Large snails that fill their shell are the way to go. Just like many of you, we were surprised when we came to know that the global snail market equates to approx. $154M in terms of wholesale prices. For a profitable snail farming business, you need to start with the right type and number of snails. Based on our research, here are the best ways to choose, buy, and transport snails for a successful farm.
First of all, Choosing the RIGHT type
Get one type of snail only (your target is a homogeneous pen). There are many categories for snails with the main three being:
It is recommended to buy a type similar to that in your local habitat. Depending on your location, target the most indigenous species to avoid any risks with imported snails. Always keep in mind that snails do not reproduce with different or unfamiliar snails.
Size matters !
Go for the fully grown snails. Since you are just starting the snail farm business, it is essential to start with fully grown snails that are ready to lay eggs. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time waiting for the snails to mature. Snails are hermaphrodites meaning that they have both male and female reproductive organs, so do not bother if they are male or female – All snails lay eggs.
How to know if a snail is fully grown then?
Look for the snails with a thickened lip at the entrance to their shell (see below example). This is applicable to most snail species when they reach maturity. Avoid the snails that do not fill their shell as they might be sick or have lost high amount of water due to dry weather or bad transportation. This snail may not grow well and will most probably not lay healthy eggs. You need large and healthy snails! This essential to ensure good traits in the new generations of your new farm.
As you should be targeting sexually mature snails, the average weight for each snail would be in the range of 25-45 g (Also depends on the species, African snails are larger than the European and Mediterranean ones), as the starting breeding stock.
Important Tip: It is recommended to start farming at the start of the wet season because it is the natural time when snails start to breed.
Importance of the snail shell
Look for snails with the strongest shells. The snail’s shell is not just only their armor, it’s part of the body too, similar to our fingernails. Unfortunately, they cannot replace or regrow if broken. So, to ensure the survivability of your snails while transporting and in the new pen, choose the ones with strong unbroken/ cracked shells. Snails are sneaky and some might escape from the pen, especially if it is your first time building one, so you will have to put them back. Even though you should provide protection to the snail pen, strong shells are important to provide some kind of protection to the snail if it escapes against natural predators (such as beetles and birds.
Why are these traits important?
Maintaining these traits is essential for the success of the second phase of your snail farming business plan. Healthy snails with strong shells usually lay more eggs which grow faster and with your care, future baby snails will be healthy snails too. These snails sell better and faster in the market. To ensure the continuity of your farm and possible expansion to new pens, it is safer and to start with the best possible population.
For more scientific information about land snails, have a look at https://sciencing.com/characteristics-snails-slugs-8356289.html.
How to collect and transport snails?
You should only buy the number of snails that you can accommodate in your pen. For the average Romanian land snail, about 1sqm for 6 snails is enough. Based on that you can determine how many you can accommodate. After choosing as described above, very carefully and gently place them into a container (such as a basket) so you can carry them to the pen without hurting them.
Example for Basket (Make sure to cover with mesh):
Under any case and especially if you are buying huge quantities, never put more than 10 kg of snails together in any kind of storage, to avoid the cracking and/or crushing of the shells in the lower layers.
Extra info – Transporting snails for a long distance:
- Prepare a plastic container or a large sturdy basket for transporting the snails. Avoid placing them on top of each other if you are going to transport them over a long period of time, for example: by mail across the country.
- Make sure the container has a lid (can be closed) and has holes for air.
- If it does not have holes, try using a drill to make breathing holes (In the case of a plastic container). Although snails can survive in a low oxygen environment, you want to keep them as healthy as possible. Preparing a suitable box can be time-consuming if you are not used to these kind of stuff, so check first in your local home depot store for a ready box.
- Add some moss into the container so that the snail(s) placed inside can’t be thrown around easily, also put a bit of food in for the journey.
- As for the food type, make sure to add food that does not rot quickly, like carrots.
- Place the snails carefully inside. As we said earlier, it is preferable to obtain snails from the surrounding habitat. Unless you have a specific reason for buying the snails from a very far location, consider buying them from the nearest possible place.
- You don’t want the Container to spill through the journey, so make sure that it is secured and taped. Make sure there are breathing holes in the container too.
- Finally, place the container in a cardboard box surrounded with shredded paper. Use a cardboard box that is a bit larger than the plastic box only. You do not want the snail box to be shaking and bumping around.
Placing the snails in their pen
This last step is very important for the health and survivability of the snails after the transportation process. The Optimum way is to place the snails at dawn or sundown with dew in their new home. Never put snails in a pen in the morning or during the day when the sun is hot. They prefer places that are dark, or at the very least shady. Therefore, always put them in the evening when it is cool. This is when they begin to move around and eat.
Keep your records
Keep a detailed log of the number of snails bought, type, size and description, the place you bought them from, and the total cost (including transportation). Keep note of how many snails unfortunately died after you check on them the next day. This log is important as it allows you to build a database that can used as a reference in the future when you are buying or selling snails. Also, it will help you understand how to differentiate the good snails from the weaker or unsuitable for starting a farm kind of snails.
- If you want to start a snail farm, you’ll need to get healthy snails with strong shells. You can search online to find another snail farm near you, where you can purchase adult snails or from a nearby market. It’s always better to examine the snails before you buy them so that you know they are healthy and get experience in buying and transporting snails.
- Get enough snails for the size of your farm. This depends on your business plan, budget, and the type of snails available. If you are farming smaller snails, the maximum number of snails recommended per square meter is 6 snails. In the case of larger snails such as the African snail, you’ll need at least 1 square meter for each snail. Do not overcrowd the pen as it will lead to overpopulation and an unhealthy snail population. It will also affect the farm soil and its suitability.
- Make sure:
- Pen and habitat are ready. That includes the soil, protection, food and your plan of upkeep and monitoring the snails pen.
- Place the snails at sundown with moist food.
- Follow all the rules and regulations applicable in your area, especially if you plan on selling them later for consumption.
- Prepare a container suitable for the number of snails you will buy.
- Your pen must be ready to safely accommodate the newcomers.
- Choose the largest snails with strong shells.
- There should be no cracks on the snail’s shell.
- The snail MUST fill its shell.
- Gently place the snails in a covered basket / container.
- Place the snails in the pen at dawn or after sundown only with dew.
- Carefully monitor in the following days – remove any dead snail.
- Make sure to check if there are any relevant rules and regulations for snail farming in your area.
- Keep a log of all this data along with the expenses associated.