How to start snail farming at home
Snail farming is becoming more and more popular by the day. Amid growing concerns about the health implications of red meat attention is gradually shifting to ‘white’ meat. And when you talk of ‘white’ meat snail is among those that comes top of the list. Unfortunately there is a supply gap in snail market in Nigeria today. So invariably, there is need for more people to venture into the niche. So if you are interested and asking the question of how to start snail farming at home, this post is for you.
FYI: Snail farming is the only livestock farming business with these 3 advantages at the same time: Low startup capital, less labour intensive and high profit margin
How to start snail farming at home.
How to Start Snail Farming at Home – What is Snail Farming?
Snail farming is the process of raising edible land snails, primarily for human consumption or cosmetic use. Both the meat and snail eggs are consumable. While the meat can be consumed as escargot, the egg is eaten as caviar.
FYI: Another name for snail farming is Heliculture, it is the practice of raising snails for economic use or for human consumption.
Important Facts About Snail Farming
- Snail Farming is a 12 billion dollar industry as at 2014
- The global consumption of snail is about 450,000 tons annually
- Only 15% of the snail consumed globally comes from intensive farming, the remaining 85% are picked from nature usually from forests
- The European market is currently having a snail supply deficit of 60,000 to 80,000 tons per annum
- The most popular specie of consumable snail is Helix Aspersa; it accounts for 80% of the snail consumed around the world
- The consumption of snail in Nigeria alone is 7.5 million kg per year
- The price of a medium size snail goes for N300 to N500
Countries That Consume The Highest Amount of Snail
A report recently published by IndexBox shows that the largest consumer markets are in Europe, mainly in France, Italy and Spain. All three countries are heavily in deficit. Specifically, in France more than 80% of domestic consumption is covered by imports. In Italy the import is about 65% whereas in Spain it is 55%. Other markets is that in Portugal, Belgium and Switzerland. And due to the increased penetration of the Italian and French cuisine in countries like the US, Japan, China and Germany, there is a growing demand in these countries too.
Highest Importers of Snail
Report shows that as at 2016 63% of global snail imports goes to just 4 countries. Not unexpectedly, Spain and France leads those countries. The other two are Bosnia and Portugal. So now you know the country to target if you have plans to produce snail for export.
Highest Exporters of Snail
Do you care to know who supplies the snail to these heavy importers? Well, here are they. Morocco with 9,200 tonnes of exports leads the global snail export in 2016. Others are Indonesia (4,300 tonnes), Romania (2,700 tonnes), France (2,600 tonnes), China (1,900 tonnes), and Bosnia and Herzegovina (1,400tonnes) were the main global suppliers of snails in 2016. The 5 countries has a combined share of 66% of the global exports. Is your country among the list? If they are not then it is your opportunity.
Why Snail Farming is Quite Lucrative and Why You Should Consider It?
- There is a high demand for snail meat
- Snail has both local and international market
- The startup cost is very low and affordable. You can start with less than 100, 000 naira
- Running cost is even much lower than the startup cost
- The business is not labour intensive, meaning it is less stressful
- The markup is usually high
Why The Increase in The Demand for Snail Globally?
The first reason we stated above why snail farming is quite lucrative is the demand. The demand s quite hg,h but locally and internationally. But the question to ask is why are countries falling on each other over the few available supply of snail in the global market? Here are some reasons:
- It is a great source of protein
- Snail meat is an excellent remedy for vascular illnesses such as heart attack, cardiac arrest, hypertension, and stroke due to its low fat and cholesterol content.
- Due to its low calories content it helps in better blood sugar control and a lower incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
- Snail meat and water helps to lower blood pressure and are equally highly efficient in lowering the risk of heart problems, including hypertension and cardiac arrest.
- It contains high magnesium content
- The low fat content means it is the best meat for those seeking to lose weight
- Snail meat and water can prevent stroke
- They are also used to produce cosmetics and other skin products.
Why it is Easy to Start Snail farming at Home
The good thing about snail farming is that you can rear them on a small scale, from your home. The farming technique is straightforward and easy to implement. And the space it requires can range from having a few old tires stacked on each other—using large baskets or big clay pots—to building a small outdoor shed that’s no more than 25 square feet (2.4 square metres). The size of your snail farm will always depend on the space you have available and whether it is for home consumption or commercial purposes. But it is defintely not the type of farm business where you need hectares of land to start.
Here are the benefits of starting your snail farming at home:
- It is noiseless; contrast that with piggery, goat farming or even poultry farming
- The droppings are odourless; once again you might want to contrast this with pigery or poultry
- It doesn’t take much space, t is one of the few agribusiness you can start even if you don’t have your personal house or land
- It involves less capital
- You it not labour intensive, you can do it on a part-time basis
How to Start Snail Farming at Home
When you finally decide to start your snail farming at home, you will find that your costs can be remarkably low. Though this can also depend on which type of housing you have space for.
If you have a garden, you can set up a snail house in a corner of it. If you don’t have that much space, it is best to go for the tyre-stacking option. And if you live off the ground floor, perhaps in an apartment on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th floor, you can choose either the clay pot or basket housing options.
After you have determined the rearing structure that will work best for you, start with the steps listed below.
Steps to setting up a snail arming business at home
But before I share the steps with you, let me state that soil is the most important part of a snail’s habitat. To sustain their growth and development, the soil must be moist and have a high amount of organic matter. It should be the type of soil that supports the cultivating of leafy greens, tomatoes, and carrots.
So here are the steps:
- You must first clear the ground of weeds, shrubbery, and twigs, and its texture must be loose enough to allow mature snails to dig easily into the soil to lay their eggs and hibernate during the dry season.
- Hand-till (plough) the soil to loosen its grains and make its texture snail-friendly.
- Create a paddock for vegetables and leguminous plants.
- Build a fine-mesh or netting enclosure all around the paddock. Remember that snails can crawl away unnoticed.
- Grow leafy greens, legumes, cocoyams, bananas, and dwarf pawpaw plants in the paddock and wait for them to grow.
- Introduce your breeders into the enclosure and ensure you water the paddock regularly. It will provide both shelter and food for the snails.
- The greatest threat to snails are pests such as crawling insects and other predators, especially in the tropical regions that typically rear snails. To prevent them from getting into the enclosure, build a gutter around the housing and fill it with water and some pesticide.
Different Methods of Creating a Snail Farm at Home
As mentioned earlier, to rear snails in an indoor environment like your veranda or interlocked backyard requires items like old tyres, drums, hutch boxes, clay pots, and baskets. They must contain humus soil or compost that is soft enough for the breeders to burrow in and lay and bury their eggs.
After the eggs have been laid, you can harvest and place them in smaller containers filled with moist, loamy soil. These incubation boxes will help the hatchlings grow without hindrance.
Stacked tyres system
You can use discarded tyres as comparatively cheap snail pens. Place four old tires in a stack, and put chicken wire mesh between the top and the second one. Fill the bottom two tires with loamy or humus soil, and add no more than five breeder snails within the pen.
Empty drums system
Before setting up oil drum pens, create drainage holes in the bottom before filling with the appropriate soil to a depth of about 10 inches (25 centimetres). Install a framed and removable wire mesh lid to cover the drum. Add about five or six breeder snails in each container. The soil must remain moist at all times.
Single, double, or triple hutch boxes
These are boxes on stilts with drain holes in the bottom, filled with 20–25 centimetres of soil, and placed waist-high for easy handling and movement of eggs or hatchlings from one pen to the other. The legs must have aprons made from plastic (or old cans) to stop insects and other pests from crawling up the crate legs to attack the snails in the hutch. The lids, a wooden frame hinged to the crate, should be fitted with nylon mesh and wire netting.
Clay pots and baskets
This is the cheapest and easiest way to create a snailery. If you plan to utilize this method, then you probably intend to rear snails strictly for your home consumption. The only downside to this method is that you must clean out the contaminated soil regularly to avoid unpleasant smells and infected snails. Just as in the other systems, add sieved black soil—no more than 25 centimetres (10 inches)—into the container, and cover with a removable framed wire mesh lid. Ensure you add no more than three breeders.
How to Start Snail farming at Home – The Feed for Snails
One of the things that makes the business of snail farming at home very affordable is that unlike poultry or fishery you don’t have to keep buying very expensive feeds. In fact, you can get 80% of the feed for free and around you. The snail requires protein for growth and development. And it also requires carbohydrates for energy, and calcium for healthy shells, as well as other minerals and vitamins. So, whatever you feed them must supply them with these essentials. But the good news is that all these are readily available to you almost at no cost. Double fortunately is the fact that snails are herbivorous animals. This means they eat most types of plant foods just like goats.
Feed the young with tender leaves and shoots, and feed the older, mature snails with leaf litter and rotting fruits.
Recommended foods and nutritional supplements include:
- Leaves from cocoyam, papaya, okra, eggplant, loofa, cabbage, lettuce, and cassava plants.
- Fruits like papayas, bananas, strawberries, pears, mangos, oil palm, figs, eggplants, watermelons, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Tubers like sweet potatoes, cocoyams, yams, carrots, and other kinds of potatoes.
- Household peels from bananas, pawpaws, yams, plantains, carrots, and pineapples.
- Salt-free food leftovers like cooked rice, beans, and peas.
- Powdered calcium (for good shell development) from eggshells, wood ash, ground limestone, crushed oyster shells, or bone meal should also be added to the snail feed.
- Supplementary vitamins and minerals that contain small amounts of vitamins D, E, and K. Sources include sunflower, copra cake, wheat germ, lettuce, cabbage, and spinach. Mineral sources can be provided by placing licking stones containing the essential minerals into the pen.
How to Start Snail Farming at Home – How Many Times Do You Feed The Snail in a Day?
Like I have said before, snail farming at home is very easy. It is not as fragile as poultry where any slight mistake can be disastrous. So when it comes to feeding the snail, you can do that just twice in a day. Assuming you are working, then you need to put food for the snail before going to work in the morning. Then give them another when you are back in the evening. But if you have luxury of time then you can as well make your feeding more structured and reguar. 7 – 9am in the morning and 5 – 7 pm in the evening.
What You Need to Know About Snail Breeding
Overpopulation adversely affects the growth and development of snails in captivity. They will grow slowly, be underweight, lay fewer eggs, and sometimes may not breed at all.
How to Start Snail farming at Home – Starting Small
If you are a beginner snail farmer, it is best to start small, with just a few breeders. As you become more familiar with your home-based heliculture, you will learn their habits and become better at managing snail rearing. Then, you can increase their numbers as needed. The recommended density is 1–1.5 kilograms per square metre or about 15–25 snails per square metre.
How to Start Snail farming at Home – Gestation Process
When you get or purchase breeders, they are probably all filled with fertile eggs. The gestation period between fertilisation and the laying of eggs is between one to two weeks. In the breeding pen, they burrow into the soil and lay eggs in clusters: an average of eight eggs in each cluster. Any eggs found on top of the loam must be buried in the soil immediately.
After the eggs have been laid, mature snails must be removed from this pen and transferred to another, leaving the eggs to gestate. The incubation period varies and depends on environmental factors, but it usually takes between 25–35 days.
When the eggs hatch, they crawl out of the soil. At this time, remove them from the ‘birthing’ pen and transfer them to a nursery pen. For indoor snail rearing, this can be a smaller clay pot, basket, or two stacked old tires.
Because baby snails are susceptible to dryness, the habitat must be kept moist and clean at all times.
How to Start Snail Farming at Home – When Should You Harvest?
For a small-scale, home-based business like snail farming, the age and size at which snails should be ready for harvesting depend on the main objective of the farm: whether it is for rearing food for personal consumption or for selling.
If you are breeding snails for your personal use, you can choose when to harvest. The timing will depend on how you like your snails: small and tender or large and meaty.
With snail breeding for sale, buyers’ preferences dictate the age and size of harvesting. These preferences vary from one region of the world to another. The average time it takes for snails to reach a proper size and weight that is suitable for eating, however, is about 12 months. You can harvest snails when they are between the ages of 12–18 months because, after that time, the growth rate will decline.
Harvesting is best carried out at night, because this is the time they crawl out from the nooks and crannies of the pen. Nighttime is their activity period and is the best time to find and pick them.
How to Start Snail Farming at Home – The Life cycles
There are three stages for s a snail:
- Egg Stage
- Hatchling Stage
- Growers Stage
- Breeding Stage
In home-based snail farming for consumption, you can do with just two snail pens. If you intend to commercialize, you will need at least three snail housings—but this only works better for outdoor snail houses. Semi-intensive farmers keep and care for hatchlings, growers, and breeding snails in separate crates or pens.
With that said, let’s take a look at the four main stages of a snail’s lifecycle and how you should best care for them.
One great thing about domesticated snails is that, under the right conditions, they may continue laying eggs even during the dry seasons. They also lay eggs in clusters (about eight per cluster) and bury them in the soil. Any eggs found on top of the loam must be buried immediately. The incubation period varies but usually takes between 25–35 days.
These require more humid conditions than adult snails. The soil in their pens should be kept moist by providing enough water at regular intervals.
Snail hatchlings and juveniles are stocked at a density of around 100 snails per square metre.
When they are about three months old, growers should be transferred to separate pens at a stocking density of 30–40 snails per square metre of soil surface.
They start to lay eggs when they are sexually mature at the age of 10–12 months. Breeders must be transferred to boxes or pens with a maximum of 15 snails per square metre. When they are no longer required for breeding, they can be kept in fattening pens until they are ready for consumption or sale. Breeder snails are grown out until the age of 18 months.
Medium-size snails (used for European-style cooking) are purged, cleaned, packaged, and sold in a refrigerated hibernating state. In West Africa, snails are mostly sold live in open markets. West Africans tend to believe frozen or refrigerated snails lose their natural taste when cooked. It is really a matter of opinion.
On average, snails to be used for home consumption take six months to grow out, while those sold at markets take about eight months to reach a marketable age.
10 General Tips for Home-Based, Snail-Rearing Farms
1. Ensure that the snail housing has an effective draining system if you are farming on a balcony indoors, or create a simple drainage system if you are rearing the snails outdoors.
2. Protect the snail housing from the sun, rain, and severe winds.
3. Avoid at all costs clay and sandy soil in the housing, because it negatively affects the incubating eggs. The best type of soil to use is loamy soil or humus. A lack of access to healthy soil will result in snails with fragile shells and retarded growth.
4. When the pen’s soil becomes contaminated with mucus and droppings, changes to the soil composition will occur. To avoid this, change and replace the soil quarterly.
5. Snail farming should preferably begin at the onset of a rainy season, because that is the period that snails start to breed.
6. Choose only medium-sized snails for breeding. Large-sized snails are too old for breeding.
7. The stock of breeders you select must be sexually mature snails with healthy shells. They should weigh at least 100–125 grams (0.2–0.27 pounds).
8. Do not overcrowd the pen or containers. Overstocking affects their growth and development and also breeds cannibalism. Allow for no more than five snails per square foot (or 50 snails per square metre) of the soil’s surface.
9. Snails require a mix of foods, because they tend to choose what to eat based on preference—a combination of fruit peels, leafy greens, and tubers should provide a good selection for them.
10. If you are creative or into craft works, you can paint and use the snail shells for tabletop ornaments, planters for small decorative plants (like cacti), or as an inlay for lamp bases, ceramic pots, or to decorate bottles and containers.