This is a common question among poultry farmers, especially with a beginner. And sometimes they make wrong decisions due to lack of beginners' guide in poultry farming, which may lead to frustration and regret. So, to avoid such, you have to do some proper research for rearing layers and broilers.
You don’t choose layers, or broilers based on your likeness or sentiments, there are several factors you have to consider before making your choice. And again, you have to understand their differences in terms of growth rate, egg production, and resistance to diseases, Market demands, etc to enable you to make an informed decision.
Layers and broilers are chickens bred for commercial egg and meat production respectively. They are also called commercial hybrids or strains rather than pure breeds. These hybrids or strains are usually highly superior to the pure breeds for their egg or meat production. You may determine, from experience, on the best hybrid for your situation.
Examples of these commercial chickens are Hubbard, Shavers, Babcock , Isabrown, and Hyline for layers, while Cornish cross, ROSS 308, and Cobb for broilers, which are trade (or special ) names given to them. In Nigeria, layers, that produce many, large and brown eggs and good body size at end of lay and white broilers with heavy breast meat, long tibia, and shanks are mostly preferred.
Ross 308 broiler
Next, you have to know the differences between layers and broilers for better decision making.
1.Layers are reared mainly for egg production, while broilers are reared mainly for meat.
2. A layer produce more eggs without growing too much (upon 72 weeks). A broiler yield more meat and hence they grow very fast ( can attain market size at 6-7 weeks)
3. Layers require enough space and adequate lighting, while broilers require conditions to grow fast and low mortality
4. Layers require restricted and calculated feed, while broilers food requirement is rich in protein and vitamins
.5. In Layers, recovery from a loss is time and money consuming, while recovery from a loss is easier with broilers because you can easily start another circle of production due to their fast growth rate
6. You can make more profit with few broilers, while you require a larger number of layers to make a profit
The differences above are helpful, but not enough to guide you in making an informed decision on which breed to choose. They are other factors that you have to also consider as earlier stated. These factors include
Marketing is one of the skills most poultry farmers are lacking. They invest solely in production without investing in marketing. Before you start your production you have to find and locate your target market to avoid being stranded.
Broiler marketing is more intense because they can attain market size between 6- 7 weeks and you have to sell them. They feed on their profit once you refused to sell them at this stage (maximum 8 weeks) because you have to keep feeding them.
Moreover, broilers feed conversion rate decreases with age, so you have to look for customers before starting your production in order to avoid food wastage and loss
Another way you can market broiler and avoid loss is through meat processing. That is converting your matured broiler to a frozen chicken for storage, if you can afford a deep freezer, in that way you will be safe from continuous feeding and spending.
Moreover, some breed of broilers is more suitable for frozen chicken sales because of their heavy breast meat and weight, obviously, because frozen chickens are sold by weighing. If you do not have a means of storage, then be rest assured the market will not be in your favor most times.
However, you can make a ton of cash from just a few broilers, unlike layers. All you need is a good marketing strategy, and you will be smiling to the bank.
Layers are easier to market than broilers, although, it takes time to get to a marketable size, or to a point of lay. The eggs are the major source of income, and they can be stored up to 3 – 4 weeks without spoiling.
In this case, you will only sell the eggs when you are willing and you will not get desperate about them. Even though you will be feeding the chickens every day, they will be laying more eggs that you get to sell when you find customers that want to buy.
Another bonus is that you will sell the chickens as "old layer", the money realized from the sales is just the icing of the cake.
However, one major problem with layers is a health issue, and it can affect their productivity and marketing value. Layers are more prone to health challenges than broilers. This is because health challenges increase with age, and layers require more time to start yeilding any profit than broilers.
It takes about 16 – 18 weeks for a layer to get to a point of the layer, and as such faces so many disease threats along the way. Ensure to diligently follow a standard vaccination and medication schedule, plus proper bio-security measures in order to avoid poor productivity and low market value.
With broilers, you will spend less money on vaccines and medication. This is because they attain market size within a short period of time leaving no room for disease and pathogens to manifest. Just a few diseases like Newcastle, Gumboro, and Coccidiosis, affect broilers within that short period of time which can be prevented by vaccines.
Broilers can attain marketable size between 6-8 weeks, and it is not advisable to keep feeding them after this period because there will be little or no feed conversion –that means they are feeding on their profit and you are running into a loss, and some diseases agents might just be at the corner waiting to register themselves in your flock.
On the other hand, layers require more vaccination and medication because more time ( about 16 – 18 weeks to get to point of lay, and 72 weeks to get to the end of lay) is required to rear them to a point of lay, and as such there will be more health challenges.
You will spend more money on treatment and prevention of diseases, including periodic deworming and debeaking. All these require a lot of money, and anyone that is neglected will have adverse effects on production in general.
A beginner or novice can easily rear broilers with fewer casualties, because broilers grow very fast, and can be sold as early as 6 weeks leaving no room for some disease manifestation, which most beginners may not be able to handle without some experience and skills. With layer it is totally different; you cannot rear layers without some basic skills and guidance from an experienced farmer.
Layers are not like broilers that attain marketable size early; they need more time, and with more time come so many challenges, especially health and feed management, which can only be contained by a trained or experienced farmer. It is not advisable for a beginner to start with layers, even if he or she has undergone some training, it is still not enough to handle layers, rather he/she should attaché himself or herself to an experienced farmer.
You cannot use layers as a try and error project, because the startup number is always large (100 and above) to enable you to make some profit at least.
If you use a smaller number (like 30-50) of layers, you will make little or no profit. So, in order to secure your investment and avoid mistakes beginners make in poultry farming, you have to equip yourself with the necessary skills and experience.
Generally, poultry farms require large input cost, but the start-up cost for rearing layers is more when compared with that of broilers. In fact, you don’t make any profit till after 18 to 20 weeks.
That is the money for feeds, vaccines, medications, and equipment should be on the ground before purchasing your day-old chicks (DOC). You need to be financially stable to be able to run a Layer farm.
Broiler, on the other hand, requires little start-up costs. You can start with 50 to 100 broilers and sell at 6 to 8 weeks and still make a profit out of it. Many vaccines and medications are not required, although, broiler feed is more costly than layers feed, due to the high protein, carbohydrate, and vitamin supplements in it, in order to attain marketable size within a short period of time.
Layers will not only give you income on a daily basis through the selling of eggs but will also serve as a source of long term revenue through selling the layers when they get to the end of lay- that is when the layers grow old and the rate of their feed consumption is higher than the egg production, you should know it is time to sell them out and start another set of production.
To achieve the same fit of revenue with broilers, you have to have a chain of customers that you will be supplying periodically. Having such customers and satisfying them is not an easy task. You have to rear several sets of broilers within a year and meeting up demand is daunting, although, if you have the manpower you will sell and make more profit within a short time.
The reverse is the case with layers. A set of layers will continue to generate income for more than a year. And sometimes old layers also compete with broilers in the meat market. The demand for layer meat might increase at any time, so what do you do with your broiler meat?
This is the reason you have to consider your target customer before rearing broilers. Make sure they will be willy to buy your broiler at maturity. Also have other sale options like processing them into frozen chickens.- which is a good means of generating a long-term revenue.
Rearing layers or broilers are both profitable businesses. Making your choice largely depends on the above factors discussed above. It is left for you to determine which breed you can manage effectively and make a profit, along with the pros and cons that will also align with your lifestyle.
For me, I started with a broiler and now layers only. Sometimes I rear the broiler seasonally. You see, Your choice will mainly depend on factors that are prevalent at a particular time. As you make your choice, I wish you successful poultry farming.
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