Improved means making better than before. Therefore improved indigenous chicken means better production resulting to better income. Indigenous chicken rearing play an important role in the livelihoods of most rural families not only in Kenya but also in Eastern Africa. Despite increased use of commercial breeds by large-scale producers, around three quarters of chickens in the region are indigenous breeds. Indigenous chicken rearing is the most rapid growing agribusiness project attracting many jobless youths and omen in the country.
Facts about indigenous chickens
- Meat and eggs are tastier and preferred by most consumers to those obtained from commercial breeds
- Initial investment is less than that needed to keep commercial breeds
- More tolerant of harsh conditions, including diseases, than commercial breeds
- Can be fed on cheap, locally available feeds
- When allowed to range freely, they need little feeding or other care
- Women and youth often get income from chickens
- Local markets are readily available for both eggs and chickens
- Droppings are rich in nutrients: can be used for compost making, pond fertilizing and as feed for livestock.
- Creates self employment opportunities.
Why improved management?
- Survival rate of chicks can be increased from three to eight out of ten.
- If you hatch your eggs and sell chicks, earnings can be much higher (up to 7-times higher) than if you simply sell the eggs.
- Simultaneous hatching of hens (so all chicks hatch at the same time) makes planning for vaccinations easier.
- By cooperating with neighbors, farmers with small flocks can access vaccines at more affordable rates.
- Planning your production to meet high seasonal demand – such as at Christmas, Easter and other festivals can greatly increase your profits.
- If hens are prevented from hatching their own eggs or brooding chicks, they will start to lay again more quickly – after just 21 days, instead of the usual three months
How do I start?
You will need:
- One cock for every 10 hens
- Water and feed containers
- Housing space
- Laying nests
- Carton box with ventilation holes
- A sisal sack or wood shavings
- A source of vaccines and drugs
- A specialist for consultations
Selection of the breeding stock
- Select a hen that is broody, does not abandon her eggs during hatching and looks after her chicks well.
- Select a healthy, strong cock.
- Housing space (2 metres by 3 metres) or a locally made traditional brooding basket). It can be used as a brooder basket for chicks, either inside or outside the house.
- House should be raised to protect birds from predators.
- Perches should be provided in the house for chicken to roost on at night.
- The house should be well ventilated.
What are the improved management practices?
Provide a balanced diet. For example, a small handful of maize, a teaspoonful of local fishmeal and some fresh greens, in addition to scavenged feeds like insects, will provide a good diet for one chicken in a day.
2: Provide clean water at all times.
3: Collecting the eggs;
- Provide a safe, dry, dark place for the hens to lay.
- Collect eggs daily; write the date on the egg in pencil and store with the broad end facing upwards: this helps to ensure the embryo develops properly.
- Use only eggs that were laid in the last 8 days.
- Hatch eggs using the mother hen, another broody hen, a (surrogate) duck or an incubator.
- For hens and ducks, make sure the number of eggs chosen for hatching corresponds to the bird’s body size – all eggs must fit under the bird.
- For synchronized hatching (all chicks hatch at the same time), delay the first hen that becomes broody by giving it just one egg to sit on while you wait for other hens to lay their clutches and become broody.
- For successive hatching (the hen or the surrogate duck sits on eggs for two consecutive clutches), chicks are removed when they hatch and replaced with new eggs.
- After hatching, dispose of egg shells, clean the nest and transfer chicks to a brooder.
- Turn the eggs regularly, especially when using an incubator for brooding
- Brood chicks using a mother hen, foster hen, a lantern, kerosene brooder, charcoal stove or charcoal placed in a metal container.
- If a foster hen is used, condition it for a day by giving it new chicks.
- Where a lantern brooder or other heat source is used, place it in a cardboard box with ventilation holes or inside the local brooding basket placed upon a sisal sack or wood shavings.
- Take care that chicks cannot get burned – cover charcoal stove or container, ensuring that there is no risk of fire.
5: Rearing chicks
- Provide clean water at all times in shallow, clean troughs.
- Provide soft feeds like flour from cereals or tubers.
- Allow chicks to roam freely when they reach 3 or 4 weeks of age.
- Vaccinate chicks against Newcastle disease at 4 days of age.
6: Record keeping
- Keeping good records will help you to assess whether or not you are making a profit.
- The records may include:
- Feeding records
- Production records (eggs)
- Vaccination records
- Sales records
- Purchases records etc.
7: Poultry health
Chickens have to be vaccinated on schedule and given antibiotics sparingly in order to reduce mortality and loss of productivity and low yields due to disease burden. You must therefore factor in the cost of medicine or the cost vaccination into your operating costs. Check out the KARI Kienyeji vaccination schedule and follow it regularly to ensure your chickens remain in optimal health.
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