Farmers rearing pure indigenous chicken for commercial purposes are reportedly making losses and sometimes others are forced to consider venturing into other agricultural production ventures due to a lack of best management and diseases in the poultry business.
According to research by a team of scientists from Egerton University on Small-Scale Family Poultry Production Indigenous Chicken Production in Kenya, despite increasing demand for indigenous chicken products by local consumers, their low productivity, attributed to high disease incidences, inadequate nutrition, low genetic ability, and poor marketing channels, reduce their contribution to rural development.
A farmer from Thika, Kiambu County who lost Sh300,000 worth of investment in the indigenous poultry business is one example of such farmers who have recorded losses and delved into other farming activities to remain relevant in the sector.
Gabriel Njoroge injected his savings of Sh300,000 in rearing local chicken breeds commonly called kienyeji, in 2014. Loses as a result of poor market for the chicken and the competition from improved breeds which mature faster sunk all his money into losses in a few months.
“The crumble from the kienyeji chickens crashed me instead of casting me into profits after such a heavy investment. The more the chickens are delayed, the deeper the losses. I thought fast and bounced on tomatoes. The money from the few sticks was sweet; I have never looked back,” said Njoroge.
This loss discouraged him and in April 2015, he planted 400 seedlings as a trial of tomatoes after observing that the fruit is a favourite of many families, irrespective of societal class.
Later in July, he planted another set of 400 seedlings for the October harvest. After one month, he planted another 400 seedlings to capture the December demand. From each of the seasons, he has earned between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 depending on the supply, with most of his customers being from Kiamwangi Market, Thika.
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Improving Indigenous chicken productivity
According to Subiri Obwogo, a senior quality improvement advisor working for an international NGO and an expert in poultry farming, three are three production systems for indigenous chicken that determine the success of every farmer in the business.
“In Kenya, we have free range systems (FRS), semi-intensive systems (SIS), and intensive systems (IS) and whereas all production systems are practised in both rural and urban residential areas, the choice of a particular system and best management of the chicken determines the output,” said Obwogo.
He says raising indigenous chicken under a free range system is more proﬁtable than in semi-intensive systems and intensive systems and a farmer can only consider doing intensive systems because of inadequate land or space to do free range.
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Some few studies indicate that under this system, males grow faster and are heavier than females, with an average mature body weight of 2.2 and 1.6kg respectively. Hens lay about 45 eggs per year with a range of between 30 and 75 eggs under free-range and semi-free-range systems.
However, some lay up to 120 eggs when supplemented with concentrates. The mean egg weight in all production systems was estimated at 47.4 g with a range of between 36 and 52g.
In all the production systems, chicks are produced by natural incubation using broody hens. Fertility and hatchability is usually above 70 per cent but hatching weights are often low, ranging between 25 and 43g.
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Diseases and parasites
Some of the diseases and parasites that commonly affect indigenous chicken in Kenya include Newcastle Disease (NCD), chronic respiratory disease (CRD), fowl pox, coccidiosis, fowl typhoid, salmonellosis, infectious coryza and pullorum with NCD being the most devastating, causing severe losses.
On this Obwogo says that close observation of the condition of the chicken on a daily basis and consulting poultry experts for advice in case of any strange behaviour among the birds.