Simple and diverse – the keys to growing a village chicken business

Ramp up your chicken operation with a system that can you expand one chicken house at a time, or faster if you wish. It’s an African solution from African farmer; Mike Bosch, born and raised in Zimbabwe, now based in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Charl van Rooyen spoke to him.

An entrepreneurial farmer, Mike’s African horizons have widened as the demand for his Boschveld chickens grew outside his home country.

His journeys through the southern African region brought Mike face to face with the bleak landscapes of poverty and hunger. “It is more widespread and a greater problem than we realise,” he says.

Mike believes that developing countries must start to think harder and smarter about alleviating poverty and hunger in Africa. Common sense tells one that teaching a man to fish is infinitely preferable than doling out fish year after year. “Financial aid without intelligent follow up is not a solution,” he says.

So what is the solution? It starts with someone who wants to make a difference; not only does Mike Bosch want to make a difference – he has figured out how to do it.

Mike Bosch – farmer, entrepreneur and inventor of clever farming systems


Mike’s plan is based on chicken houses, fowls and expertise, key ingredients in a chicken start-up for aspirational farmers who are prepared to work hard and accept learning. It works equally well for subsistence or small-scale chicken farmers who want to move up to the next level.

The start-up kit, or what Mike calls the self-care kit, contains wire chicken mesh, a steel framework, corrugated iron, a solar panel, a 12 volt battery, and chicken drinkers and feeders. This takes care of the easy-to-erect chicken house which is 6m long, 3m across and 2m high. There are 100 Boschveld fowls at a ratio of one rooster to four hens supplied and 10 nut trees. (More about the nut trees later.) Investors must source local poles.

The 18m² chicken house looks pretty conventional with the chickens housed inside a rectangular space, contained by the chicken mesh. Inside the house are the drinkers, the feeders and two low energy heat lamps. The solar panel powers the heat lamps and puts out enough excess power to charge cellphones or a laptop.

Phase two is the start of diversifying the project. After 30 days a maximum of four people can move the 68kg chicken house.  The fertile ground the chickens have left behind, is an ideal place for the farmer to start planting a vegetable garden.

“With this as a kick-off point, no matter where in Africa you live, one of these chicken houses can feed a family and  should have enough excess to generate some income,” says Mike.

‘One of these chicken houses can feed a family and  should have enough excess to generate some income’

Mike Bosch’s self-help pack contains the chicken mesh, the corrugated iron roof, the solar panel and a 12 volt battery, 100 Boschveld hens and roosters in equal numbers, feeders and drinkers and 10 nut trees.


Brooding hens hatch out their eggs in 21 days. The offspring can be sold or kept to replace old hens or to expand the operation.


The solar panel can power up the two low-energy heat lamps and charge cellphone batteries.


At a ration of 20 hens to four roosters per house, there will be smooth delivery of fertilised eggs at a rate of 15 eggs to 20 eggs a day. Part of the business plan is that the farmer should grow out and sell excess roosters to generate an income.


There are 203 million subsistence farmers in Africa. Women, who stay at home to look after the children, are often alone, with husbands who work in industrial or urban spaces. A project like this makes it feasible for a woman to feed herself and her children, without the endless grind of worrying about the next meal.

After a family’s basic needs have been taken care of, women in a community could join forces. These groups have greater buying and selling power and can sell to markets when there are surplus eggs, chickens and vegetables.
Being able to keep a cellphone charged means a family can stay in touch with their relatives and the markets of the outside world.

Soil health improves to such an extent using the chicken house system that farmers can grow tunnel vegetables on manured soil.


Africa is Mike’s marketplace. He is currently negotiating the supply of 5 000 chicken houses to Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique in collaboration with Agri All Africa – an African organisation that helps small farmers grow into commercial producers. From Namibia Mike gets orders of four cockerels to every hen, the inverse ration of his standard four hens to every rooster.

He says farmers wanted more roosters once they had seen the improvement in the offspring the Boschveld roosters made when they mated with small, inbred, scrub hens. The genetic improvement gave the chicken farmers better fertility, more meat per bird and more eggs per bird.

The biggest demand comes from Angola, the Cote d’Ivoire and Gambia. There is interest from Senegal, Libya, Zambia and Gambia. And Mike sends 24 000 to 30 000 fertilised eggs/week by road or air to Zimbabwe, Botswana and West Africa.

A Boschvelder breeding unit in Angola hatches out about 600 eggs a week. Angola, explains Mike, gets less money for its oil exports now, and the state wants to give agriculture a boost to make the country food secure, rather than oil dependent, food importers.

A diagrammatic illustration shows how the possible, and incremental, growth of vegetable production, on the 18m² plots left by the chicken house, within 6 months.


“Training and extension after start-up is absolutely vital for the success of this type of project,” explains Mike. Part of his mission is to train people in poultry extension. The extension officer plays a key role in the growth and development of any agricultural sector. If training and support is weak – farming is a lot more difficult. Dynamic, innovative farmers have mostly had access to solid advice from good extension teams.

‘Training and extension after start-up is absolutely vital for the success of this type of project’

The Boschveld chicken agent in Zimbabwe, Novatek, has written a training manual for buyers that explains all the aspects of chicken farming in a clear, step by step method.

“None of this is rocket science,” says Mike. “It’s just simple and logical.”

Check out the video of the assembly of the system:

Enquiries: Mike Bosch – email

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