Conor Smith discusses life on the farm with 40,000 chickens with Rachel Maguire of Mercy Ballymahon, as part of our Aisling children's arts festival pull-out supplement.
Conor Smith, County Longford has recently taken on a new career choice; starting his own poultry business, breeding 40,000 chickens per batch along with his beef suckler herd and sheep farm.
What gave you the inspiration to join the poultry business?
Whilst studying Agricultural Science at UCD, I completed some of my placement on a chicken farm. With Beef markets being so volatile at the moment and with the uncertainty of Brexit, I decided for our farm business to be viable, I needed another source of income on the farm.
How many hours do you put into your farm each day?
Probably about 5 hours per day for the chickens.
How do you enclose your chickens?
They are housed in a large shed.
How often do you clean out your chicken house?
The shed is thoroughly cleaned out and disinfected after every batch - every six weeks or thereabouts.
Your chickens are broilers. What do you mean by this?
My broilers produce chicken meat, which later you will find on the shelves of our supermarkets. My farm does not produce eggs.
Are they profitable?
I really hope they are! I only have my first batch in now, so I won’t know until later.
Do you plan on breeding chickens or buying a new flock every year?
I am supplied with new chickens every batch. It is up to my supplier to look after the breeding and hatching.
How do you get involved in the poultry business? How did you start?
Firstly, I got planning permission for the chicken shed, and then I approached the processor to get a commitment from them to supply me with chickens.
Why do you think poultry farming is important?
Chicken is the ‘in food’ at the moment. It is top of the list as regards healthy food and is considered a healthy source of low-fat protein.
Do you have any spare time with your busy schedule?
We have a suckler to beef enterprise and we keep sheep also. Therefore there isn’t much spare time between all and with this new venture there is even less time.
Would you recommend this business to younger generations?
I suppose since I am relatively new to chickens, it’s hard to tell but I can’t see any reason not to recommend it to younger generations.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Hopefully I will have the shed paid for by then and that the farm will be bringing in a steady income.
How do you ensure high welfare standards in your chicken house?
I constructed my house to the highest standards possible: it has windows to allow in natural light.
It has a mechanical ventilation system which produces an optimum environment for the chickens. It is also managed by a computer system which has an alarm built in to let me know if there are any problems.
Could you see yourself expanding in the near future?
At the moment I will concentrate on getting this house up and running as best I can.