Small livestock production is one of the red hot agribusiness segments in Zimbabwe nowadays. It is no wonder why businesses like Fivet, Profeeds, Feedmix, just to mention a few, are scoring big. One of the interesting things I have observed lately is that more and more people are venturing into poultry production. The number has spiked particularly because people are now rearing chickens for subsistence (along with rearing them for sale). This is leading to a situation where the demand for day-old chicks is ever so high. Evidently day old chicks providers are failing to satisfy the market demand. That is why I am discussing this business idea because money is bound to be made big.
The most common poultry focuses in Zimbabwe are broilers, layers, and roadrunners (also known as free-range chickens). Typically it is the broiler day old chicks (DOC) that are most sought after. However, an increasing number of people are venturing into layer and roadrunner production. Unfortunately, availability of the chicks is always erratic. Thus in starting this business you have to consider which niche you want to focus mainly on. You can deal with all 3 but broilers seem to be much more in demand.
Just to set the tone, what is hatchery business? This is simply a business where you put together a framework that allows for the hatching of poultry eggs and then you sell the chicks. Sounds simple and straight forward, but it is a very sensitive business that requires rapt attention to detail. You can do it from small scale to large scale – it depends on your capacity or intentions.
You can employ 3 business models. One, which is one of the most common ones, is to source fertile eggs from somewhere then you incubate them till they hatch then you sell the eggs. Two, you can actually be the one rearing the birds that will lay the eggs that you will incubate for hatching. Three, people can bring their own fertile eggs; you incubate and hatch for them for a fee. These are common business models which you can tweak or merge into one.
Some of the key requirements are incubators or incubator houses. Incubators prices vary depending on capacity and level of sophistication. For instance, a Digital Sportsman Cabinet Incubator costs around US$750 – can accommodate around 270 chicken eggs since it has 3 racks. (Take note: capacities differ by egg types. For example, this same incubator can accommodate around 180 duck eggs). You will need storage space for equipment and chemicals (e.g. vaccines, antibiotics and so on).
Consistent clean water supply – this means having a borehole might come in handy. Backup generators or solar generation can prove necessary for power supply. Air conditioning is crucial to maintain the right atmosphere so that will be needed. Things like egg crates are obviously needed along with other miscellaneous routine working equipment. The packaging material that usually comes in the form of pre-fabricated perforated boxes is a must. Depending on the scale of production you might also need delivery vehicles.
As much as you can hire general hands you will also need experts on certain aspects. The hatching of eggs and all that is associated with it must be overseen by specially trained personnel. Even if you are doing it yourself regularly consult with experts in this field.
A hatchery business is generally very costly to put together. Sometime last year I remember doing a snap survey of why people are not starting poultry hatcheries. You see, I stay in Masvingo and I noticed that people struggle to get chicks because suppliers are overwhelmed. Then I thought to myself this means there is a gap in the market. When I asked around it the common response I got was that people are hesitant to start hatcheries because the business is costly to set up and run. Getting the hatcheries equipment is a costly aspect on its own. Furthermore, there are lots of veterinary products needed e.g. vaccines – which tend to be quite expensive. Overall, you must be prepared to spend some money in this business.
The market is inexhaustible as is apparent in this article. Market research is still important regardless; location dynamics can lead to variations in market characteristics.
Important Things To Consider
Caution must be taken to not use shortcuts. You must use proper locations and proper equipment. It is just a slight deviation that can lead to serious financial losses. For instance, if the optimum temperature is not maintained, hatching can be adversely affected. Not following the prescribed vaccination schedules can lead to mortalities or substandard chicks. These are just examples that show you how sensitive this line of business is. There are so many layers to this business which is why it requires meticulous planning. You would be lying to yourself if you do not come up with standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your business.
Choice of location is critically central to the success of this business. A hatchery must never be located close to poultry houses and residential areas. This is meant to limit or eliminate the possibility of diseases or parasites. The uninterrupted supply of clean water and electricity are non-negotiable for a poultry hatchery business. Ensure that you have strategic and systematic batches. The most ideal setup is to be able to provide chicks every week on specific days.
I know some prefer cheap home-made incubators – be careful though lest you have challenges.
Remember that is poultry is a big field; it does not only entail chickens. There are also other animals such as quail, geese, ducks, turkey and so on. I would urge you to do some digging into them to see which are usually sought after. I have on several occasions seen people looking for turkey or duck chicks – there could be unidentified prospects there. I wish you all the best in your efforts to set up your own poultry hatchery business.