In helping farmers who do not have electricity to raise chicks, innovators have come up with a charcoal-powered brooder made from clay.
Milele Farm, a poultry rearing enterprise, has created a brooder from clay, resembling a traditional cooking pot.
Lit charcoal pieces are placed in the pot to bun and release convectional heat to the surroundings to keep the chicks warm.
Chicks require heat for the first five weeks when feathers are developing. After this period, they can maintain their own body temperature.
With a two-kilo tin full of charcoal, the Economical Brooder Jiko can run for up to 16 hours serving about 300 chicks in less than three weeks, Milele Farm Director James Mwaura said.
The brooder is made from refined clay. Clay soil is a non-metal and, therefore, a bad conductor of heat. That means the release of the heat to the brooding house is slow.
“Cooking apparatus made from clay keep foods warm longer than their metal counterparts. The economical brooder borrows the same insulation property from traditional cooking pots. The charcoal burns to release convectional heat that keeps the chick’s brooding area warm,” Mwaura said.
The pot has holes and a lid on top. The holes allow for the entry of oxygen into the charcoal chamber to support burning. Because the holes are few and around the neck of the pot, the injury risk to the chicks is low.
The holes at the top of the pot also help in regulating the amount of oxygen entering the charcoal chamber. Low amounts of oxygen give prolonged hours of burning, the director said.
Apart from helping farmers, who are not connected to electricity, the jiko can also help during power blackouts.
Just like the bulb brooders, the chicks move far away from the pot when the heat is more than they need. A safety guard must, however, be placed around the pot to prevent the young birds from burning.
The brooding space has to be wide enough to allow for free circulation of air. This averts death from carbon dioxide poisoning due to crowding and reduced oxygen supply.
The Nairobi-based farm uses the jiko in raising its chicks.
A two-kilogram tin filled with charcoal, not necessarily kilos in weight, costs between Sh50 and Sh70 in various parts of Nairobi.
That means if one is to use the brooder for 16 hours, they will spend between Sh100 and Sh140.
Sawdust and briquettes may save farmers more energy given that their burning is slower than charcoal.
The brooders are sold at Sh1,000.
Mwaura can be reached on +254764004854
Chicks around the Economical Brooder Jiko from Milele Farm. The jiko is a solution for farmers who do not have electricity. Photo courtesy.