In the poultry sector, there is a global trend towards choosing group nests over individual nests. Wannes Dermaut explains how farmers want to optimize house space and make smart investments.
I’ll begin this article by stating the obvious: automation reduces the amount of manpower needed. It’s the same in every sector, including poultry farming. Particularly when it comes to broiler breeders, you should never underestimate the extra profit that can be made through automation. The statistics are quite impressive:
- For non-automated feeding and manual layer nests, you need, on average, one full-time employee per 3,000 hens.
- Switching to mechanical feeding doubles the capacity to 6,000 hens per worker.
- Investing in nest automation increases this number to 12,000 hens per person.
- With an automated egg packager, you can even achieve a capacity of 18,000 animals per employee.
In addition, automation can allow you to increase the number of animals per house to maximize the profitability. However, there are limits to this. Breeder companies specify the minimum feeding area per hen. Therefore, the number of broiler breeders you can keep depends on the layout of your house. Your choice of nest type — group or individual — also plays a very important role in determining how many hens your house can accommodate.
1. Increase the stocking density with group nests
The stocking density for hens differs depending on whether you have a house with a group/community nest (EU style) or a house with individual nests (US style). With a group nest — one nest row in the center of the house — you can easily install three feed circuits, even if the house is only 12 meters (40 ft) wide. This means that you can have one feed circuit in the scratch area on each side of the nest and an extra third circuit around the nest on the slats (image). This expands the feed capacity and means you can keep a larger number of animals in the house. With individual nests, you usually have two nest rows in the house, one on the left and one on the right. The two feed circuits are both placed next to or around the nest (image). With individual nests, you usually do not have space for a third feed circuit. Therefore, group nests utilize the available space in your house much more efficiently.
EU-style with group/community nest: one feed circuit in the scratch area on each side of the nest and an extra third circuit around the nest on the slats.
A house with a group nest also has the advantage that the stocking density of the hens can be higher than with individual nests (table). That is why investing in an automatic group nest is one of the fastest ways to increase your profits and reduce your labor costs. Labor costs can vary widely per region but ultimately every company that wants to make a profit can benefit from cost reduction.