With the growing population and consumption of chickens globally, these birds have become a major agribusiness venture with investments ranging from a few shillings into trillions of US dollars.
Besides free range, where farmers only cater for the night security, successful formal rearing of chickens starts from the first day after a chick has been hatched by the hen or the incubator. Vaccination is an accompaniment that ensures more than 90 per cent survival of the chicks and later hens.
On the first day a chick must be vaccinated against mareks disease. This is a highly contagious viral disease that can kill 100 per cent chickens.
The virus causes inflation of the brain and backbone cells leading to paralysis of the legs, wings and the neck. The eye iris turns grey, therefore, impairing sight. The feathers become rough and emaciation sets in before death.
On the sixth day, farmers must vaccinate the chicks against new castle disease. The vaccine is applied as an eye drop.
It is also another viral disease that had varied mortality rate that can hit 100 per cent. It attacks chickens and most poultry of all ages.
It impairs the nervous, the reproductive and the respiratory systems. Major signs include coughing, diarrhoea, depression twisted neck, paralysis and sudden death.
On the 14th day, the chicks have to be vaccinated against gumboro. This is another viral disease that suppresses the immunity system of chickens older than three weeks. The feathers around the neck are stained with faeces.
Diarrhoea, anorexia, depression, rough feathers are other signs.
The first vaccination is administered by eye drops while the second one, which is done after 21 days is through drinking water.
Another new castle vaccine is administered after 28 days in drinking water. The vaccine is repeated after every two months.
Fowl typhoid vaccine is administered after six weeks. Birds suffering from this disease look pale diarrhea more frequently and as a result, they are dehydrated. Other signs include bile-stained liver and enlarged spleen.
On the same sixth week, thigh muscle fowl typhoid is administered.
The chickens are left to grow until deworming is done on the 18th week.
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The chicks are fed on starter diet, which is rich in proteins for the first eight weeks. Growers mash for body building is offered from the ninth to the 19th week. Layers diet is introduces after the 19th week.
The feeds are introduced gradually to by mixing the old to the new feed for a few days to avoid stressing the chickens.
This is the timetable of Mary Njeri, the co-owner of Mary Poultry Farm, in Nakuru. She runs the agribusiness with her husband, Dennis Chege.