BROILERS VERSUS LAYERS (DIFFERENCES, PRODUCTION AND PROFITABILITY)
Are you confused on what type of chickens to start rearing in your poultry farming business? I will outline the benefits and disadvantages of rearing each of the types of chickens: layers (for eggs) and Broilers (for meat). What I will say is based on personal experience of majority farmers and I will give you both ways to leverage more in any one you decide to choose to start the poultry farming business.
A) What are Broilers and Layers Chickens?
Broilers or Broiler chickens are birds that are reared solely for the purpose of meat production. Their genes make them grow faster than native chickens and layers. Within few weeks, broilers can grow to attain heavy weights that can cause their vents to protrude out or make them crippled and unable to walk as a result of their excessive weight gain. Broilers’ feeds are made to have excess energy to enable them gain weight.
Layers are birds reared for the purpose of egg production. They have genes that make them lay eggs often (I said often and not daily as some people may make you think as if every chicken must lay egg every day. It is not realistic). Layers tend not to gain weight and their feeds composition is made in such a way that it helps them lay eggs without much weight.
Differences between Egg laying chickens (Layers) and Meat producing chickens (Broilers)
…1. Layers lay eggs often than broilers
2. Broilers gain more weight than layers
3. Broiler feeding is more costly than layers as more energy and protein is required for broilers to quickly gain weight than it is required by layers. The more the amount of protein content in poultry feed, the costly the feed can get.
4. Layers tend to develop disease commonly compared to broilers because they are reared for longer periods of time. Broilers are reared for few weeks and they are sold out which shows they may not stay long to be exposed to some diseases of chickens.
5. It is easier to start a broiler poultry farm than a layer farm because the initial cost of starting a broiler farm is cheaper and the expertise or skills needed are minimal compared to layers that are more complex and costly initially.
6. You can start earning within few weeks for broilers but you must wait for a minimum of about 5 months for layer chickens to start laying eggs, i.e. if you start brooding the chicks yourself; except if you are going to buy point of lay chickens, which would be additional cost.
7. If you ever run at a loss, it will be less in broilers than in layers because you can easily start all over again in broilers; whereas in layers, it may take a whole year for you to recover from a loss.
8. You can make profit from a few hundred broilers but you have to start with large number of layers for you to really make profit. I will explain more below.
C) Which should I start in a Poultry farm? Layer chickens or Broiler Chickens?
I will not give you a direct answer to start layer farming or broiler farming in your Poultry business as it will depend largely on your skills, the starting capital and the marketing strategies you employ. You will do well if you continue reading to fully understand the Poultry business before you start any.
I will explain the reasons based on the challenges you will encounter while rearing chickens and you decide based on your strengths.
I am starting with this because people often start poultry farming without knowing how to market the final products and at the end they are forced to sell at cheap rates which often make them run at loss. To avoid failing in the poultry business, know where you are going to market your products, how you will market and be sure of it before you even start. Be practical about the marketing and do not sit in your room and imagine your profits as if you were the one going to buy the products. Ask those that have been into the business and know how they sell the products and how easy or hard it can be to sell them.
If you are going into broiler farming, know those who buy it, how much they buy, what can affect the market and how you can leverage the market. Broilers are not good to market as the chickens will continue to consume the feed (you must feed them whether you have someone to buy the chickens or not). This means that if you do not get people to buy the chickens even after they reach the market weight for selling them, it means you will continue to feed them pending when you get someone to buy the chickens. The more the broilers stay without selling, the more you will be losing because no matter the weight the broilers gain, it depends on how much the customer is willing to pay for them. To avoid this, you should have a cold room or frozen chicken shop that you own yourself so that you can store the meat after slaughtering the chickens and you can be selling the meat directly yourself. This is the only way to gain profits from broilers. If you do not have a means of storage, then be rest assured the market will not be in your favour most times.
Layers on the other hand are easier to market as the eggs produced by the chickens can be stored without getting spoilt. It means 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. The only downside to layers marketing is that the price for eggs in almost all regions of the world is fixed according to your location. This means that whether your eggs are very big, you will still sell at the same price as other farmers.
2. Immunisation/Treatment of Infections and Diseases
Rearing of broilers to attain market weight that you can sell only takes about 42 days or 6 weeks; sometimes it can get to 8 weeks. This is a short period of time. It means you can rear many sets of broiler chickens in one year. This can help you especially when you have disease outbreak. In terms of disease outbreak, you will lose some chickens and within 3 months, you are back rearing another set of broiler chickens. This is not the case for layers. When there is disease outbreak in layers and some die, you cannot start another set of layers again and you have to wait for about a year to recover from the loss.
The money you will spend on treating diseases will be more with layers than broilers because layers stay longer and hence you have to spend money to buy their drugs, their vaccines and processes such as debeaking (cutting their beaks to reduce the rate at which they injure one another and also destroy their own eggs and drink it). Almost everything affects egg production in layer farming: whether the feed is not enough for the birds, they will reduce the egg size; any infection or disease or even the debeaking affects their egg production. Treatment or prevention of diseases by some drugs especially for coccidiosis affects their egg production. You will therefore need a lot of knowledge on diseases and treatment options for layers before you even start.
3. Level of skills for starting the Poultry farming
With broilers, you can easily start as a novice and become a professional after few sets of chickens. This is because the birds need fewer vaccines as they do not stay for a long time as layers. You can start with few broilers like 10 or 50 or 100 broiler chickens and use them to gain experience before starting on a large scale. Reverse is the case for layers. Will you want to rear 100 layers in a year before you start on a large scale (how many will die and how many will be left)? It will therefore require that you have a partner who has been into layers farming before starting it, in order to leverage on his/her knowledge.
4. Initial start-up cost
Starting a poultry farm requires much capital but less capital is needed in broiler farming than in layer farming. Broilers need light, clean water, space, few vaccines and food and within 8 weeks (2months) you are ready to sell them out and start another set of chickens. Layers on the other hand require all that broilers require with additional vaccines, debeaking (imagine you have to debeak 2,000 birds or more? If you will use battery cage to avoid debeaking, then imagine how much extra cost will be needed to set up a battery cage system?), extra cost of feeding for months before the birds start laying.
5. Long term revenue
With more time, layers farming in a large scale will bring in more revenue than broilers because after laying of eggs, the birds can be sold out as meat even though at lesser price compared to that of broilers. This means, 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 to start another set of layers again. This selling out of old layers can be additional revenue added to the revenue generated from selling of the eggs they had been producing.s
Broilers can only generate more revenue than layers when you already have a large market demand that you cannot even satisfy all the demand. This can occur when you need to supply fix number of broiler meat to a company (a hotel, eatery or school etc.) and even when you have enough customers from your location. In this case, you can produce at a large scale and sell out within 8 weeks and start another round of chickens again. This will make you sell more and generate more profit than in layers. But what will happen when the market demand for layers is also large? So the final advice for you will be what I have said initially that you should know the marketing strategy you will adopt, know the demand and know the challenges of each before you start anyone.
Broilers and layers poultry farming are both good and choosing anyone depends on the factors stated above. You can make money with anyone and the profit depends on the number of birds you are producing at a time and the market demand.
By: Bongdap Nansel Nanzip®
📷: Agribusiness Network Lesotho