As a child, I never thought about the value of snails and it never crossed my mind that snails can be of any help to me or even to anyone. While helping mum in her small garden I used to come across these “slow creatures” and would get irritated by the stickiness of its mucus. As time passed I came to know more about snail (some good info can be found here, especially for business and came to realize that can be considered a delicacy.
In this post, you will get detailed information on how to start and maintain your snail farm. It will describe the different types of pens, the advantages, and drawbacks of each type, how to choose the pen type and size. It will also provide information on how to protect and maintain a snail pen. Depending on the type of the pen, a description of how to install the pen will be provided.
Types of snail pens
There are three main types of snail pens depending on the farming system; intensive snail housing system, semi-intensive snail housing system, and extensive snail farming system.
Intensive snail farming system-it is also referred to as indoor snail housing system. It is mostly done by farmers practicing large scale snail farming. It is usually done in a confined environment where the natural setting is provided for the snails. Food, water, and minerals are provided for the snails.
Figure 1a sample of an intensive farming system.
Advantages of the intensive snail housing system
- Easy record-keeping
- Low mortality rates
- Snails are protected from predators and diseases
Disadvantages of the intensive snail housing system
- It is very expensive to install and maintain
- Limited movement of the snails
- Quick spread of diseases within the pen
Mixed/semi-intensive snail housing system-This is a mixture of both intensive and extensive snail housing systems. Snails lay eggs and hatch in a controlled unit and then the hatched snails are moved out of the unit after 42-56 days.
Advantages of the mixed snail housing system
- Easy record-keeping
- Low mortality rates
Disadvantages of the mixed snail housing system
- It is expensive to maintain
- It is time-consuming
Extensive snail housing system-It is also called outdoor snail housing system. It is usually practiced free-range by small-scale farmers who mainly do snail farming for consumption. This is the cheapest type of housing because it occupies a small space and can be made using readily available materials such as old drums, old tires, mosquito nets, and old water tanks.
Advantages of the extensive snail housing system
- Cheap to install and maintain
- Free movement of the snails
- No need of providing feeds because the snails search for food for themselves.
Disadvantages of the extensive snail housing system
- Highly risky because the snails may be attacked by predators or even be stolen
- The farmer may not be able to control climatic conditions.
- Keeping records is more difficult for the farmer.
Steps in building a simple snail pen
- Assemble all the materials necessary for constructing the snail pen. They include; corrugated sheets, chicken wire, posts, woven plant material, mosquito net, old drums, and old tires. Choice of the materials to be used depends on the type of pen to be constructed and the availability of the materials.
- Paint the posts with oil 0.4 meters at the bottom part to avoid rotting and attack from termites.
- Drive the posts 0.4 meters into the ground and ensure that they are 1 meter apart.
- Attach a woven material at the upper part first then the lower part. If you’re using both woven material and chicken wire, attach the chicken wire first then the woven material.
Examples of snail pens
Old tires snail pen-this is a pen made up of 4-7 tires stack together and covered at the top and the bottom using a chicken wire. This pen can accommodate 4-6 mature snails or 10-12 young ones. Steps of constructing a tire snail pen are as follows;
- Mount 4-5 old tires on one another as shown below
- Fill the first three tires with loam soil
- Introduce your snails in the pen, the number of snails depends on the number and the diameter of the tires. For example, 3-4 mature snails can survive in a pen made up of four medium-sized tiles, the same pen can accommodate 10-15 juvenile snails. For better results, do not overcrowd the pen.
- Cover the pen with a chicken wire or a mosquito net. Ensure that the pen is well covered to prevent the snails from getting out of the pen or even protect them from predators.
Basket snail pen-this snail pen is the cheapest to make because you only need a basket, some soil, and a chicken wire. The size of the basket will determine the number of snails to be reared in the pen. This pen is more appropriate for young snails, especially the newly hatched ones.
- Lay a sack at the base of the basket to prevent soil from spilling out of the basket and also to protect predators from entering the snail pen.
- Fill the basket halfway with loosened loam soil.
- Cover the soil with dry leaves or grass for mulching.
- Place your snails inside the basket.
- Cover the basket with a mosquito net or a chicken wire.
Trench snail pen-this is made by digging a hole into the ground or raising the soil above the ground using bricks. To build a trench pen;
- Identify well-leveled ground to prevent water from stagnating inside the pen
- Use concrete or small stones at the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
- Fill the trench halfway with loam soil.
- Introduce your snails inside the pen.
- Cover the pen using a chicken wire or a mosquito net.
Old drum snail pen-this is a pen made using old oil or water drums. Steps in constructing this pen include;
- Fill the drum halfway with loam soil.
- Place the snails inside the drum.
- Cover the drum with a lid or a chicken wire.
What are some of the factors to consider when choosing the type of snail pen?
Some of the factors to consider are; cost, materials available, number of snails, future considerations, size of space available, and motive behind the project (consumption or commercial).
Protection and maintenance practices for snail pens
- Avoid using strong chemicals inside or near the pen
- Handle the snails carefully
- Limited access of the snail pen by unauthorized individuals
- Regular cleaning of the pen
- Regular inspection and repair of the fence of the snail pen.
How do you protect snails from drying out during the windy season?
To protect snails from the wind you need to plant trees around the snail pen. Trees reduce the speed of the wind and therefore, act as windbreakers. Snails can also be protected from the wind by building a pen made of blocks and covering it completely without leaving any opening.
Soil in the pen
Soil is important in the snail pen because it is the main source of food for the snails. Snails extract minerals and calcium from the soil. They feed on decaying matter in the soil and also get their water from the soil. They also lay eggs in the soil, they dig a few inches into the soil and lay their eggs there. Soil also acts as a habitat for snails during the dry season, snails hibernate during this season because they are cold-blooded. The type of soil that supports snail growth and development should be; moist, alkaline, and aerated. The soil should be loosened through tilling before being introduced in the pen. Regularly change the soil in the pen to prevent diseases that may be caused by the dirt that accumulates in the soil.
What are the climatic requirements for the survival of snails?
Some of the climatic conditions necessary for the survival of snails include; moderate temperature and high humidity.
Introduction of snails in the pen
Beginners in the snail farming business find it difficult on the kind and age of snails to introduce in their pens. Mature snails should be considered because they are ready for mating and breeding which will increase the flock in your pen. Snails have both reproductive organs, so one can even start with even two mature snails. Farmers can source the snails from local farmers or even the wild snails in the forest or garden.
What do snails feed on?
Snails obtain food mainly from the soil in their pen. Other food supplements can also be given to snails. Snail feeds include;
- Rotten fruits
- Leftover rice
Note that food that contains salt should not be given to snails because it is poisonous and may kill the snails which may lead to losses.
What is the appropriate time for feeding the snails?
Snails hide during the day to avoid sunlight and also to run away from their predators. They get out of their hiding place at night when the sun has already set. The most appropriate time, therefore, to feed your snails will be at night because it is the time that they are active.
How many snails should each pen contain?
The number of snails per pen depends on the size of the pen and the age of the snails. Mature snails should be fewer in a pen for them to move, mate, and lay eggs freely compared to the young ones. An approximation of 10-15 mature snails should occupy a square metre and for the young ones, about 100 snails can occupy a square meter.
We hope that this article has been of benefit to you and if so please leave a comment in the comment section. Suggestions on how to improve our articles are also welcome. Read more on the characteristics of a good snail habitat in https://agro4africa.com/construction-of-snail-housing/.