It is commonplace for people to assume poultry and chicken production are synonymous. Poultry is actually more than just chicken production; it includes other areas of specialization. A simple dictionary definition of poultry is that it is domestic fowl such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese. You could also say that it is domesticated birds reared for their meat or eggs. With that said today I want to discuss other poultry businesses you can do – other than chicken production. It is important to talk about them because most people never consider them yet they can be lucrative.
It turns out there is quite some notable activity in this domain in Zimbabwe. As of 2 years ago, annual production stood at over 120 tonnes of turkey meat in Zimbabwe. Over the years the production has been surging – at an average growth rate of 3.5 per cent. Turkeys are a delicacy; I personally love the meat. The meat and the offals (such as the liver) are a good addition to your diet. There is a market and I know this because lots of people still source turkey meat from South Africa and other African nations. It takes about 5 months for turkeys to reach maturity. Essentially you can feed turkeys with broiler or layer feeds – their dietary needs are mostly similar to chickens.
Ducks are also another area one can choose to venture into. Rearing ducks for both meat and eggs is the best fit. Adding breeding to that would also be great in that you can then supply aspiring duck producers. One duck can produce at least 300 eggs in 12 months. In just 16 weeks a duck would be ready to commence egg production. The duration needed for an egg to hatch through mallard (female duck) brooding is just 4 weeks. You can always use artificial methods of brooding where possible. Ducks are considered ready for the market starting from 5 months. Add some more months to that and they will be weightier.
Geese are somewhat similar to ducks, just in case you are wondering. Generally, geese are bigger in size than ducks plus their necks are longer too. They both belong to the same family i.e. waterfowls. Funnily the key differentiating aspect is the number of bones in the necks. Anyways, geese can only produce around 50 or fewer eggs in 12 months. Geese take a good 24 months to reach what is considered maturity in commercial terms. These are some of the reasons why it is not commonplace to rear them. However, it does not mean that the niche is not worth a try.
Guinea Fowl Production
Guinea fowl meat is surely a delicacy. Guinea fowl typically exist in the wild but they can be domesticated. Their egg-laying rate is appreciable, averaging 100 eggs in 12 months. One of the greatest attributes of guinea fowl is their hardiness. They are mostly resistant to diseases and can thrive through foraging. This significantly lowers production costs. They are somewhat like your roadrunners; no wonder they even do well in the wild. They reach sexual maturity at 32 weeks and most of their eggs come out ready to be incubated. Slaughtering of guinea fowl can generally commence from 80 days onwards.
A few years ago, around 2016, quail production hit Zimbabwe by storm. Gradually it fizzled out but it is still a great business to venture into. Quail are typically small birds that are easy to handle. As early as 6 weeks quail will be mature for the market. It is also from that same time when they will be ready to produce eggs. Quail eggs can be incubated or sold to be eaten. In fact, quail eggs are actually superior to chicken eggs in terms of nutritional content. Quail can produce as many as 200 to 300 eggs per year.
Pigeons are also an interesting line of business – seems not much think of commercializing pigeons. They take on average 6 months to reach full maturity. This means they will be ready for slaughter or to start laying eggs. Hatching of the eggs takes about 2 or so weeks. There are numerous different types of pigeons in existence. Pigeons require very minimal material and financial resources to rear. They are also quite resilient when it comes to diseases. They are also somewhat ornamental and also contribute to the biodiversity of the environment. Their meat is not only scrumptious but is very nutritional too.
These are alternative poultry production businesses worth starting. Not only can you focus on meat and egg production. You can also diversify into breeding and consultancy. Those two would be strategic especially given that many people are yet to start such businesses. Thus providing breeding stock (pullet production) and offspring (e.g. ducklings and goslings) plus consultancy will be highly sought after. The other great thing about these businesses is that you can run more than one concurrently.