Different Materials used for building Snail Houses

Basic Snail Farming Tools and Equipment’s

Snail farming is a very lucrative business, not just is it less capital intensive, it also have a huge profit potential. Today, we are going to be discussing about some of the materials that can be used in building snail houses depending on their cost and available, they include:

1. Decay and Termite-Resistant Timber:

In West Africa favorable tree speciesare iroko (Milicia excelsa, local name – odum), opepe (Naucleadiderrichii,local name – kusia), or ekki (Lophira alata, local name – kaku). While in SouthEast Asia poles can be made of a species like teak (Tectona grandis), which iswidely planted in other continents as well.

  • Sandcrete blocks, or mudbricks.
  • Galvanized sheets, polythene sheets.
  • Chicken wire, for protection.
  • Mosquito nets or nylon mesh, for covering the pens as protection against insects.
  • Second-hand materials, like car tyres, oil drums and old water tanks.

In addition to car tyres, oildrums and such materials, the following types of pens might be considered forsimple snail pens:

  1. Hutch boxes
  2. Trench pens
  3. Mini-paddock pens
  4. Free-range pens

2. Car tyres, Oil drums

Discarded tyres or oil drumsmay serve as relatively cheap snail pens. Three or four tyres are placedon top of each other, with chicken wire and mosquito mesh between the topmosttyre and the second one from the top.

Oil drums should have someholes in the bottom for drainage, be filled with good soil to a depth of 7-10 cm,and be fitted with wire plus mosquito mesh on top.

Such pens are suitable forkeeping a few snails (up to about four mature snails in each container) closeto the house, for private use.

3 Hutch Boxes

Hutch boxes are square orrectangular, single or multi-chamber wooden boxes with lids, placed on woodenstilts above the ground at a suitable height for easy handling. The stiltsshould be fitted with plastic or metal conical protectors or aprons, to preventvermin from crawling or climbing up the stilts to attack the snails in theboxes.

The protectors could be madefrom old tins or plastic bottles. In the middle of the lid is an openingcovered with wire netting and nylon mesh. The lid should be fitted with apadlock to discourage pilfering. In the floor of the box are a few holesthrough which excess water can drain out.

The boxes are filled withsieved black soil to a depth of 18-25 cm. The box(es) should obviously be wellprotected from scorching sun or torrential rain.

Application and use

Hutch boxes are useful in asemi-intensive snail breeding system. They are very suitable as hatchery andnursery pens because eggs and young snails can be easily located and observed.

Mature snails in larger snaileries could be transferred to hutch boxes when they start making holes to lay eggs. The breeding snails should be removed to their own pens after the hatchlings start to emerge.

The soil must be changedoccasionally because an accumulation of droppings will increase the chances ofdisease development. A soil changes every three months is adequate.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Hutch boxes can be placedclose to the farmer’s house, ensuring good supervision and protection. They arebuilt at a comfortable working height, which facilitates feeding and handlingof the snails.

Disadvantages are the cost ofconstruction and their limited size, which restricts the number of snails thatcan be kept in them (some 30 hatchlings/juveniles, or about three mature snailsin a box of the size)

4. Trench pens

Trench pens are adjoiningsnail pens of 0.6 × 0.6 m to 1 × 1 m, either dug into the ground (which must bevery well-drained), or raised 40-50 cm above the ground. Outside walls andinner partitions consist of sand-Crete blocks or mudbricks in either case.

The pens are filled withsuitable soil to a depth of 10-15 cm. They are covered with wooden or steelframe lids with chicken wire plus nylon mesh, and fitted with padlocks todiscourage poachers. Obviously, the pens must be protected against the fierceheat of the sun or heavy rain.

Shredded semi-dry bananaleaves may be spread in the pens to provide shelter for the snails.

There are Two (2) types oftrench pens: A: dug in, B: raised.

Application and Use

Trench pens are suitable insemi-intensive to intensive snail growing ventures. They can be used ashatchery, nursery or fattening pens, with the number of stocks being adapted tothe size of the snails in each case. The snails can be moved from one pen toanother according to the growing cycle.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of a trench pen system, whether sunken or raised above the ground, is its flexibility. Snails can be moved around easily, in accordance with their size and phase in the growing cycle. The snails are always easy to locate, for feeding, handling, selection and final sale or consumption.

The main Disadvantages oftrench pens are (a) construction costs (specifically of raised pens) and (b)the fact that the farmer has to stoop or kneeldown to tend the snails.

5 Mini-Paddock Pens

Mini-paddock pens are smallsquare or rectangular pens, usually within a larger fenced area. They are builtof bamboo and nylon mesh, or of timber, chicken wire and nylon mesh.

The walls should be some 50 cmhigh and be dug at least 20 cm into the ground. Wooden frames are attached tothe top of the walls (extended inwards) and covered with the mesh, to preventsnails from escaping.

Plants providing shelterand/or food are planted in the pens before snails are released into them. Suitableplants include cocoyam, sweet potato, fluted pumpkin, and leafy vegetables.Rectangular pens allow the farmer easier access to the whole area withouthaving to enter the pens. Mini-paddock pens may also be constructed higherabove ground, with a completely enclosed frame, and may even be roofed.

Application and Use

Mini-paddock pens, like free-rangepens, are suitable as fattening pens, where snails that are no longer neededfor breeding are allowed to put on weight before being collected forconsumption or sale. Additional snail food may be placed in the pen, butuneaten food must be removed regularly. Food and shelter plants must be re-plantedfrom time to time.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The advantage of mini-paddockpens is that snails grow in an environment resembling their natural habitatwithout much additional effort from the farmer. The limited dimensions of thepen still permit close supervision.

The main disadvantage would seem to be that the snails are not protected against predators, unless the pen is entirely closed and roofed, which makes it more expensive.

Different Materials used for building Snail Houses

6 Free-Range Pens

Essentially, free-range pensare large mini-paddock pens: a fenced area of up to 10 × 20 m, planted withplants, shrubs and trees that provide food and shelter from wind, sun and rain.Just like in a mini-paddock pen, the vertical fence must be extended inwards,to prevent snails from escaping. If the fence is constructed of fine chickenwire mesh, the overhang is not obligatory because snails dislike crawling onwire mesh.

The fence must be dug at least20 cm into the ground. The free-range pen might even be completely enclosed androofed.

Application and Use

Free-range pens may serve asthe sole snail enclosure in an extensive snail farming system, or as growingand fattening pens in a semi-intensive one.

In the extensive snail farmthe entire life cycle of the snail develops within the open pen: mating, egglaying, hatching, hatchling development, and growth of the snails to maturity.Snails feed on the plants provided in the pen.

In a semi-intensive snail farmthe free-range pen serves as a growing and fattening pen for adult snails,which were raised through the egg hatchling juvenile stages in hutch boxes ortrench pens.

Completely enclosed free-rangepen on concrete slab with drains. Note shade trees and palms around, and palmfronds on top to provide shade.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In an extensive system using afree-range pen the snails develop in a near normal habitat. They will takeshelter in the vegetation or the soil during the day, coming out at night tofeed.

A simple fenced free-range penis relatively simple and cheap to construct. Management is restricted tooccasional replanting of food and shelter plants. If the vegetation within thepen is kept in shape, additional feeding of the snails is not necessary.

A fully enclosed and roofedpen is quite costly to build, obviously, especially if provided with a concreteapron and drain.

Both types require theavailability of land with a secure title, considering the investment involved,specifically for the fully enclosed and roofed variety.

The free-range pen has severaldisadvantages.

  1. It requires more land than other types of snail farming.
  2. It is difficult to locate and protect eggs and small snails. This may lead to poor disease management and higher mortality compared to other snail production systems.
  3. It is difficult to keep track of snail performance and, for that reason, to keep useful records of inputs and output.
  4.  In the open type of free-range pen, it is more difficult to keep out predators and poachers. Besides the natural shelter provided in mini-paddock and free-range pens, it is advisable to also provide other forms of shelter to ensure that the snails are not exposed to too much heat. For example, concave tiles or split bamboo can be placed on stones on the ground, with the concave side facing downwards. On very hot days, the soil can be cooled by sprinkling water on it.

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