control from “farm to fork”, in this case, from “backyard to fork”. It also presents a rare opportunity for young children to intimately learn about the chicken farming giving them better understanding and a good foundation about their sources of food. It is also a form of empowerment as it could help rural dwellers earn extra income on the side without taking away their current source of livelihood. It can equally limit environmental degradation. The more this is taken up by households, the less packaging materials (cartons, plastics, labels etc) go into circulation, thereby limiting our environmental foot print.
A seed for commercialization?
When backyard poultry activities become exciting, the passion for commercialization can be triggered. Our love for poultry meat and eggs is growing at a staggering pace. Every year, Nigeria imports more over a million metric ton of poultry products valued at nearly US$1 billion to meet domestic demand.
Nigeria’s love for chicken and eggs is increasing with the size of its rapidly growing population. Even with massive import, Nigeria’s poultry market is experiencing a boom as a result of its rapid population and economic growth.
Any incoming commercial poultry farmer who knows his onions would not likely regret the move. Egg production particularly holds a lot of promise for Nigerian entrepreneurs. While it may be relatively easy to smuggle poultry meat, eggs are much more delicate and have a sensitive shelf life. So egg production holds a lot of opportunities and less competition from foreign imports.
As our population increases, and the size and earning power of the African middle class grow, the demand for eggs and other poultry products will likely put a lot of pressure on the already limited production.
Households, restaurants, processed food producers, fast food businesses, bakeries and confectioners constitute a large chunk of annual egg demand and make very good potential targets even for small scale egg suppliers.