Nakuru farmer, Mary Njeri's sorted eggs ready for incubation. Rearing chickens for incubation eggs boosts hatching percentage. Photo: Laban Robert.
Chick agripreneurs rearing laying hens achieve more than 70 per cent hatching as opposed those buying the eggs for artificial incubation.
Inasmuch as artificial incubators are meant to hatch up to 85 out of every 100 eggs, poor handling and other history details are reducing the percentage to below 50 per cent.
Godffrey Ng'ang'a, who sells chicks to other farmers, has quickly learnt that eggs bought for hatching have a lower rate than those from his farm.
"The age of the eggs is one of the key determinants of successful hatching. Eggs older than seven days give the poorest hatching percentage. If a farmer buys eggs without knowing when they were laid, chances of success are diminished," the Kiambu County farmer said.
When a farmer is using their eggs, they know when they were laid, something a seller may not know or reveal since they need money.
Ng'ang'a runs a poultry farm of more than 500 indigenous chickens besides making solar incubators for sale.
The farmer, who hatches more than 1,000 eggs a week from his three solar incubators, only buys more eggs from other poultry farmers who know his mission.
At the same time, the farmer says handing the eggs for hatching requires extra care than that of fragility.
Holding the eggs with oiled or dusty hands also contributes to low hatching rate. The oil or dust particles block the thin holes for gaseous exchange. Limited fresh air reduces the chances of survival of the living contents- the embryo- of the fertilised egg.
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A similar scenario is expected where farmers collect the eggs and store them in closed buckets and other containers.
"Eggs hold life. They are delicate. Blocking the pores kills the embryo," he said.
For the 500 hens, the farmer has 50 cocks. Chances of failed fertilisation are slim.
"For sufficient fertilisation, the cock to chicken ratio has to be kept. Every eight to 10 hens require one cock. Egg sellers may not observe this ratio since their intention is not hatching," Ng'ang'a, who has been in the business for more than two years said.
Besides keeping the eggs in cool and dry areas, he also avoids incubating abnormal eggs.
Abnormal eggs can be dwarfed or gigantic when compared to ordinary sizes. Bigger than normal eggs in many cases, have two yokes, which would make it difficult during development.
In addition to carrying out management practices, the farmer said vaccination of the chickens is key to healthy chicks as well as eggs.