Purple antiseptic protects chicks from hawks

Farmers can protect their chicks from the talons of hawks and eagles by coating their feathers with Gentian Violet (GV), an antiseptic dye that is popularly used in the treatment of skin conditions.

The dye, when applied on chicken feathers forms a purple coat that helps them camouflage from detection by predators flying up above.

“The dye makes it difficult for flying predators to set them apart from flowers and clothes,” Donald Kipkorir, a farmer in Gachie, who has used the tactic to keep his chicks safe told Farmbiz Africa.

The product is sold in either powder form or as a solution. A 1 kilogram packet of GV powder retails at KSh2000, while a five-liter solution of GV powder mixed with water costs KSh450.

However, smaller farmers can get small bottles at KSh50 from human drug chemists.  

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This ingenious solution is being popularized in the country by local NGO Farm Inputs Promotions Africa (FIPA).

FIPA recommends that the GV be applied within three to seven days of hatching, when the feathers are soft and can easily absorb the dye.

Huge losses

Regional organisation Bridge Africa found in a past survey that the greatest threat to free range chicks in Kenya was attacks by predators, accounting for 70 per cent of the deaths of free range chicks, followed by Newcastle disease, which accounts for 25 per cent.

By using the camouflage tactic, FIPA says that 60 per cent of free-range chicks previously threatened by predators grow to maturity, fetching between KSh600 and KSh1500 each.