Difference between a broiler house and a layer chicken house

Difference between broiler houses and a layer houses

Layer houses are generally wider and higher than broiler houses. The poultry curtains are also larger – the opening allows more ventilation for caged hens. This is too easily allow the litter to dry underneath the battery cages ( the dung falls through the cages and falls on the floor – while slaughter birds live on shavings which absorbs the dung). Broiler houses do not have layer cages or nest boxes whilst layer houses do (broilers do not lay eggs – so no need).

The laying house is for hens to produce eggs over a 60 week period, the broiler house is to bring up baby chicks for the purpose of eating, and they will be in the structure for 5 weeks to 6 weeks. The structures are very similar – but the poultry equipment used is very different. Watering tanks and curtains are the same – although the curtains are sometimes bigger in laying structures. On a layer farm items like egg sorting machines and refrigeration are required.

The chicken feed you give hens is also different to the poultry feed you would give to slaughter birds. The basics of caring for them is the same though – plenty of water, food, warmth or coolness and protection from predators. The disease challenges are similar and the medication, vitamins and Vaccinations follow the same principles. Poultry diseases like avian flu virus and coccidial infections affect all birds.

Poultry diseases in South Africa


The above chicken diseases plague all chickens all over the world. Some of the medication is given through the water system – and other kinds need to be administered to each chick or hen individually. The two types of farming should never be practised in the same coop, or even in near proximity to each other. In large commercial farming these two types are never practised on the same farm, but miles apart. This is because disease from one will kill birds from the other – remember one deals with babies (very susceptible to disease), while the other deals with adult birds.

Yellow door layer house for egg production

Layer house for egg production

The higher layer house is so that tiered layer cages will not be too close to the roof, while the extra width is so that you can maneuver an egg trolley around the layer cages when collecting the chicken eggs. A 30m x 7m layer house will accommodate 1760 (if you place 5 birds per segment) or 2464 (if you place 7 birds per segment – too many in my opinion) –

30m x 6m broiler house will house 2700 broiler chickens. A 9m x 7m layer house will accommodate 240 hens (if you place  5 birds  per segment ) or 336 hens (if you place 7 birds per segment) and a broiler house of the similar size will house 810 chickens.

What is a layer? – a layer is a hen that is bred for producing eggs. What is a broiler? –  a broiler is a chicken that is bred for slaughter – for it”s meat. If you are raising the hens on the floor of the coop you would use nesting boxes for the hens to lay eggs in, and the number of birds you can have per drinker or feeder is less than that in a broiler farm house. This is because the birds are much larger when they are raised for egg farming (they are alive for so much longer and therefore grow bigger – this means less birds can fit around the drinking equipment and feeding equipment.

In both types of farming the key principles remain the same – your task is to turn feed into meat, in the case of broilers, or feed into eggs in the case of layers…. in the shortest time possible at the lowest cost possible. Often “lowest cost” is mistaken for “not spending” – this is when producers skimp on medication, bio security, and other costs associated with caring for livestock. Big mistake – lowest cost means lowest cost in getting the most from your investment – and that means spending as much as is needed on keeping your flock healthy. Cutting back on seemingly trivial costs like bio security is a sure way to lose money. Trends worldwide in the poultry industry show that the biggest threat to a successful farm is disease. It is the one factor which farmers cannot wholly control, they can manage it but at some stage every livestock producer will face the challenge of disease on their farm.

Getting back to the subject of this post – the differences between a layer house and a broiler house are minimal – when we talk about the actual structure – but very different when we talk about the equipment used. I often wonder about houses in hot regions -the layer structures have a low wall to allow the litter to dry, the broiler houses have a higher wall to ……… ? no idea – In my opinion both should have very low wall and the curtains should be used when needed. The structures we build have the lowest possible walls – 300mm – this way the farmer has the choice of maximum ventilation any time.

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Breeds of chickens in South Africa

Depending on the type of chicken farming you are doing there are a number of chicken breeds available in South Africa. breeds of poultry in South AfricaDifferent types of chicken farming include layers or laying chickens for eggs for eating, layer houses that have laying poultry or hens for producing eggs for a hatchery – these poultry farms produce day old to supply to broiler farms. Broiler chickens – this type of poultry farming is growing chickens that are meant to be eaten. All and any of these farms can be for free range chickens or organic chicken farming – aalthough in South Africa most of the chicken farming is intensive chicken farming, using layer cages and closed houses. Many small chicken farmers grow broilers. You will also need specific types of poultry equipment for different types of chicken farming.

Breeds of poultry include:

Broilers or broiler chicken breeds – for eating

1.       Ross

2.       Cobb

3.       Arbour Acres

Layers or laying chicken breeds – for laying eggs

1.       Amber link Silver

2.       Hyline Silver

3.       Hyline Brown

4.       Loman silver

Poultry Breeds specific to Southern Africa include:

  1. Potchefstroom Koekoek

  2. Ovambo

  3. Venda

  4. Naked Necks

  5. New Hampshire

  6. Black Australop

  7. Rhode Island Red

There are other breeds for sale in S.A.

Boschvelder, Potch Koekoek, Koekoeks and Buff Orpingtons, Light Sussex, Dark Brahma, light Brahma.

You will need to specify how the bird was raised – free range or intensive depending on what kind of farming you wish to do – organically raised birds are rare so you will need to study the regulations and see how long you have raise them as organic before you sell the chickens or eggs as such.

Other breeds from around the world.

 New Hampshire
 Plymouth Rock   
 Rhode Island Red   
 Transylvanian Naked Neck
 Silkie Bearded
 Silkie Unbearded
 Aseel Game
 Cornish Game
 Indian Game
 Malay Game
 Natal Game
 Oxford Old English Game   
 Yakido Game
 Shamo Game
 Sumatra Game
 Thai Game
 American Game

Breeds of chickens are used in definite kinds of farming and their requirements are specific to certain conditions and feeds. Some birds are good for free range, others for intensive farming. Some handle the cold well, or the heat well. Some roost high, some low – you will need to be very specific about your intended results – they grow at different rates and have different end weights. Most are bred for production farming and the grandparent stock is all overseas – some of the parent stock is in South Africa. I have not seen a pure bred African chicken – if you know of an African breed of chicken let me know and I will a pay well for eggs or a breeding pair of chickens. These kinds of birds are for sale (from AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL ) and so are fertilised eggs for those wishing to hatch their own birds – usually using an incubator. The poultry breeding unit in Irene handles all the inquiries.

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