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Poultry Houses for small chicken farmers Chicken Houses and poultry houses for layers

Government Grant


Building a chicken house, a proper one, is no easy task. A layer house for egg production is particularly challenging as layer cages need to be installed and assembled in the poultry house.The very first step is to level the site - usually filler sand has to be brought to site for the concrete to be poured onto. If the ground is very uneven or on a slope a TLB may be needed to grade the land. Whether it is a steel structure or a brick structure the same site preparation needs to be done. To see a video of a small commercial chicken run follow the link. 

concrete-slab-for-chicken-housechicken house South AfricaOnce the ground is level the slab is poured. On this site the slab was 31m x 8m - the actual poultry house to be built is a 30m x 7m layer house. Once the concrete is dry the actual construction begins. The steel angle iron used was 40mm x 40mm and 30mm x 30mm. The roof sheeting was 0.5mm galvanised sheet and the walls were made of 0.3mm steel.


The site is then squared off - this needs to be done exactly right - lines are run along the one length and then the magic 3, 4 5 formula is used to square the front and back. Stakes are driven into the earth and the line set. All the steel is sprayed with anti rust paint and then painted yellow. Then the trusses are welded and then raised on legs. Anchor cable maintains the stability while the trusses are raised. Cross supports are added - near the bottom where the kick plate and curtains will be installed and half way up where the chicken mesh will be stretched. Once this is all up, and square, the chicken house is ready for the anchors to be driven in (30 x 30 angle iron, 1.5m long) at 45 degrees and then welded. 5mm steel cable with a turn buckle for tensioning is used.. The roof trusses are then welded together with lengths of 30mm x 30mm x 6m lengths of angle iron. While this is being done each truss is squared and straightened. Al the welds are then cleaned and sprayed with anti rust paint and yellow paint.

Layer houses

steel poultry coopchicken house lights







The chicken mesh is then laid and stretched along the length of the poultry structure. This is done on the upper level and the lower level. The kick plates - galvanised strips, are installed. Before the curtain pelmet is added all extras that need welding are added to the structure. This includes fan braces and DB board frame. Gum boot hooks, curtain hooks, tank stand bracing, light switch plates and the sliding door rail are all welded in before beginning the curtains. All welding should be complete before the roof and poultry curtains are installed.

The pelmet for the chicken curtain is then installed - this is made from 550 GSM curtaining that is UV protected. This lies along the top of the wall over the chicken mesh and is for the actual curtain to slide behind. The back wall and the front wall are then covered with galvanised corrugated steel sheeting. The back frame and front frame have cross supports for the tek screws and the front section has door supports and rails for the sliding door.

curtains for chicken housedrip cups for nipple lines





Build a chicken houses

Work now begins on the roof - if insulation is to be used it installed now and galvanised wire is stretched along the length of the house to support the sisalation. Extreme care needs to be taken - especially on a long chicken house as the the corrugated sheet is laid - any "off square sheets" will result in a crooked roof. The insulation and the roofing are laid along a line and tek screwed into place.  Along the meeting place of the roof sheeting in the center flashing is installed - if air vents are to be used the work needs to be done before the roof sheeting goes up. The tank strand is the installed at the apex of the poultry house near the front. All the holes for the water pipes are drilled and piping installed.

Next  curtains are hung and envelopes added. The big gear winches mounted on winch brackets. The poultry curtains are then hung with pulleys and steel cable. Z ropes are added and the curtain system tested. The poultry house is now ready for the electrical systems and timing systems to be installed - this will need to be done by a qualified electrician. All the lights are added (light brackets and plug brackets would have been added earlier. Poultry fans are hung and outside lights are installed. The next huge job are the layer cages - the cages are wired together and the carried into the house to be assembled. Nipple pipe are laid and the water manifold system is then connected. Drip cups for the poultry nipples are attached. Testing the water system is essential and all leaks need to be dealt with.Feeding troughs add strength to the layer cages.

laying cages for a chicken housefans for chicken house




Chicken house, egg production

The door frame is then made - in this case it is a double cooling door - half is covered with mesh and the other half with galvanised sprayed sheeting. Finally the front porch is enclosed with chicken mesh. The entire project took 14 days to erect - this chicken house was built by 4 artisans and 3 casual laborers and the day began at 5am and ended at 6pm. Some nights construction went on until 9pm at night due to a deadline when the layer would be arriving. We worked Saturdays and Sundays.

Smaller poultry house construction takes less time (steel structures) - and extras such as roof insulation and a front porch and sliding door all take time. The construction team lives on site and all amenities need to be supplied by the client - toilets, sleeping quarters and showers need to be provided. This is a Yellow Door Layer House designed and constructed by Chicken Shack Agencies - it is likely the most comprehensive layer house in it's class, and possible the biggest of what are known as small chicken houses - any bigger and a brick and mortar structure would be needed. This chicken house is part of a larger project - another 3 poultry houses are planned for this site, all with layer cages, and egg production facilities. 

cights for chicken houselights and timers for chicken houseNext the silos will be installed along with a cross auger feeding system to carry layer mash to the houses. On the same gantry an mono rail is planned to carry the eggs from the houses to the egg sorting rooms. The mono rail will run along the front of the houses as will the cross auger. The silos will be installed at the front of the farm so the feed trucks do not have to enter the property. If you decide to build a chicken house - take your time to do proper planning - it will save you money in the end.

How many chickens in a layer cage?

A layer cage is a chicken cage that has been designed to hold hens for egg production. Layer cages come in various sizes, and therefore can vary in their holding capacity. The cost is determined by quality, size and the team doing the installation of the layer cages.

How many chickens in a layer cage?The new generation layer cages can hold between 5 and 7 hens per cage, or bay. A layer cage unit is made up of 16 bays - 8 on each side and across 2 tiers. The bays each have their own nipples for drinking and a feeding trough down the front. The cages have a sloping floor so that the eggs roll forward into egg catching trays. The frames, the troughs and the cages need to be galvanised - not painted with galvanised coloured paint - but dipped into molten lead - this is proper galvanising - paint will mean that the frames rust in no time. Make sure you leave enough room between the cages soo you can walk the isles easily to clean and collect the eggs.

The size of your chicken house will determine how many layer cage units you can fit in the house. There should be eough room around the layer cages for egg collection and cleaning. Larger layer chicken houses will use an egg collection trolley to help with the collection of eggs.This is mounted on a mono rail which runs the length of the structure between the cages - you could have another outside running from the chicken houses to the egg packing room - where your egg sorter is operating.  The packing room, by law, needs to be a separate structure, clean and away from livestock. If you wish to do free range egg production and organic egg production will need to use nest boxes and not layer cages in your chicken coops.


Size of Layer Cages

Layer cages made in South Africa are the new, larger bay layer cages. The cages are 2450mm long, 1870mm wide and 1650mm high. In these layer cages there are 16 bays. 8 bays on each side across 2 tiers. Layer cages are made of galvanised steel welded mesh and use a nipple drinking system for wat and troughs for feeding. Each layer cage unit has small header tanks on the cage for medication. These are available in single tier, 2 tier, 3 tier, and 4 teir. Make sure the roof of your structure is high enough as the more tiers you add the higher the cages get - if the hens are too close to the roof of the house they will overheat and you will get a bad lay rate. A good lay rate is about 80% - to 89%. Feed, breed, age of hens and the conditions you keep your hens will determine this. Water aslo plays an important role in the lay rate - bad water will affect the rate, as will the temperature of the water and air.

Cost Of Layer Cages

Government Grant


Again, the price of poultry cages depends on size, the number of tiers, whether you need it to be assembled on site for you, and  the location of your chicken house. A chicken cage comes with certain features - you pay for those features. When doing egg production, the easiest way, if doing intensive egg production, is through the use of egg cages. How many eggs you get depends on how many chickens in a layer cage. Prices on layer cages can be found at LAYER CAGE COSTS


Layer houses for small poultry farmers

Small chicken farmers who want to start an egg production business will need a layer house. A layer house is poultry unit specifically designed to place nest boxes or layer cages in the chicken house. A layer chicken house must wider and higher than a broiler house. It must also have larger poultry curtain openings.

Chicken farming

Intensive egg production chicken house

cages for chickens laying eggsIntensive egg production is when the chickens are kept in layer cages - A layer cage is a wire cage made up of a series of bays. Generally the whole layer cage has a starter section which has small water tanks for medication, and then you can add as many follower sections as your house length will allow. The new generation of layer cages can hold up to 7 birds per bay. The layer cages are stacked - 2 tiers high.

The layer cage uses a nipple drinking system for distributing water to the chickens, and a galvanised trough down the front for the layer mash or chicken food. The width of the house should be wide enough so as to allow easy access all around the layer cages for cleaning and egg collection.



 Organic egg production and free range eggs

nest boxes for free range chickensFree range egg farming is becoming a profitable for of layer production. The public is willing to pay a premium for free range eggs and organic eggs. The type of chicken house does not vary - it is the same layer house as an intensive egg production house. The main difference is the way you keep the chickens. When you are doing free range eggs or organic eggs you may not keep the hens in a layer cage. You will need to use nest boxes for the hens to lay eggs in. Another key difference is that the chickens will need to be able to move in and out of the house freely. To achieve this an organic chicken house or free range poultry unit must have free range flaps down the sides of the house. The other method is known as pop holes. These allow the hens to enter and exit the house at will. It also allows you to close your chicken coop at night once the hens are in.

Layer Unit - Layer houses

layer house for egg farming South AfricaThe layer unit, or hens house itself has a few key differences to a broiler house. Width, height and poultry curtain openings. The width must accommodate the layer cages or nest boxes and allow an egg trolley or wheel barrow to move around freely. The height must be high enough so that the nest boxes are not too close to the roof.

Poultry coop

The poultry curtain openings must be large - almost to the ground so that you have full ventilation - this will keep the litter dry and the hen house cool.

Government Grant


As with all chicken houses, the curtains should have a robust winch, a foot bath, thermometers. heaters and fans. Your laying house will also have a water tank on the roof to supply water to the nipple drinkers. Poultry heaters and fans are optional depending on how hot or cold the climate is in your area. Another optional extra is to use insulation in the roof of the layer house. This will cut down on operating costs in terms of heating and cooling. If you are buying point of lay hens you probably will not need a gas heater - but if you are getting day old laying hens - or pullets, you will need a poultry gas heater.

Poultry house

Small layer houses for emerging farmers and for small poultry farming are usually built on site - even in the most remote areas. To run a successful poultry unit you will need a good water supply and electricity. Most companies who build steel structures for chicken farming in South Africa require that the ground is level, and if you want you chicken house or layer house on a concrete slab you may have to lay the slab yourself. Laying a concrete slab for your chicken coop yourself is a lot cheaper than contracting the poultry equipment supplier to do it.