Ugandans warm up to super chicken

A new breed of superior, fast maturing indigenous chicken that weighs twice as much as  foreign breeds and lay eggs throughout the year is enjoying impressive uptake among poultry farmers as efforts to create breeds that adapt to local climatic conditions heats up across East Africa.

Dubbed Kuroiler and originating from India, the scientifically engineered chicken is a mix of a cockerel and broiler chicken. The bird is colored and thrives on scavenging and has a high meat weight and egg producing capability.
After a succesful trial in 2010, the sale of the super chicken has gone fully commercial across Uganda. “In July 2010, the first Kuroiler chicks were hatched in Entebbe. On the same day, indigenous chicken were hatched,” said Dr. Daniel Ssemambo, the executive director of National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC & DB). NAGRC & DB is an organisation, under the agriculture ministry, that supports the implementation of the national breeding policy.
Breeders in Uganda were testing how the Kuroilers faired against local breeds. “We hatched Kuroilers and local breeds on the same day,” he says. “The two breeds were given to chicken farmers in Kabale, Gulu, Apac, Mayuge and Wakiso districts under a pilot project to assess which variety performed better.
 
The farmers testified that the Kuroilers grew faster, putting on 1kg for hens and 1.5kg for cocks by two months and 3kg and 4kg respectively by six months compared to indigenous ones that put on averagely 2kg upon maturity.
 
Just like the local breeds, the Kuroilers are largely kept under a free range system, where the birds are left to scratch for food with no restrictions and very little or no supplements.
 
“The difference is that while the locals are moderate while scratching for food and may even take a rest, Kuroilers are aggressive and feed continiously. This explains why they put on weight faster than the local breeds,” says Esau Galukande, the NAGRC technical manager, who also took part in the research.
 
Betty Ssewanyana a farmer in Entebbe district said the birds grow faster, produce more and bigger eggs. Compared to hybrids, the egg-yolk is even more yellowish, hence more nutritious. I first started with the broilers but when the Kuroilers were introduced, I tried them and eventually ditched the broilers for the Kuroilers because of the numerous benefits they poses. “The hen Kuroilers can lay an average of 250 eggs per year in span of two years,” explained Ssewanyana. This trait is a unique one and ranks them ahead of the local hens which lay about 50 eggs in a year. The fact that this farmer kept the chicken successfully in an urban environment is a pointer to their big potential.
 
“I package the eggs in sets of half a dozen and sell them in supermarkets. A tray goes for Shs500 compared to Shs250 for hybrid eggs,” noted Betty Ssewanyana, a farmer in Entebbe. Ssewanyana said while the mortality of local chicken is high, all the 23 Kuroiler chicken she first got grew. She now has over 300 Kuroiler chickens together with a hatchery where new Kuroilers are hatched.
 
According to Dr. James Ongu, a veterinary officer from Apac, who undertook the development of the Kuroilers in the area, the growth and survival traits they exhibited against the local breed were high. “This area is largely chicken-producing and this breed is set to revolutionise and ease chicken rearing,” he said. He also added that Kuroiler chicks are more resistant to diseases and can easily be treated by mixing vitamins, feeds and water.
 
Asked if they could be crossed with indigenous chicken, Dr Vinod Kapur, from Kegg Farms said it was not advisable if a farmer wanted to maintain quality. Ssewanyana also notes that she ensures the continuity of the breed by allowing the cock Kuroilers to fertilize the eggs before they are laid by the hen Kuroilers after which she takes them to the hatchery.
 
Ssemambo said the chicken had a very big potential of improving nutrition in Uganda. The breed has gained popularity among the locals who eye it as a quick way to guaranteed success and financial independence.
 
There are a number of established hatcheries where a one day old chick goes for Sh100 while a one month old Kuroiler is sold at about Sh233. A six months Kuroiler cock which weighs around 4-5kgs is sold at about Shs1700.
 
Kuroiler was introduced in India in 1993 by a private company and sold more than a million one-day old chicks in the first year alone. By 2005-06 the number reached 14 million. The project in India was an innovation by Nimrod Kapur who tinkered around with imported stock from the US to create high yield birds through a process called genetic breeding.

In Kenya, The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute recently launched a mass breeding programme of a new breed of superior indigenous chicken that lays 80 eggs more a year than foreign breeds and adapts to local climatic conditions. It is now breeding 35,000 of the chickens for sale. With the right feed and meticulous chicken husbandry, the new super chicken is capable of producing 220-280 quality eggs a year, as opposed to around 200 a year from existing foreign breeds.

Written by Julius Omondi for African Laughter