Snail Farming| 5 Mind-blowing Facts & 6 Steps On How To Start A Snail Farm Anywhere In The World

Snail Farming| 5 Mind-blowing Facts & 6 Steps On How To Start A Snail Farm Anywhere In The World

snail farming

 Snail farming is a major aspect of agriculture that [ though not yet maximized in Nigeria] can actually go a million ways supporting other forms of animal farming like cattle rearing, poultry, and fish farming. It has the capacity of making one a millionaire within the shortest possible time. Snail is of the family of phylum Mollusca. It is an invertebrate covered with a hard shell. Snails are found to be rich in energy and protein.


Heliculture which simply means snail farming is the art and science of breeding snails either for consumption or for commercial purposes. Snail farming – heliculture was first practiced by the Romans decades ago where the Italian farmers in the North would gather snails during the season and put them into enclosures until winter when they percolate.

However, snail farming is gradually spreading into many parts of the West African States, Western Europe, and America. About 5,000 tons of snails are consumed in Italy yearly out of which 1,000 tons are imported.

Heliculture research became possible in West Africa in the early 1970s. snails have been said to be raised within the sub-region with the continued campaign for its promotion both as home consumption for protein supply and as business, it is a supplement for household income. Today, the campaign for snail farming has shifted to encouraging youths to venture into this economic and sustainable industry which has the potential for export.

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  1. Basically, there are three breeds of snails, they are
  2. Archachatina magmatic
  3. Archatina maritime – water snail
  4. Archatina archatina – rain forest [tropical] snail

The most common and the biggest of all the snails is the archachatina magmata, which is otherwise called the “Giant African snail”. This type is readily found in dump places, under leaves, and the biggest amongst snails available.

The popular Giant African snails grow actively during the rainy season under natural habitats weighing between 120-250 grams. It is now widely eaten and traded along the West African coast as an expensive delicacy regularly found in the menu list of high restaurants and five-star hotels.

Snail meat [popularly known as “Congo Meat”] has long been considered a delicacy by so many people globally. It has also been severally affirmed as a very safe and nutritious delicacy. In these days of coronary complications and other alarming health complications, snail farmers are sure to hit it big because many persons are shunning the consumption of beef and red meat.


Below are three main types of snail farming:

  • Pen system
  • Paddock system, and
  • Dwarf wall system

These three types of snails farming have their advantages and disadvantages. The three are practicably practicable all over the world, but in Nigeria, the best option is the pen system [as it regards small-scale snail farming].

However, not until recently was any serious thought been given to snail farming and domestication in West Africa. It is also worthy of note the fact that snail farming could be kicked off with a little initial capital. The best period to commence snail rearing is the rainy season. You do not need much to start. Beautiful enough, you can do it side-by-side with whatever business or income opportunity you already have on the ground.

It is essentially desirable and practicable for a beginner to start even at a very small scale with or without enough capital. The smaller you start the better. It is advisable to start with about 50-60 snails so that you can garner experience first before you go full scale.

Snails live wildly in the forest region where the vegetation is wet, the soil is damp, and the atmosphere is cool and shady. Recent research has shown that snails just like other livestock can be domesticated. Unlike other livestock farming, snail farming requires a specially controlled environment with exacting attention to dampness, wetness, shadiness, safety, as well as predators and diseases controlled.

Snail farming can be very lucrative if properly managed as the demand for snail meat greatly exceeds the available supply. A prospective snail farmer is advised to religiously follow the simple methods of raising snails stipulated in this article as they have been tested and proven over time by researchers and successful snail farmers.

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The West African giant land snail [archatina magnata], on which this article is typically based, thrives well among wet vegetation in damp, and shady places where the topsoil is very rich in humus soil and where it is not waterlogged. Snails do not like too much water.

Snails multiply much during the rainy season and are nocturnal in nature, ie they are mainly active at night. Snails breathe in air through their fleshy bodies. This informs the reason why they must keep their bodies moist, and why they are not found in dry places.

Snails are omnivores, scavengers that feed on rotten plant materials, dead animals, and of course fresh vegetation. In unfavorable weather conditions, snails draw their head and foot into its shell. During the period of dryness, snails hide in the ground, withdrawing themselves into the shell, and close the opening of the shell with a thin membrane called snail chalk. It remains in this state of inactivity or aestivation until the rain begins again.

Snails are hermaphrodites, [i.e. they contain both male and female reproductive organs in the same body]. When two of them pair, they exchange sperms which are stored and later used to fertilize the ova. The eggs are laid on the soil in batches and are hatched into tiny snails complete with little shells within a month. Snails are prolific, each naturally laying between 15-20 eggs, 2 or 3 times in a year.


This question can be dealt with two vital perspectives; the consumption rate and costs effectiveness of farming.


Scientific research has proven that snails can serve a number of purposes that are beneficial to man. Experiments show that it has the highest possible level of animal protein. It ranked the highest. The rankings are

  • Snail [34-51%]
  • guinea pig[20.3%]
  •  poultry[18.0%]
  •  cattle[17.5%]
  • sheep[16.4%],and
  •  swine[14.55%]

Snail also contains almost the highest percentage of minerals, about 3%, closely followed by the guinea pig, 1%. Snail is a source of lysine and arginine [which are essential amino acids], and bi-glucosidase, an enzyme usually found in the liver of animals.

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UNICEF on nutrition has it that good nutrition is the bedrock of child survival and overall development. Snails as food supplements bridge that gap of ensuring a balanced diet in a child’s nutrition.

  1. Consumption of snails by nursing mothers helps the children to grow stronger and healthier with strong bones and teeth due to its high content of calcium and phosphorus.
  2.  It enhances fertility in women due to its pharmaceutical nature.
  3. It serves as an antidote against hypertension due to its high calcium and helps in weight problems because of its low cholesterol content.


Starting a most small-scale business requires large, if not very large capital. Some also require high technical know-how. Snail farming is an exception, it requires small capital to start with. Costing a business is usually done by costing the basic materials necessary for the take-off, such as:

  1. Equipment
  2. Cost of foundation stock
  3. Cost of training
  4. Marketing cost
  5. Cost of production [here is feeding]
  6. Cost of maintenance – repairs, drugs.

As a starter, acquiring all of the above will cost you about N10, 000 if you want to start very small. Snail farming is very cheap compared to other businesses.


There are basic knowledge and important facts about snails you need to know before you venture into snail farming. These facts are what we refer to as snail farming methodologies. Therefore, you must consider the fact:

  • That snail’s natural habitat is a wet, damp, and shady place, which is not waterlogged.
  • The soil of the area must be loamy, and very rich in humus. Humus affords snails their organic food.
  • In order for your snails to thrive very well, the environment in your snail farm or snails must be closely similar to the natural habitat of snails.


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  1. Location of the pen/padlock
  2. Soil test and treatment
  3. Construction of pen [breeding house]
  4. Materials needed
  5. Interior and exterior vegetation of pen
  6. Selection and stocking of snails
  7. Breeding/hatching process
  8. Feeding/essential dietary requirements
  9. Marketing/sales [for both local markets and exports]


Snail farming can be constructed at the back of the house. It can be a bamboo or plank structure measuring about 12’ x 12’ x 6’ in dimension. The top should be covered with wire gauze. Its floor should be humus-filled up to 1/3 of the height. Cocoyam and other plants that cannot grow tall should be planted in it. The soil should be dampened constantly but moderately. A palm front or straw thatch shed should be built over the snailery, alternatively, creeping plants can be planted to cover the netted top, all in the line to enhance the cool atmosphere.

You can also use multiple used tires by filling 1/3rd of the tires with sand and wet leaves before stocking. Always cover the top with net wire. You need to prepare a place for the snails to live. A small piece of land behind your house would suffice.   You can even use just your flowerbeds. But you have to use chicken and mosquito nets as well as planks to make a fence.

It is however more desirable to use iron in place of wood for its durability. The space should also be covered; this is to keep away natural enemies of snails like lizards, mosquitoes, etc away. You are to plant things like waterleaf and cocoyam around their pens to serve as food and to balance the ecosystem.


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  1. Materials needed are:
  2.  Wood
  3.  wire mesh
  4. tie rod
  5.  mosquito net
  6.  mat

The wood required is heavy planks mainly 2” X 3” in size. The choice of wood is because it can withstand rainfall, excessive sunshine, and termite. The wall of the pen can either be made of mud, cement blocks, or wood.

The snail pen cannot be located on clay soil, sandy soil, or waterlogged land surface but rather on leveled loamy soil.  The soil has to be treated with quick lime or any other chemical that is capable of neutralizing the acidic content.

The interior vegetation of the pen should be maintained to create a prototype of the snail’s natural habitat. Snails of the same species are to be grouped together in the same pen. Experienced carpenters and bricklayers should be employed and maintain standard measures acceptable for the healthy growth of the snails.

Good attention should be given to the snails in order to breed well. As a nocturnal animal, snails are weak in the day but strong at night. Snails seem to have an in-built clock in them to always indicate the time to stay a long time without food and water, though this could retard their growth. The soil {ground} of the pen must be moist soil, without which snails cannot move in search of food and other activities they engage in.

Being hermaphrodites {multiple-egg laying animals}, snails lay many eggs in clutch during both rainy and dry seasons. If bred in a conducive environment, they can lay 8-14eggs per clutch. Egg laying is repeated bi-monthly, depending on the farm management technique used. The gestation {development} period ranges six to eight months. Some snails cannot lay fertile eggs without mating.

The eggs are fertilized through mating. Infertile eggs cannot hatch.  These infertile ones can be determined by a simple test. Take a bowl of clean water and with a rubber spoon drop the eggs one after the other into the water. The infertile ones will float, while the fertile ones will not.

It takes about twenty-eight to thirty days for the eggs to hatch. When the eggs hatch newly, they are transparent and fragile, but the shell gets stronger and darkened as the days go by. After 3-4 months, their family can be determined and their true color confirmed.


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There is no standard housing. Each farmer is expected to build the housing according to the ability the farmer has. However, the following will provide a guide.

(a)     Wooden cage: This is good for a backyard production or a corner of the large passage can be used, or a corner of your sitting room or bedroom. it consist of a box made of wood measuring  180cm x 60cm i.e. 6ft x 2ft x 2ft. LXBXH and raised up on four legs of about 2ft long cupped in a tin filled with water to prevent insects. The cage should be filled up to 2/3 of its height with humus soil and dry leaves of banana, plantain, or pawpaw. The bottom of the box is perforated for draining off excess water. The box should be covered with light materials to ease its opening. See appendix 1 for the diagram. This box can take between 10-20 mature snails.

(b)     The Brick Type:  This is of the same structure as the wooden cage but made of bricks. The floor can be laid with concrete to prevent burrowing into the ground by the snails. Cover the box made with humus soil up to 2/3 of the height; and cover with light materials, a mosquito net. See appendix 2 for the diagram.

(c)     Snail pen: This is a big house that looks like a poultry pen, with the exception that the top, the roofing is made of wire netting and covered with banana leaves or pawpaw leaves. This approach is for a large –scale farming.

(d)     Basket: A basket placed on the wooden stand can be used,

HOW? Line the basket with jute or fertilizer bags. Then pour into it about 6cm loamy soil and dry leaves of pawpaw, and or banana. The Basket is also covered with jute of fertilizer bags tied round by elastic rubber.

          N/B. Whichever housing method is used, the entire place should be close to being dark all the time to enable it to feed

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  1. The snail feeds on almost anything that is not poisonous and devoid of salt.
  2. Household wastes can be fed to the snails, provided it does not contain salt.
  3. Leaves, eg. Pawpaw, banana, cocoyam, water yam.
  4. Fruits eg. Mangoes, pawpaw, banana, eggplant, tomatoes, pineapple peels, etc.
  5. Industrial bye-products e.g. Waste grounded maize, guinea corn, wheat offal, rice bran, spent grains, maize bran, plantain peels, pineapple peels, etc.
  6. Mineral supplements eg. Bone meal, eggshell, etc.



It is very essential that the place be kept wet to prevent the snail from forming a white hard membrane on the surface as a covering. When this outer covering is formed the snail will not grow. The snails should be fed early and [not very late] in the evening about 6-7:30am.

Excessively ripened food attracts insects which are snail’s major enemies. It should be avoided, and when served, should be removed the following day. Do not encourage leaving the feeds served for more than 12 hours. The first step in snail rearing is to get the habitat completely ready before introducing the snails.

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Carefully follow these listed instructions and steps to ensure rich, healthy, progressive, and prosperous snail farming:

  1. When you are sourcing your snail farming stock, you are advised not to buy small or baby snails but go for the fully grown, mature, and big snails. The African giant snails are recommended. The reason is that the mature big snails afford you the opportunity of ensuring that the specific species you are using are good and you are sure of the potential size of the offspring.
  2. It is better to buy the big ones so that you can expect them to hatch after about 35 days on the location.
  3. It is also advisable to buy your stocks from the rural area where there is the likelihood of the snails being recently picked from their natural habitat.
  4. If you buy from the township, you might be buying snails that might have been picked for a very long time and might have been subjected to prolonged unnatural treatment. Just like human beings, such snails must have become demoralized and as such, they may neither grow nor reproduce well which is a shortage to the farmer.
  5. You can also source your snail farming stocks from an established snail farm if there is any in your area.
  6. Inspect the snail for cracks, if any don’t buy it for your farm. Cracked snails spend time reproducing in healing the crack.


Watch out and subscribe for our next publication on snail farming and how to source their nutrition, feeding and when to feed them, snail breeding and production, snail’s greatest enemy, and basic cost analysis for setting up snail farms.



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