Understanding the snail, its nature, characteristics and behavior

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 Origin of Snail 

Snails are small soft animals, usually with a hard round shell on their back which move very slowly. They are of different types and origins. For example, there are some which are of African origin; the land snails.

They include Archachatina marginata, Achatina achatina, Achatina fulica. Some European breeds include Helix aspersa, Helix aperta, Helix lucorum, Helix pomatia, and Helix hortensis.

To understand snail, we need to first, understand the nature of this slow animal (snail), how they respond to their environment, their environmental need and their general characteristics.

Snail for profit

Snail classification

Snails are gastropods (Gastropods according to ScienceDirect are a highly diverse class of mollusks that include limpets, whelks, periwinkles, abalones, venomous cone shells, and the shell-less nudibranchs, sea slugs and sea hares). Snails are in the Gastropoda class, in the phylum Mollusca. In the gastropods, there are three subclasses the ProsobranchiaOpisthobranchia and the Pulmonata

This means that, Under the Phylum Mollusca, you get Gastropoda, under the Gastropoda, you get snails, under the same Gastropoda, which snail is inside, you will get three other classesthe Prosobranchia, the Pulmonata and the Opisthobranchia. 

Let’s look at the breakdown of snail classification 

 Now, here is a brief feature of the three subclasses of the Gastropod

Gastropod sub-classes

  •      Prosobranchia is most of the marine snails, some land, and freshwater species.
  •       The Pulmonata are mostly land snails with lungs.
  •     Opisthobranchia is a marine species, that exist mostly without shell or are reduced when they exist.

In the Gastropoda, the name Snail is used to identify animals of the Gastropoda class with shell large enough to contain the animal when they retract completely into the its shell.

Land Snail

The land snails are snails that live on land and are referred to as Gastropod mollusks, while the aquatic snails are snails that live in water.

Snail farming

Nature of  snails 

  •  Snails are nocturnal animals, meaning that most of their activities take place at night.
  • Snails have a shell, used for protection, it does not end there, the shell is like a “home” out of home for snails; what does that mean, snails retreat completely into this shell once it notices any danger, isn’t that like another home?  
  • The Snail has a mouth but no teeth, they have a mouth with rows of chitin teeth used to break and scrape food.
  • Snails have no backbone and therefore are invertebrates.
  • Snails love a moist environment and therefore can’t survive dryness or hot environment.
  • Snail produces new snail (recreation) by laying eggs.

Snails lay eggs, but unlike other egg-laying animals, they do not contribute to the hatching of  their eggs, they lay eggs and cover the eggs.

Snail eggs hatch, mostly after 21 days, but times are that they won’t hatch after 21 days, they can delay in some cases but will still hatch.

To understand snail as a farmer, you need to study their behavior, they are often different from other animals, in behavior and response.

Characters and behavior of snails

  •  Snails hibernate during the colder months of the year and estivate during summer/hot months (Estivation is a state of dormancy in animals, it is similar to hibernation, but it takes place in the summer).

This is believed to be one of the reasons they live long (over five to ten years or more depending on the management and handling of the snail).

  •  Snails when feeling threatened, retreat into their shell to protect themselves from the presumed danger.

This helps them to avoid being harmed by other animals.

  •  Snails excrete mucus during movement, the mucus (which they leave behind during movement) has been misunderstood by many; some believe it is capable of making human sick but that’s false.
  • Snails are easy to maintain and fast-adapting animals that prefer humid places.
  • Adult snails have a size of about 7 cm with a height of 20 cm or can be longer. The color of the shell or shell varies widely and depends on the diet. Usually brown is the dominant color.

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Life cycle of snail

snail

Snails can have a long life. The average snail life starts from the hatching of the eggs (a process that marks the beginning of life for a snail).

Once hatched the new snails are capable of moving, in some animals, the newborn find it hard to move unless the mucus covering the newborn are licked by the mother but that is not the case with snail. 

Growth in snail is a gradual process, feeding, type of feed, a system of farming, management, and habitat are all contributors to “how the snails grow” as well as “how fast they grow”. 

Snail lifespan

The life expectancy of snails depends on their habitat, the species, and how well they are managed. Some of them only live for about five (5) years while some exceeded 5 years and live up to 10 years.

Body Structure of snail

The snail body is covered by its shell which is made up of chitin, the shell contains calcium carbonate and is used by the snail for protection, the shell grows along with them and gets bigger as the snail grows.

Land snails have two main sets of tentacles, the upper one carries the eyes, while the lower one has the olfactory organs. The picture below is a good representation of the snail, showing its body parts.

With a good understanding of the structure of the snail, here is the environmental need for snails.

 Snail Habitat

Snails live in both water and on soil, therefore, we have aquatic and terrestrial snails. Like rightly stated, they can survive drought or harsh conditions, but will need to hibernate and become inactive.

Snails enjoy humidity of 75 to 95%, climate 60-77 F, temperature 70F. 

Ideal water content/humidity of 80%, and organic matter content of 25 – 40%. Understanding the environmental need of snail is good for your snail production, so it’s advisable as a snail farmer or an intending farmer to understand the nature of snail habitat.

Reproduction in Snail

snail egg

Snails are Hermaphrodites, meaning they have the reproductive organs of both males and females, does this mean a snail doesn’t need another snail to reproduce? No even as hermaphrodites, Snails do not reproduce on their own.

Snails lay eggs after mating, the eggs are incubated and hatched to produce offspring (baby snail). 

How do snails mate? 

Snails are ready to mate being around 6-7 months old. During the mating period, the female snails will begin to move away to a safer place, snails release chemicals to attract partners, they mate and lay eggs, their mating is always like they are fighting.

snail
mating in snail

Snail egg

snail egg
snail eggs

The number of eggs produced can vary depending on the reproductive strength of the two involved snails. 

It usually exceeds 50 to 100 per head. You can even get more, a snail farmer who understands his snails can help them improve their reproductive ability through selective proper feeding.

Feeds such as moringa are good for snails on getting to the maturity stage.

Once snails are done with laying of eggs, hatching is the next process to take place. It occurs naturally. (Hatching of snail eggs is a natural process), it is for now not carried out through any artificial method.

Egg hatching in snail

After laying eggs, snails dig the soil and bury the eggs, (cover it with soil), sometimes the eggs are picked by the farmer and taken to a better and safer side of the pen for incubation and hatching. The eggs are softened as they stay in the soil, the soft-shelled eggs hatch from 14 days to 1 month.

For a better understanding of hatching in the snail, here is a video of snail egg hatching, don’t forget that we already stated that it is not the snail that hatches the egg. The snail practically plays no role after laying the eggs.

Below is a video showing hatching in snail

Young snails need calcium to develop or harden their shell once they are hatched. Once hatched, the snail is ready to move.

Movement in Snail

As we rightly stated in the snail characteristic and behavior category, snails move immediately after hatching, Snails are known for their slow movement, one of the slowest creatures in the world, the reason some call them Lazy Animals, during movement, snails leave behind a trail of mucus, this mucus acts as a lubricant to reduce friction against the surface where they pass.

snail

As slow as snails are, they move at a very steady pace. 

Growth in snail

Once a snail starts moving, growth and development have started unanimously, quality feeding is a plus to how well snails grow, how good the product, and most times how long they live. 

The growth of snail is a gradual process, at first (after hatching), they appear not growing, but within 1 month of hatching, a noticeable change in size and weight will be noticed.

Snails should be fed with calcium at the preliminary stage of life, this improves the shell (hardening), not to forget that the shell grows with the snails. Achatina Achatina is believed to be one of the largest land snails. 

Snail Size

Snails length ranges from a few centimeters (say 2cm) to 12 inches. They can be large sometimes (Achitina achatina). Achatina achatina, (the Giant African Snail) is known for its large size and good for farming because it produces quality meat due to its size. 

It is also important to note that the size of a snail at maturity varies and depends majorly on the species and how well the snails were managed, though maturity may occur at the same time no matter the species. 

Maturity in Snail

Snails

Snails mature from six (6) to eight (8) months, but this can be altered; they can mature within four (4) to five (5) months when managed very well.

To maintain continuity of snails, they are kept and reared by farmers in a process called Snail Farming.

Snail farming 

Snail farming is the process of rearing, keeping and nurturing snails for human consumption or commercial purposes by man. The Snail is white meat and therefore is very healthy for consumption. You can find all the information you need to start a profitable snail farming by clicking the link below.

To farm snail is not hard, but one thing you must do before starting a snail farm is learning about snail behavior and how to farm snail. It’s very important. To start a snail farm, you must consider certain factors.

Are you interested in agriculture, but lack information and resources?

Factors to consider before starting a snail farm

Factors to consider before starting a snail farm ranges from Land space, type of habitat, temperature, location, soil composition. The choice of land space should be moderately drained, not flooded, and not too sandy.

Snail farming requires low startup capital when compared to other forms of animal farming, yes, Snail farming is very lucrative, but just like rightly stated you need to understand the behaviors of snails. 

Aside from knowledge about a snail, you need snail farming equipment, the source of food (This you can get from anywhere because snails eat almost all consumables). The size of your farm will depend on the amount you are ready to invest in. Here is what you need to start up a snail farm

Requirements for snail farming

  • Capital Surely, the first thing to keep to mind, the amount you want to spend will determine how big your farm will be, snail farming is not capital intensive unless you want to run a commercial snail farm, in that way, you should be ready to budget enough money for your snail farming business.
  • Choose a Snail farming System: Types of snail farming systems range from IntensiveSemi-intensive and free-range, or extensive systemsAn intensive system which involves the total control of the activities of the snails by the farmers is presumed the best for snail production, the snails are kept in an enclosed area where they are monitored and feed is perfect for commercial production. 
  1. The intensive system of snail farming requires good climate control, adequate feeding, close monitoring, and good management.
  2. The extensive or free-range system allows the snails to move around an area, though, to prevent the snails from escaping, a perimeter fencing should be constructed to make an enclosure, within the enclosure you have to provide the snails with less food because they source for food but shelter, shades to serve as hiding places will be provided.
How to rear snail

The extensive system consumes fewer resources when compared to the rest, but it exposes the snails to danger and external attack if not well managed. Pests and pathogens may be hard to control as well. Another disadvantage of the extensive system is the difficulty in collecting, sorting, and incubation of eggs.

The type of snail farming system depends on the farmer’s choice and desire.

  • Snail houseThe look and design of your snail house should depend on the system of snail farming you are practicing. For small-scale farming, you need a little amount of money for a start, you grow in your investment as the farm grows. Commercial production requires a larger portion of land and more snails to stock your farm.
snail house

For you to comfortably farm snail, a good snail house should be your priority. Constructing a snail house is easy and consumes little or no amount of money. 

Requirements for snail house construction

Although you can construct your snail house according to your choice, factors such as temperature, soil, the available fund (for the snail house construction) should be considered, snails love shades and so, there should be shades in the pen and another, covering the pen so that the snails will not escape, it will also aid the snails to reproduce optimally.

The soil requirement is sandy loam soil, and the air temperature ranges from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Some common housing types include

  • Wooden snail pen
  •  Zinc snail pen
  •  Block pen (for a commercial purpose).
  •  Tyres pen
  • Trench pen
  •  Basket pen.
  •  Drum pen

With your capital, choice of snail farming system and snail house all checked, here are the best species of snails for snail farming

Best snail species for snail farming

The best types of snails for farming are the large Archachatina Marginata, Achatina Achatina, and Achatina Fulica.

  •         Archachatina marginata.
  •         Achatina Fulica. 
  •         Achatina achatina.

They are regarded as best snails for snail farming because of their abilities; they have a higher reproductive rate; they survive in a more humid environment, fast with growth under good management.

Achatina Achatina is the most preferred amongst the three by farmers because it can grow so big. 

It is important to not forget that your snails will still not do well even if you choose the best species, but fail to feed or manage them well, therefore, we must discuss shortly, feeding in snail farming or snail production.

Feeding in snail

What snails eat

Before heading to what snails eat, you need to understand that Quality feed is the main requirement in raising snails. The reason is, balanced nutrition will support the development of snails, both in terms of meat quality and size.

Prepare water for the snails to drink. Also, water is used for bathing. It’s best to keep the water in the pen not too high, so the snails can easily drink it.

Keep your snail pen moist by watering it, it helps to maintain moderate temperature and reduce dryness which can lead to hibernation.

With little emphasizes on the need to feed your snails quality food, here is a brief look at what snails eat and How snails eat.

What Does Snail Eat?

What does snail eat is a regular question among intending snail farmersIt seems tedious to a non-snail farmer considering the nature of snail, but feeding in snail farming is actually easier than it looks, Snails, yes are omnivores, but also share feeding system not just as omnivores but also as herbivores.

Sometimes it’s hard to classify snails in terms of feeding, they feed at random and enjoy a wide range of food products, but one thing that is certain in providing food for your snails is that managing your snail feeding regiment is easy, I can assure you that, it doesn’t consume huge resources, and it’s not time-consuming as well.

The question of What does a snail eat is best answered by saying that Snails eat virtually every consumable; For this, you can provide vegetables and fruits, such as lettuce, apples, broccoli, nuts, spinach, or kale. You can provide feed in the form of bones, powdered milk, raw meat in small amounts.

To maintain shell strength and quality of growth, also provide calcium, which you can find in cuttlefish bones or eggshells. When providing feed, provide a separate feed container so as not to contaminate the bottom of the pen.

Snails eat mostly plant material, you can give them all kinds of harmless leaves, fruits, and tubers. Feed them fruits and vegetables, tubers, and leafy greens.

Knowing what to feed your snails as an intending snail farmer must be a big relief right? Now, as promised above, here is a little note on how snail feed

How does a snail eat?

Snails don’t eat like every other animal; the land snail has a mouth with rows of chitin teeth, the snails use these teeth to break, scrape food and eat them. Snail, because they don’t have strong teeth like other animals do not eat a large quantity of food, the Snail feeding pattern is always on a slow and steady system.

Aside from knowing what snails eat and how they eat, you need to as a snail farmer understand how to feed your snails, feeding the snails follows a range of important notes and should be applied when feeding them. Here is how to feed your snails.

How to feed your snail

Snail food

As stated in the beginning, Snails are nocturnal animals, they hide during the daytime. Before providing new food, always clear the feeding area off leftover feed, you must provide them with water, put a shallow container in the pen (if it’s not a modern pen which should contain a water port), pour a good quantity of the water inside the container.

Make sure to put the food on a flat surface so that the snails can access it. You should make the food easier for them to eat from; for example, if you are feeding your snails watermelon, cut them into the piece, it makes it easier for them. Snails don’t like stress, now imaging stressing them with their food. Don’t do it!

You have to take note of calcium in your snail food, it’s very essential, if you read this post from the beginning, you will see where we talked about calcium is very important for shell growth, here is a clearer note on calcium as part of snail food and where you can get calcium.

Calcium

Snails need a constant supply of calcium for the development of their shell, repair, and maintenance of the same. You can get calcium from bone meal, ground shells of eggs or you buy from the market.

With that, I think we have done justice to feeding in the snail, Let’s take a little look at how you can manipulate the growth of your snail and make them grow faster than they should.

How to grow snails fast

How to rear snail

Growth in snail just like in many animals can be fastened by providing them with the necessary conditions for rapid growth such as comfortable breeding environment, adequate water supply (lack of water or moist causes hibernation in snails which slows growth and development), feeding them with formulated and concentrated feeds, this helps to speed up maturity in your snail.

Feed materials such as 

Wheat bran, Maize, or Rice bran, Groundnut Oil cake, Soya Bean Oil Cake, or Fish meal, Crushed Shells and Palm kennel cake,

Showed a rapid increase in the growth of snails when they were fed to the snails in the west Africa Sun-region. This can be applied to other forms of concentrated food to fasten their growth.

         For the good of your reading, we are coming to the end of this article and I hope you have learned a lot already? You can share your thought with us in the comment section below, we love to hear from you.

Before we call it an end, let’s conclude with the marketing aspect of snail farming and the benefits of snails. Here is how and where you can sell your snail products

Snail Marketing and Selling

Snail products can be sold in the open market, hotels, restaurants, bush bars, home consumption, stalls, and supermarkets. Sell directly to neighbors, wholesalers, or retailers. Use online publications, newspaper advert

 Keep learning if possible.

The problem I have observed among snail farmers is that we don’t make arrangements for the sale of our products, we produce without thinking of a platform to sell, you should change that. Target the markets and vendors.

The last part of this work will be on the benefits of snails. Here are the benefits of snails

snail meat

Benefits of Snail Farming

 Here are a few benefits of snail

  •  It is very productive and cost-effective.
  •  They are profitable.
  •  They are used for health-related products and are highly medicinal.
  •  Snails have traditional health benefits
  •  Snails are a source of high-quality animal protein.
  •  The meat is good for the treatment of liver disease and hepatitis B.
  • Snails are useful for helping with bone and skin recovery.

There are a lot more benefits of snail, they are just as numerous.

Conclusively, I am very certain it has been a long journey getting to the end of this post, i hope you were able to read from beginning till this part. The Snail is quite an interesting animal, very profitable and lucrative to farm. I personally will encourage anybody to go into snail farming, you certainly will have your testimonies rolling out in no time. You don’t need much resources to start your snail farm.

 

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