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Poultry and Chicken Farming


The poultry and chicken farming industry consists of three separate sectors: (i) The day-old chick supply industry (ii) The broiler industry, and (iii) The egg industry.

Broiler chickens are raised for meat i.e. fresh, frozen or value added (e.g. chicken fingers, saucy steaklets or polony). Egg layers or dual-purpose chickens are used for the production of eggs (they are lighter in weight than broilers, and so fattening cockerels from this second category with balanced feed bought in a bag is not as economically viable as doing the same with broilers).

International business environment

The biggest chicken meat producing countries are the USA, Brazil, China, the EU, and Russia. The biggest consumers of chicken meat are the USA, China and Brazil. Brazil, USA, the EU and Thailand are the biggest exporters of chicken. The top importers are Japan, Mexico, UK, China and the EU (USDA, 2023).

Sources for international information include:


South Africa: imports and exports

Imports of competitively priced products have been a longstanding challenge for South Africa’s poultry producers. These peaked at more than 550 000 tonnes back in 2018, reaching 26% of domestic consumption, but have declined since. Various actions contributed to this decline, including the commitments made in the Poultry Master Plan. The weaker exchange rate too increased the cost of imported products.

When government relaxes anti-dumping measures to improve food security (either in the face of inflation or shortages caused by the culling of flocks), domestic producers are exposed to imports.

Source: Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baselines 2023-2032, 2022-2031, 2021-2030. The annual Baseline looks at the local poultry trade in the context of what is happening globally, South African imports and exports included. Find the document at

Poultry exports were below 49 000 tonnes in 2021. Nearly all of these exports go to neighbouring states – Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana and Swaziland (FairPlay, 2022).

Further reference:

African business environment

Africa, which imports nearly 83% of the food it consumes, has a real chicken and egg problem. The continent is caught between pressure from imports in some countries and an inability to meet demand in others.

Africa’s chicken crisis is an expression of overall weaknesses in its agricultural system. If Africa cannot raise its grain production it cannot expect to do well in increasing its chicken output.

The solution to Africa’s chicken crisis lies in upgrading agricultural systems overall. Here are the major limitations:

  • Low-cost, high-quality feed. Expanding feed production involves investing in grain production, especially corn and soya. Research to increase efficiency and expand the range of feed sources will go a long way in helping to upgrade overall system.
  • The lack of starter stock (chicks and broilers bred specifically for meat production). Improvements in this area will require better breeding and extension programs akin to those needed for crops.
  • Disease control. Disease control is a problem for both crop and livestock producers and requires more investment.
  • Poor infrastructure (especially energy, transportation and water supply systems) is a major barrier to the expansion of chicken production, especially in rural areas. A lack of cold storage facilities forces farmers to keep feeding their chickens instead of slaughtering and refrigerating them. They generally transport live chickens to markets, which raises logistical costs and increases concerns over disease transmission.
  • The lack of credit for producers. Countries that provide credit for crop producers to purchase seed and farm input have the opportunity to extend their incentives to chicken production. Most African countries lack such systems and it is unlikely that they will introduce them for poultry farming if they do not have them for crop production.

So far Africa can hardly feed its people. But even worse, it cannot feed its chickens so that it can feed its people. The chicken crisis is yet another reason why Africa must focus on getting its agricultural act together. The crisis is a warning to African leaders: they need to wake up with the chickens and act in time.

Source: excerpts from a piece written by Calestous Juma, professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard University, at


Further reference:

Local business environment

The website of the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), is a first-stop about what is happening in the country. Industry profile, statistics and other information is available.

The gross poultry farm income for 2019 was approximately R50-billion (SAPA, 2022). It is the second biggest agricultural sector in South Africa (SAPA, 2022), jockeying with the maize industry for first place.

In addition to its contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the South African poultry industry remains an important contributor to job creation and employment opportunities, both in the formal and informal sector, with in excess of 80% of the industry consisting of SMMEs (Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises). Chicken also remains the most affordable source of protein. How to balance the imperatives of producer and job creator vs more affordable food? Read about the Poultry Sector Master Plan under the “National strategy and government contact” heading.




  • The BFAP annual baseline looks at the broiler industry. Included in the 2023-2032 Baseline is a mini-study on the c ompetitiveness of South African broiler production.



The egg industry is the fourth largest animal production industry after poultry, beef and milk production. Eggs are consumed as an affordable source of protein, and demand is projected to rise by an annual average rate of 2% for the ten-year period to 2032 (BFAP, 2023).



Further reading:


  • On the internet find USDA Foreign Agricultural Service reports on the South African poultry sector like “South Africa: Bone-in Chicken Shortage” (2023, January 17).
  • The annual Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline looks at poultry under the “Outlook for Animal Products” section. Find the document at
  • BFAP has previously done various studies into the poultry value chain. Its “Small Scale Broiler Production in SA” study, for example, “explores the possibilities for integration of small-scale farmers into the mainstream commercial broiler value chain in South Africa”.
  • Subscribe to the newsletter from The Poultry Information Centre, which carries news, tips and technical information. Find out more at
  • Find details of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) value chain profiles, statistics and economic analyses under the “Websites and publications” heading towards the end of this page.

Some articles:

Emerging farmer points of interest

Current situation:

  • It is difficult for small farmers to enter into the retail supply chain, since it is looking for suppliers who can guarantee the demand at an acceptable price and quality. While some smaller producers can match the price and quality criteria, they are too small to supply the needed quantities.
  • At present, emerging farmers sell their eggs to black-owned shops, spaza shops, butchers, hawkers, restaurants, hotels and to a small extent to white traders (e.g. cafes).


Future Market Growth:

  • The African population represents the best market opportunities for emerging farmers.
  • Distribution channels to the low-income groups need to improve and are doing so. The distribution of eggs to township spazas and door-to-door sales must be promoted.
  • Catering companies, hawkers buying in bulk from producers, co-operatives, contracting and government tenders all represent possible markets.
  • Many farmers do not adhere to the grading requirements as stipulated by legislation. For small-scale farmers to penetrate other markets it is important to begin following the regulations. Training in grading and packaging can open new markets for small-scale producers, especially on government tenders.


Co-operative Marketing:

  • Black-owned co-operatives could be a vehicle for penetrating the formal marketing channels in South Africa.
  • Through co-operatives, the produce of farmers can ensure larger supply of quantities, create a brand name, and have “muscle” to negotiate prices on behalf of farmers. The function of the co-operative can be to look for markets for members and also assist in preparing the produce (grading and packaging) and marketing it.


Possible Strategies:

  1. Contracting: Small-scale farmers can enter into a contract with a processing or a packaging plant, or an integrated company to supply a stipulated number of eggs or chickens at a time. This provides a steady market for the small-scale farmer.
  2. Supply to Consumers: Consumers can buy chickens or eggs at the farm stalls. The farmer can employ a door-to-door sales representative to take orders in the township.
  3. Supply to Hawkers: Eggs can be sold to hawkers on a regular basis. Since most hawkers have a transport problem, the farmer can entice them by delivering the eggs at their sheds.
  4. Supply to Hospitality Trade: Supply to hotels, restaurants, caterers, township bed & breakfast, guest houses and shebeens. There are many tourist initiatives and developments in the townships that need to be catered for.
  5. Supply to Township Cold Storage Distributors: some entrepreneurs have positioned themselves in the townships and other former black areas to distribute eggs. The concept here is “to bring the product to the consumer”, to reduce the transport constraint. Small-scale farmers can supply these distribution centres.
  6. Supply Through Tendering: Every year tenders from the government departments (e.g. correctional services, hospitals, etc.) are published for the supply of chickens and eggs. Small-scale farmers stand a change because of the system designed for the previously disadvantaged individuals, provided they can meet the price, quality and quantity requirements.
  7. Supply Mining Houses: Mines have kitchens and hospitals that are serviced by caterers (in-house or as an outsourced service. Some of these mines are now owned by black empowerment groups who can be lobbied to empower small-scale farmers. Before starting a chicken or poultry venture, check on any applicable regulations/legal considerations with your local authority or through associations listed in this chapter.
Source: the Agricultural Marketing Extension Training Paper 9 at

For the newcomer

Find the many guides and articles for beginners under the “Websites & publications” heading.

Before starting a chicken or poultry venture, check on any applicable regulations/legal considerations with your local municipal authority. Similarly, anyone wishing to start a poultry abattoir should know that there are legal, health and safety requirements to meet. Find the necessary checklists on

To make money with poultry, be prepared to work hard! Chickens must be checked, fed and given water every day. If you are farming with layers, you must collect eggs regularly.


Ask yourself:

1) Do you want to produce eggs or meat?

  • Profit margins on eggs are small, but it can work if you have a good marketing strategy.
  • Adding value to your eggs is one plan e.g. sell boiled eggs at a taxi rank.
  • Layers will provide eggs almost every day, and after a year you can sell them for replacements
  • For meat, the three ways to market are: contract growing (produce chickens for large companies), live chicken sales, and frozen chicken sales. With the last one, you will need special facilities beyond the budget of most beginners, but if you can secure a contract, then this will be worth it.

2) Where is your market? Who are the customers?

3) At what price can you sell and still make a profit?

4) Can you produce enough to secure a contract?

5) Do you have all the information you need?



  • Do the premises meet your municipality’s zoning specifications?
  • Do you have access to fresh water and electricity?
  • Do your neighbours mind having a chicken business next door?
  • Do you have space on the premises for future growth?


Various tips

  • Make sure any training you go for is practical
  • Buy day-old chicks (rather than breeding them) and grow them up for slaughter
  • Don’t raise your own chickens if you are producing eggs; it will be cheaper to buy hens that are near the stage of laying.
  • Breeding day-old chicks for sale can be done if you have a large market, but otherwise leave this to the large companies who specialise in this.
  • Big producers use specially selected breeds to produce on a large scale, and this is done in strictly controlled facilities that cost millions of rand. Far more suitable for smaller producers are indigenous breeds (e.g. Boschvelder) or old standard breeds like the Australorp, Potchefstroom Koekoek, Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire. These are hardier and more disease resistant. They are also ideal for the informal market and the live-chicken market.
  • Feed for your chickens will be the most expensive running cost. If you buy feed along with other farmers you can negotiate a better price.
Sources: A series of articles for beginners in the April 2011 editions of Farmer’s Weekly.

One surprise in a previous BFAP Baseline was that in a time of great challenge for commercial poultry producers, small-scale production in rural areas was found to be “quite profitable whilst playing an important role in the market” (BFAP, 2020; 2016). The Baseline has also included the discussion “Small-scale poultry production – how small is big enough”.

Samuel and Zoleka Joka run one of the successful small-scale broiler operation in Bumbane village, on the outskirts of Keiskammahoek. Below are some of the points included in the advice given by the Jokas and Fumanekile Ngqokweni, the extension officer:


  • Success is linked to the ability to access start-up capital and skill to grow broilers successfully.
  • The new farmer has to renovate or build adequate facilities, buy equipment (e.g. heaters, self-feeders, drinking pans, sawdust), feed and chicks. This is quite a capital outlay before you get anything back.
  • Samuel stressed the importance of training
  • He advises beginners to start small – say 50 chicks – and build volume with experience, thereby minimising the risk of initial failure
  • Disease control is vital. Growers can radically decrease the probability of disease through correct management e.g. ensure clean water and watch the general cleanliness of production areas (disease can spread through contaminated drinking water, food and chicken waste).
  • Before a new batch of chickens is introduced to the pen, clean it thoroughly and rest it for at least ten days.
  • The temperature should be kept at about 30oC in the first two weeks.
  • There must be significant air circulation during hot periods. During cold times, heat should be generated using heaters and infrared lamps.
  • Wood shavings should be evenly distributed in the pens: this ensures cleanliness and the retention of heat. The Jokas have two structures: a large rondavel with large windows where they rear their chicks up to four weeks, after which they are transferred to a large wooden shed fitted with canvas flaps (that can be lifted) and ceiling fans to ensure circulation.
Source: Adapted from the article “Broilers transform Keiskammahoek” at

National strategy and government contacts

November 2019 saw the announcement of a Poultry Sector Master Plan. The plan sought “to expand the industry by increasing capacity at all stages of the value chain manufacturing of feed, farming of chickens and processing of poultry product – thereby increasing fixed investment, employment and the value of output” (DALRRD, 2019).

The plan brought together labour, government and business; processors, producers and importers. It set out a new joint vision across the value chain, identified five pillars that underpinned the vision, and created a Poultry Sector Master Plan Council to monitor and drive implementation of the pillars. Chicken producers committed R1.5 billion in fresh investment in their own production facilities over the four years which followed the signing. This was expected to result in nearly 4 000 additional jobs in the production of chicken in pursuit of these outcomes. An investment of R1.7 billion by industry and various government agencies would see the establishment of 50 commercial scale contract farmers.

The poultry industry has also featured in previous government strategies like the Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs) and the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP).


Find contact details and information on the different Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) directorates at The document  “Guidelines  on key requirements for governments markets  – bread, eggs and dairy products” is also relevant and can be accessed on DALRRD website.

  • International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC)
  • National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC)

Animal welfare

  • Poultry welfare is addressed by a new National Standard through the South African Bureau of Standards, set to replace the 2012 SAPA Code of Practice. In the meantime, the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962 applies.
  • Find the NSPCA educational resources – which include Take Care of your Chickens, and Carry your chickens correctly – at



Role players


Note: Click to expand the headings below.  To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Midlands Eggs Tel: 033 320 1003 Category: producers and processors
Rossgro – Category: equipment and inputs
Inseco – Animal feed made from insects
 Representative Bodies
 Training, Consulting & Research Service Providers
 Community, NGO and NPO Service Providers

Further reference:

Training and research

  • SAPA arranges training courses. These include broiler flock management, broiler breeder flock management, commercial layer management and hatchery management. Contact SAPA in connection with these. Refer to the “Training” option at Included in the material offered are training videos which can be accessed on YouTube.
  • The Agricultural Colleges working with Provincial Departments of Agriculture, offer poultry courses.
  • Many AgriSETA-accredited training providers offer poultry courses. Find the list at (under “Skills delivery” option). On the same website, read about learnerships and apprenticeships, a combination of on-the-job learning along with some theoretical training. The major part of the training can be offered on the farm.
  • Also see the Agribook “Agricultural education and training” page.

Companies involved

  • Also refer to other relevant pages on the Agribook website e.g. Animal Feeds, Biosecurity, Animal health and more.

Producers and processors


Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier on this page.

  • Pluimvee/Poultry Bulletin – a monthly magazine issued by SAPA. Previous copies are available on their website,, as PDFs. The “Training” option also provides access to material like the Broiler BookHatchery BookHousing and more.
  • Wethli, E., Berold, R. 2002. The Southern African Chicken Book. Juta. Available from KwaZulu-Natal Poultry Institute – 033 346 0049.
  • A Guide for Beginner Poultry Farmers – available from the ARC. Call 012 672 9153 or visit Numerous pamphlets for producers are also available from the ARC in Irene.
  • See the “Backyard Chickens – Beginner’s Guide” web page at
  • Find the World Poultry Foundation training videos at
  • Visit for the DVD entitled “Successful Broiler Production”. A number of publications are also stocked, including: (i) Raising poultry Leonard S Mercia (ii) Raising Chickens Gail Damerow (iii) Hoenderproduksie – Braaikuikens and Chicken Production (Broilers) Dr Jean A Cilliers, and (iv) Guide to Poultry Production, Dr Jean A Cilliers.
  • Dicla training provides the DVD “Care for commercial layers”. Visit
  • Several publications are available on the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development website,  (1) The annual Livestock: Broiler Market Value Chain Profile and Livestock: Egg Market Value Chain Profile. (2) Reports on the poultry and egg markets. (3) The excellent Training Paper on broilers and eggs (look for “Agricultural Marketing Extension Training Papers”.
  • A number of producer booklets can be found: i) Poultry – A guide to the most important poultry diseases and their management (ii) Poultry – Are my chickens healthy (iii) Poultry – Chicken care (iv) Poultry – Disease prevention in chickens (Afrikaans) (v) Poultry – Disease prevention in chickens (vi) Poultry – External parasites on chickens (vii) Poultry – Feather, skin and leg conditions (Afrikaans) (viii) Poultry – Feather, skin and leg conditions (ix) Poultry – Gut conditions in poultry (x) Poultry – Marking of poultry meat (xi) Poultry – Nervous conditions in chickens (Afrikaans) (xii) Poultry – Nervous conditions in chickens (xiii) Poultry – Newcastle disease (xiv) Poultry – Respiratory diseases in chickens (Afrikaans) (xv) Poultry – Small-scale egg production (xvi) Poultry – Diseases.
  • Anyone wishing to start a poultry abattoir should know that there are legal, health and safety requirements to meet. Find the necessary checklists on
  • Find the Nation in Conversation overview of the poultry industry (Feb 2017) on YouTube
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] for the following publications, available from the ARC in Silverton: (i) Small-scale broiler house (also available in Afrikaans) (ii) Heating of broilers and broiler housing (also available in Afrikaans) (iii) Small-scale poultry housing in South Africa (iv) Agro-processingof Poultry (Chicken & Turkey).
  • is a useful website for information on how to keep chickens.
  • Subscribe to the Poultry Information Centre newsletter. Write to rod [at]
  • Available from the SPCA: Chicken Care Booklet. Try your local branch of contact the National SPCA 011 907 3590/1/2
  • Find the Broiler Management Guide and Layer Management Guide PDFs at, under the Rossgro Agri Services option.
  • Kleyn, R. 2013. Chicken Nutrition: A guide for nutritionists and poultry professionals. Santa Rosa: Context Publications.
  • Bell, D. 2002. Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. 5th ed. New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • The monthly magazine Poultry Focus Africa. Visit
  • Find the “Chickens” option at


Some articles

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