If you have eaten peppered snail before, then you know that the crunchy taste of the perfectly sauced, Nigerian delicacy, is simply wonderful, especially the giant African land snails.
The giant African land snails “Achatina achatina” is a species of very large, air-breathing land snail, a terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk in the family Achatinidae.
They are hemraphrodites, meaining they possess both the female and male reproductive organs. Two snails are still needed for breeding, but they are very prolific breeders.
Achatina achatina is the most desirable land snail for farmers because it grows so big to become the biggest snail species in the world. It has its origin from Nigeria but it also found in Liberia and Ghana.
They are very good for commercialization, because of the volume of eggs they lay at once. Each achatina lays between 300 and 500 eggs at a time in clutches, three times a year.
Things to Consider before Setting up a Snail Farm
- Snail Farming Environment
Snails are easily dehydrated, and wind increases the rate of moisture loss in snails which in turn, leads to the dryness of the animal.
To prevent snails from losing water quickly, your snaileries (the snail house) must be located in an environment that is protected from wind.
A low plain, down-hill site surrounded with enough trees is perfect for snail farming.
You may plant plantains and bananas around your snail farm to prevent the impact of wind.
- Type of Soil
Snail’s major habitat is the soil, because it contains some of the components and chemical substances that they need to survive. However, not all soils are suitable for snail rearing.
Snails lay their eggs on the soil; drink water out of the soil and their shell is mainly calcium, which is derived mostly from the soil.
For the snails to survive and flourish, it is very important that the snail farm must contains these elements; it must be balanced, not waterlogged, not too dry, and it must not be acidic.
The most desirable soil for snail rearing is sandy-loamy soil with low water holding capacity. Clayey soil and acidic soil must be avoided.
- Getting The Snails For Farming
To start up a snail farm, it is advisable to get snails directly from the forest instead of buying from the market. This is because in the market, they get exposed to sunlight and that gets them dehydrated.
Snails drink a lot of water because they are easily dehydrated and this stresses them out, and reduces their fertility capacity.
The intending snail farmer could pick the snails from the bush with a very simple technique; clear a little portion of land during rainy season and sprinkle spicy fruits like pineapple, pawpaw, plantain, banana etc at about 5 o’clock in the evening, when you go back there about 7pm or 8pm, you will pick up snails suitable for rearing. Repeat the procedure until you get enough quantity.
- Building a Snail House (Snailery)
Snaileries can vary from a patch of fence-protected ground, sheltered from the wind to a covered box if you are breeding in small scale.
For larger population of snails, you can dig a trench or make a concrete pen with soil deep of about 10 inches, and cover it with screen or wire all around to prevent the snails from escaping.
Remember that snails can reproduce fast and become pests when their breeding is uncontrolled.
Snails love dark and cold places, but make sure the humidity does not drop to levels harmful to the snails. You can use fresh leaves and cloth that is regularly wet to regulate the temperature.
Also, the wire is useful in keeping away rats and snakes or other predators from eating the snails in your snail farm. But aside from these bigger predators, you should be wary about smaller ones like ants and termites. Your construction must have these predators in mind.
- Food and Feeding Habit
Snails especially Achatina achatina mainly feed on green leaves (like, Cocoyam leaves, pawpaw leaves, okra leaves, cassava leaves, eggplant leaves, cabbage and lettuce leaves) and fruits (like, Mango, eggplant, pawpaw, banana, tomatoes, oil palm fruits, pears and cucumber).
Though they can utilize other range of food, feed your snails with leaves, fruits, or even formula from the feed store. Aside from food to grow tissues, snails need calcium to grow shells.
Once they start growing, separate the big ones from the small ones. It takes more than a year for the Achatina type to grow to harvest size. Others mature in two years.
Harvest your snails when the brim of the shell is thicker and harder than other parts of the shell.
Do not harvest all the matured snails at once for the market. It is important to keep few for breeding and to serve as base stock for your snail farm.