Backyard Poultry Farming; a low input business with high economic returns

Poultry Farming
Poultry Farming

Rural population living in India constitutes 72.2 per cent of the total population, which is predominantly occupied by poor, marginal farmers and landless labourers. Backyard poultry production is an old age profession of rural families of India. It is the most potent source for subsidiary incomes for landless and poor farmers. It is an enterprise with low initial investment but higher economic returns and can easily be managed by women, children and old aged persons of the households. 

Poultry meat and eggs are now the greatest and cheapest sources of protein and energy for rural India's per capita needs.

Though India has seen great expansion in chicken production over the years, rural poultry farming continues to lag behind and is sometimes overlooked. Because it is the most cost-effective way for small-scale farmers to supplement their income with minimal input, this farming system requires progression with recent advances in research in the fields of chick rearing, balanced feeding, disease management, and efficient egg and meat marketing systems.

Now-a-days, the backyard poultry can easily start with good egg-laying birds of RIR (Rhode Island Red), Chabro, Punjab Red and Partapdhan breeds. 

Backyard poultry production system is a low input business and is characterized by indigenous night shelter system, scavenging system, natural hatching of chicks, poor productivity of birds, with little supplementary feeding, local marketing and no health care practice. Poultry development plays a crucial role in increasing egg and chicken meat production. 

Indian demand for poultry products will be enhanced at 4.8 percent whereas the supply of poultry products will grow at 5.2 per cent per year over the decade which is faster than for any other type of animal product.

The production of agricultural crops has been rising at a rate of 1.5–2 per cent per annum, whereas eggs and broilers have been shown to rise at a rate of 8-10 per cent per annum but the growth has been mainly restricted to commercial poultry.

 In India, growth in the livestock sector can definitely contribute to poverty reduction, because of the peoples lived in rural areas depends on livestock for their daily livelihoods. It has also been observed that the demand for the animal protein source is increasing rapidly in developing countries.

Raising of local poultry breeds in backyard is an important source of livelihood for the rural people. Smallholdings containing 2-3 hens per unit were found to be more efficient producer of eggs compared to those with 5 or more hens per unit. Main interest of the poultry farmers having backyard poultry is not production of eggs as returns are very low from sale of eggs. They hatch all their eggs and sell them as birds because of the broodiness habit of these breeds. 

Advantages of backyard poultry farming 

There are many advantages of rural poultry farming system which are given as follows:

  • Gives employment to the rural small scale and marginal farmers.

  • Provides additional income to the rural communities.

  • Aids in enhancing the soil fertility in backyards (15 chickens produce 1-1.2 kg of manure/day).

  • Products from rural poultry farming fetches high price compared to those from intensive poultry farming. Almost double the rates of brown shelled eggs in the local market.

  • Provides egg and meat with almost no or very less investment through backyard poultry farming in free range system. 

  • Birds reared under free range conditions give eggs and meat of low cholesterol concentration compared to those produced under intensive poultry farming. 

  • Lessens protein malnutrition in susceptible groups like pregnant women, feeding mothers and children.


Floor space: The chick should be provided sufficient feed and floor space. Overcrowding results in stress and mortality chick requires 8 square inches of feeding space. During the 6th week, 1 sq. ft. floor space per chick must be provided to avoid overcrowding. 

Space requirement for poultry 



Floor space 

 (sq. ft) 

Feeding space 


Watering space (cm) 














Ventilation: The supply of fresh air to the chicks is highly essential. Brooding will cause depletion of oxygen and build-up of carbon dioxide, ammonia, etc., the airtight curtains should be avoided. It is recommended to keep a gap of 3.5 inches between the ceiling and side curtains to facilitate gas exchange between the house and the environment. In extreme weather conditions, windows, doors, and fans need to be effectively used to maintain optimum ventilation. 

Beak trimming: Trimming of beaks is an important managemental practice. This is done to prevent cannibalism and wastage of feed. Beak trimming is a sensitive operation and it should be done by trained people. The beak trimming is done at 3rd week and one-third of the upper beak should be trimmed. 

Litter management: Litter management plays a vital role in controlling the disease in the flock. When birds are housed on deep litter, placing of waters and their maintenance should receive due attention to keep the litter dry. The litter should be stirred at regular intervals depending on the environmental temperature, humidity, ventilation fecal moisture content, quality of the water system. 

Health issues: Rural chicks need brooding care during the initial 6 weeks of age. After 6 weeks, they can be let free for scavenging in the backyard. The excess males can be reared separately and marketed for meat purposes. The night shelter should have good ventilation and protection from predators and plenty of clean water should be made available. The birds must be vaccinated against Marek's and Ranikhet diseases. There should be periodic deworming at 3-4 months intervals. 

Importance of local breeds in backyard poultry farming system 

Smallholder backyard poultry production utilizing local breeds is expected to come under serious competition with the commercial poultry sector and if not well planned the genetic resources of local poultry shall be lost. Conservation of local poultry breeds along with improvement for traits like meat and eggs will increase competitiveness to survive in the market.

The socio-religious use of local poultry breeds, superior adaptability in their habitat, ability to perform in low input production system, and the production system which is similar to organic production will be the competitive advantages of backyard system over commercial poultry production. 

Poultry keeping in the backyard gives a very high return as the investment is very low. The local breeds of poultry/indigenous poultry genetic resources are held in high esteem even after 50 years of industrial poultry production because of the following reasons:- 

  • Local poultry breeds exhibit superior adaptability in their habitat and possess the ability to survive, produce and reproduce on a low plane of nutrition and sub-optimal management.

  • The inputs required are very small, as they scavenge their feed requirements and are raised with little veterinary care.

  • They possess the ability to protect themselves from predators.

  • All the local breeds show broodiness and hatch their own chicks making the system auto-generating.

  • People have a preference for eggs and meat of indigenous poultry compared to those realized from farm-bred chickens consequently eggs and meat from local breeds are sold at a premium price.

  • Cockfighting is a popular sport for the ethnic tribes and the local breeds are superior to exotic breeds infighting.

  • Use of colored birds for socio-religious use.

Management of backyard poultry birds 

Feeding: Feed costs are thought to be low in home chicken production. The birds get the necessary protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins, among other things. Snails, termites, leftover grains, crop leftovers, and domestic garbage are just a few examples. The chicks can also be fed broken groundnut straw and wheat grains as a supplement to their diet. For optimum performance, the chicks may be given an extra concentrate ration of 30-60 gm/day/chick.

The chicks need balanced feed during the initial 6 weeks of age under brooder by providing balanced chick feed during the early period of growth. The average body weight of 1.5 to 2.0 kg will be attained up to 5 weeks and if required should be provided with supplemental calcium sources like limestone powder, dicalcium phosphate (DCP), stone grit, shell grit at 4 to 5 grams/bird/day. 

Ingredients for a balanced ration 


0-8 week old birds 

9-20 week old  


More than 20 week old birds 








Groundnut oil 



Rice polish 


Deoiled rice polish 



Fish meal 



Dicalcium phosphate 



Salt (g) 



Vitamins (A,B,D,K) g 




B complex 




Vitamin B12 


Trace minerals (g) 






Points kept in mind for backyard poultry farming 

  • Trainings: Poultry farmers must approach to Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s to obtain the basic training on backyard poultry farming. This is very useful for rearing of chicks, feeding, housing and disease management.  

  • Exhibitions:Through regular exhibition of local poultry breeds in Kisan Melas, Animal Camps, Livestock Championship and other poultry exhibitions. This helps in the selection of good quality birds. 

  • Breeding of local poultry breeds:Since most of the small holder poultry farmers are poor, Government should extend assistance to improve the poultry farming system by providing good quality chicks to the backyard poultry and suggest for multiplication of birds at their own level from these good quality hens. Within a time frame the skills are to be transferred to farmers at village level. Attempt, however, should be made to retain broodiness in the local stocks since it makes the system auto generating. These hens are used for producing the chicks at home level.  

  • Record keeping:In order to improve egg production there is a need to record the performance of individual hens for egg production. It is not a problem to obtain this information since each hen lays her egg in a separate nest regularly. This will provide information on laying capacity and hatching performance for each hen. Those hens with higher egg production and hatchability should be selected to reproduce next generation. 

Vaccination schedule: Follow the vaccination schedule given below:

Age of birds 

Name of vaccine 

Name of disease 


Route of vaccination 

Day old chicks 

HVT MD Vaccine 

Marek’s disease 

0.2 ml 

s/c or i/m 

4-7 days 


Ranikhet disease 

One drop 

Eye or nostril 

14 to 18 days 

Intermediate plus 

Gumboro  disease 

Drinking water 

35 days 


Ranikhet disease 

One drop 

Eye and nostril 

6 to 7 weeks 

Chicken embryo adopted 

Fowl Pox 

0.5 ml 

Wing stab method 

8 to weeks 

Strain killed vaccine 

Ranikhet disease 

0.5 ml 

s/c or i/m 

  • Extension services: Extension support for health care, input supply, market linkages, and other aspects should be readily available at the village level. The people should participate in the health care and breed development program.

The majority of farmers expressed an interest in expanding their poultry operations, despite the fact that medium producers made up the majority of the farmers. A systemic training program tailored to rural communities should be created to boost chicken production at the farmer level.

Furthermore, in the villages, extension, and motivational work, as well as technical support, should be conducted to encourage farmers to rear and consume more backyard poultry production, as this is a means of sustainable livelihood for the poorer sections of society and will aid in food production, food security, and providing employment to rural peoples.

Lack of technical knowledge, lack of suitable germplasm, decrease in the availability of natural resources of feed and inadequate veterinary support is the alarming constraints of the traditional backyard poultry production system.

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