There are two main systems, the deep or dry litter and the battery cage system. In the deep litter system, the chicken lay the egg on the floor.
The problems inherent in this practice are many and may do more harm than good to the farmer.
Eggs laid on the floor will have direct contact with chicken droppings, which is a serious health hazard as the droppings contain ammonia.
Secondly, the chicken have direct contact with the eggs. As a result, the chickens may break the eggs, which will lead to loss of income to the farmer.
Thirdly, it will be extremely difficult to do a stock count, where the farmer has a large flock of chicken. Where the staff is dishonest and steal the chicken, the farmer may not realise the loss at a glance.
Also, the production in the dry litter system is lower because the chicken burns a lot of energy moving around.
The battery cage system, on the other hand, restricts chicken movement and three or four chicken occupy a cubicle.
Their droppings fall on the floor beneath the cages, so the chicken have no direct contact with their droppings.
With this system, there is reduced health risks and less expenditure on vaccines.
The farmer can easily do a stock count of the chicken and the chicken have no access to the eggs. The eggs will roll out of their reach after laying.
Further, it is much easier to feed the chicken and provide water, as these will be poured into their feeders and drinkers attached to the battery cages. Therefore, wastage of feed is minimised, unlike in the dry or deep litter system.
The battery cage is better suited, as the egg production is higher than in the deep litter because movement is restricted, which makes the chicken conserve their energy for increased production.
If you are financially constrained and cannot afford battery cages, you may stick to the dry litter system on the following conditions:
- Feed a bird on 130g of feeds per day.
- Clean the feeders and drinkers daily.
- Reduce on poultry litter monthly.
- Ventilate the chicken house.
- Always take and mist the litter.
- Count the birds every two months.
- Look out for the presence of external parasites, such as mites and treat them immediately.
- Remove eggs three times a day.
- Make sure clean water is always available in the house.
Though in cages, a farmer feeds the chickens on 100g per day per bird, one picks the eggs once a day.
One does not have drinkers to clean or face disease challenges. It is rare to find mites in cages. Birds cannot eat their droppings, as is the case with deep litter.
A farmer must have adequate space to operate a deep litter system, precisely six birds per square metre.
Adequate floor space in the deep litter system is an absolute necessity because overcrowding chicken leads to poor growth and development and, eventually, poor egg production.
In a space for 2,000 birds in deep litter, the same space could take 4,500-5,000 birds, under the cages system.
The cleaning exercise in the dry litter system is a more tedious exercise than in the battery system.
Because of all those activities in deep litter, you will need more workers than in a cage system.
I do not say that deep litter is the worst, but cages are better if you have capital!