Snail Housing Construction – [A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Build a Snail House]
In this post, we have outlined six snail housing structures you can use to keep your snails. I have also added cheap materials you can use to make a snail house.
Before the end of this post, I have added an awesome video of a snail house. The video will give you an image of what a snail house looks like in reality.
Before you start reading the types of snail housing system, this next paragraph is worthy of note.
You should know that the type and dimension of your snail housing (also called snailery, snail pen, snail habitat or snail structure), depend largely on the snail growing system you choose.
It also depends on the number of snails you intend to produce on your snail farm. In addition, the age of snail, temperature, location, weather conditions, and flooding vulnerability of your snail farm, are all factors you must consider.
To make your navigation through this snail farming guide very easy, I have added a table of content below.
Types of Snail Housing System
As management activities and level of financial inputs differ from one farmer to another, snail housing also differs in size and capacity. Snail housing system can be classified into three categories; intensive, semi-intensive, and extensive.
- Intensive snail housing system: This system of snail housing tries to recreate the natural habitat of snails. Plastic tunnel houses, greenhouses, free-range snail pens and buildings with controlled climate fall under this category. This system is usually practiced by farmers who do snail farming business for commercial purposes and occupy large expanse of land.
- Mixed, or semi-intensive snail housing system: In this system, egg laying and hatching occurs in a controlled environment. The young snails are removed after 6-8 weeks to outside snail house for further development and growth.
- Extensive snail housing system: Practiced mostly by small scale farmers and subsistence farmers (mainly for consumption). Snail farming in this system is done using relatively cheap and readily available materials like old car tires, baskets, old tanks or drums, pots, etc.
Characteristics of a Good Snail Habitat
- Your snail housing must have enough space for your snails to graze freely. Overcrowding your snailery impedes the development of snails and therefore should be avoided. A well-spaced snail housing reduces the risk of disease outbreak caused by overcrowding.
- A good snail housing should be able to protect snails against predators, poachers, and insect infestation. predators feed on young snails whereas poachers steal snails. As for insects, they lay their eggs on the snails: these eggs develop to the larvae stage, and then feed on the snails from inside their shells, thereby causing high snail mortality leading to loss of investment.
- It must be easily accessible for carrying out management activities. Snail housing should be built in such a way that will enable managers to handle snails, place feed, carry out cleaning activities and other tasks.
- The snail housing must prevent snails from escaping. No matter how slow snails can be, they can still wander off through open spaces and invade your house or garden. Therefore, all possible snail escape routes should be tightly closed.
- A snail housing must be well ventilated and provided with adequate shade.
- An adequate snail housing must be able to protect the snails from excessive wind. Wind increases the rate of moisture loss in snail which in turn, leads to dryness for the animal. Planting (fruit) trees around snail pens will help to reduce wind speed and improve the micro-climate. It will also protect the snails from the scorching sun or torrential rain.
- A good snail house must have all the necessary equipment for snail farming.
Materials Needed for Constructing Different Snail Pens
Depending on price and availability, the following materials can be used as snail housing materials; Concrete blocks or bricks, polythene sheets, galvanized sheets, Mosquito nets or nylon mesh, and chicken wire.
Decay and termite resistant timber play an important role in the construction of snail housing. In West Africa, favourable tree species that produce such timber include opepe, iroko, and mahogany. Disposable materials like car tyres, baskets, oil drums, and old water tanks are also good materials.
How to Construct Different Snail Houses
1. Using Baskets
A basket is a good material for locally made snail cage. It is used for raising hatchlings of less than three months of age or for incubation of eggs. The major limitation in the use of basket for raising snail is poor durability.
To make snail housing using baskets, the following procedures should be followed:
- Get a good basket and lay sack on the bottom to hold soil.
- Fill the basket with humus or loamy soil to a depth of 15-20cm.
- Put dry leaves on the soil for mulching.
- After that, cover the basket with a lid, or chicken wire mesh placed between two mosquito nets and fastened with a wooden frame, to provide protection against insects.
2. Hutch Box (Wooden Snail Cage)
A hutch box is a square or rectangular, single, or multi-chamber wooden boxes with lids, placed on wooden stands. Hutch boxes are useful in semi-intensive snail breeding system. They are very suitable as hatchery and nursery pens because eggs and young snails can be easily located and observed.
Steps involved in the construction of a hutch box
- The dimension should be about 100cm x 100cm x 50cm with a stand of 35cm.
- The box will have a cubical wooden frame.
- The base of the box should be built of hardwood and perforated to allow free drainage of excess water.
- After constructing the box, sieve humus or loamy soil into it to a depth of 20 – 25cm.
- Cover the box with a lid made of chicken wire mesh reinforced with mosquito nets. The lid should be fitted with a padlock to discourage poachers from stealing your snails.
- The stands of the cage which is 35cm high should be placed inside a container or bowl filled with water plus kerosene, used engine oil or any other disinfectants. This is done so as to prevent insects from crawling up the box to attack the snails.
- The soil in the hutch box must be changed occasionally because an accumulation of droppings and slime will increase the chances of disease development.
- A box of 1sqr.m can be used to rear 4 – 6 mature snails.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Hutch Boxes
A major advantage of hutch boxes is that they can be placed close to the farmer’s house, ensuring good supervision and protection. The height of the hutch boxes makes it comfortable to work on and facilitates feeding and handling of the snails.
In contrast, hutch boxes are somewhat expensive to construct, and they come in limited sizes, which restrict the number of snails that can be kept in them.
3. Construction of Snail House Using Old Tyres
Old tyres are less expensive and readily available in urban areas. It can be sourced from local mechanics or vulcanizers and used as backyard snail farming structure.
Although tires have poor ventilation, you can improve ventilation by perforating tires using a hot pointed metal rod.
To constructs snail housing using old tires
- Select an appropriate site under a shade.
- Stack 3 – 4 tyres upon one another as shown in the image above.
- After stacking, fill the tyres with suitable loamy soil to a depth of 10 – 15cm.
- Cover the tyres with chicken wire and mosquito mesh, placed between the topmost tyre and the second one from the top for protection.
Car tyres can hold up to 3 – 6 snails, depending on their sizes. Tyres of larger diameters can hold between 5 – 10 mature snails.
4. Drums/Old Tanks used for Construction of Snail Pen
Oil drums and old tanks could also be used to raise snails instead of discarding them. Old tank drums are good for small-scale production (especially for family consumption).
To construct snail housing using oil drums or old tanks;
- Lay sacks on the bottom of the tank to hold the soil and then fill with humus or loamy soil to a depth of 10-15cm.
- Place dry leaves on the soil layer as mulching.
- Cover the box with a lid made of chicken wire mesh reinforced with mosquito nets.
- The tank could be placed on a stand if available.
5. Trench Pen Snail House
Trench pen is a type of snail habitat that is built in a shallow pit. To construct trench pens,
- Select an appropriate site and peg out the position of your pen.
- The trench is either dug into the ground or raised 40 – 50cm above ground level using cement blocks.
- Ensure that the trench is well drained to prevent water-logging
- Fill the trench with good loamy soil to a depth of 10 – 15cm.
- Concrete can be leveled on the floor of the trench before topping with the soil.
- Construct feeding and water trough to a height 5 –7cm above the soil level.
- After that, cover the pen properly with a well-fitted framework of chicken wire plus mosquito net.
- Trench pens have the advantage of being flexible, especially when sorting snails according to their sizes and phase in the growing cycle. The snails are always easy to locate, for handling, feeding, selection, and final sale or consumption.
- On the contrary, trench pens have the disadvantage of being expensive to construct (especially the raised trench pen). Secondly, the farmer may end up having backache because of long stooping or kneeling due to the low height of the trench.
6. Free-range Snail Farming System
Free-range snail farming is a type of snail farming structure in which snails are allowed to roam freely and feed on open pastures of living food crops, rather than being densely confined in small enclosures and fed only compound foods.
The freedom to roam in large areas allows the snails to avoid each other’s slime trails. Over-slimed ground and excess feces can change snail behavior by putting out chemical signals like *pheromones which are detrimental to reproduction and growth rates in snails.
* A pheromone is a chemical an animal produces which changes the behaviour of another animal of the same species.
Allowing snails to breed at their own pace and encouraging the natural biological cycle in an ecological farming system, results in better breeding performance, faster rate of growth, higher reproduction yields and it meets the highest standards of quality and sustainable accountability.
The free-range snail housing system, however, has its own disadvantages.
- It requires more land than other types of snail farming.
- It is difficult to locate and protect eggs and newly born snails when using the free range system.
- A fully enclosed and roofed pen is relatively expensive to build.
- In the open type of free-range pen, it is more difficult to keep out predators and poachers.
- It may be difficult to control disease outbreak because of the farm size.
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