News and knowhow for farmers

Mariakani breeder capitalises on Brahma chicken rarity in Kenya

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By George Munene

On his farm at Mariakani, Kilifi County, 52-year-old Ab­dulrahim Morodhi has turned his chicken keep­ing hobby into a luc­rat­ive ven­ture. The re­tired ac­count­ant keeps a vari­ety of exotic, or­na­mental and in­di­gen­ous chicken but has ma­jored in the rear­ing of Brahma chicken.

Hav­ing sold most of his ma­ture birds due to the grow­ing mar­ket de­mand for the breed, he has now whittled down the num­ber of grown Brah­mas on his farm to just 13 hens and 3 cock­er­els. “I try to rear as pure a breed of Brahma as is pos­sible and the de­mand for the bird is over­whelm­ing; it is do­cile and beau­ti­ful so many people love to keep it as a pet and for or­na­mental pur­poses,” says Morodhi. The breed also gath­ers weight quickly, reach­ing up to 3.5 kg in just five months and is sought for cross­ing with in­di­gen­ous chick­ens to give a heav­ier and faster-matur­ing bird.

Brahma’s are of­ten­times re­ferred to as the ‘kings of chick­ens’ for their large size—cocks weigh on av­er­age 5.5 kg whilst hens av­er­age 4.5 kg. They are even more dis­tin­guish­able for their ‘socks’—feath­ers on their shanks and toes. Three col­our vari­et­ies of the breed are re­cog­nised by the Amer­ican Stand­ard of Per­fec­tion: light, dark, and buff.

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Morodhi star­ted keep­ing Brah­mas in 2017 after get­ting his first cock from a neigh­bor who was forced to va­cate. He then sought out a hen from an ex­pat­ri­ate at Vi­pingo but was re­lo­cat­ing. The first two years he says were tough sled­ding; exotic birds need spe­cial care com­pared to in­di­gen­ous breeds—the mor­tal­ity rate is es­pe­cially high the first three weeks after birth. Morodhi now re­li­giously sticks to a vac­cin­a­tion sched­ule that he says keeps the death rates at a min­imum. New­castle vac­cine in the first week, Gum­boro on the second, New­castle again on the third and Gum­boro in the fourth week. At six weeks, he vac­cin­ates for fowl pox and for fowl typhoid in the eighth week. He fi­nally gives his birds one last shot for New­castle at two months. Deworm­ing is done at 19 weeks and from then on in per­petu­ity every 3 months. Morodhi in­sists that bey­ond any med­ical in­ter­ven­tion strict main­ten­ance of hy­giene is para­mount in ward­ing off any po­ten­tial in­fec­tion. Every morn­ing, he cleans his chicken coop and also scouts for any signs of ill­ness within his flock. “Mor­tal­ity rates are highest from the first day to the third week; you’ll slip a bit in feed­ing or vac­cin­a­tion and wake up to a coop of dead chicks,” he says.

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For feed­ing, Morodhi prefers Unga Lim­ited’s Fugo starter crumbs as a starter mash. Though it is ex­pens­ive, thus far he says, it has de­livered the best res­ults with his birds. He also avoids for­mu­lat­ing his own feed ra­tions until his chicks are about 6 weeks old when he starts feed­ing them on Mom­basa Maize Millers chicken mash sup­ple­men­ted with whole wheat and an of­fer­ing of greens. He also en­sures that the water his birds drink is clean throughout and every so often mixes in vit­am­ins for proper growth, body func­tion and re­pro­duc­tion.

Morodhi says the in­creas­ing de­mand for the breed means many un­scru­pu­lous breed­ers cross the Brahma with in­di­gen­ous chicken only to pass it off as the real deal. These watered-down strains of Brahma are eas­ily dis­tin­guished for their slower rate of growth and hav­ing few feath­ers on their legs. He avoids this by ex­chan­ging cocks with farmer friends and im­port­ing in eggs—he just had his cousin re­turn­ing from the Neth­er­lands bring him fer­til­ised blue sil­ver or­ange Brahma eggs. His ma­ture birds—those that are over a year old—weigh between 5 and 7 ½ kilo­grams. Des­pite their grand size, Brah­mas are poor lay­ers giv­ing 3-4 me­dium to large-sized brown eggs every week. This makes their propaga­tion that much dif­fi­cult. Given the size of the hen, a farmer has to be keen that it does not trample on its chicks the first few days after their hatch­ing. He is cur­rently hutch­ing about 15 eggs a week and sells a one-month-old Brahma for Sh2,000 and ma­ture 7-9 month old for between Sh15,000 and 20,000. “I have stand­ing or­ders up to Decem­ber, and still have people call sourcing for Brah­mas who I, un­for­tu­nately, have to turn down,” he says.

Given the pro­ject’s suc­cess, Morodhi has ven­tured into keep­ing other or­na­mental birds such as Silkie and Pol­ish Ban­tams.

Ab­dulrahim Morodhi: 0712 250007

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