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KALRO technologist roots for kienyeji chicken

Data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that that farmers in Kenya in 2020 reared a total population of nearly 58 million birds, an increase from 44 million in 2016 most of them being indigenous chickens.

Over 80 percent of these are Indigenous breeds which include; Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex, New Hampshire Red, Black Australorps, and White leghorns, Plymouth Rock among others.

The poultry sub-sector contributes about 6.1 percent to the livestock sector’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 2.3 percent of the Agriculture GDP and 0.7 percent of the National GDP.

Poultry farming in Kenya is a profitable business if well-planned and executed. Approximately 67 percent of Kenya’s population live in rural areas, with the majority of households practicing either small-scale chicken farming for subsistence.

However, some of these farmers are not exploiting the full potential of their ventures, as a result of a lack of proper training and capacity building to ensure they reap maximum profits from this business.

It is for this reason that the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) delved into studies and research to develop appropriate breeds of chicken that can thrive in different climatic conditions as well as improve production.

According to Martin Macharia, a research technologist at KALRO station in Naivasha, to alleviate the challenges faced by farmers, the institution developed “KALRO improved Kienyeji chicken that is more productive and takes less time to mature.

Macharia explains that the dual-purpose breed that can be reared for both egg and meat production matures in four and half months compared to the typical indigenous breed that takes up to six months.

Macharia reveals that the typical kienyeji chicken lays an average of 80 eggs per year but the new breed can lay up to 280 eggs per annum which is three times the indigenous breed, making it more productive.

Aside from laying more eggs, the KALRO improved species produce eggs that weigh an average of 60 grams per egg, two times heavier than the normal kienyeji egg that weighs 30 grams, with a tray retailing at Sh. 1,000.

Macharia says that a mature cock can weigh up to 3.5kg while a cockerel weighs 2.8 kg in live weight making it a profitable venture when rearing this type of chicken for meat.

Poultry diseases pose a great challenge to any farmer hence making it vital to ensure safety measures are in place at any given time to protect the birds from contracting infections. Some of the common poultry diseases include fowl pox, Newcastle disease, and infectious bronchitis, among others.

 One notable advantage of the KALRO-improved kienyeji as Macharia points out is the disease-resistant nature of this breed, which saves the farmer the hustle of having to spend a lot of money on treatment and eliminating the worry of losing the whole flock of chicken in the event of a disease outbreak.

According to the research technologist, 80 percent of the cost of production in poultry farming goes to feeding which poses a great challenge to farmers due to the high cost of feeds.

To curb this challenge, KALRO developed Utafiti feeds which are highly nutritious and cheaper compared to the available options in the market.

Feeding technology is also a major factor in determining the amount of feed a farmer uses, with Macharia noting that the KALRO invention of the “Naivasha long feeder” trough has greatly minimized feed wastage.

The feeder that is one meter long has a folded 28-gauge iron sheet on top together with a cover that prevents the feed from spilling over during the feeding process, hence reducing feed wastage.

As part of capacity building, KALRO also developed a four-day course that aims at equipping farmers with the knowledge of how to develop their feed from selecting of ingredients, feed formulation, and storage.

The know-how acquired from this training has greatly helped poultry many farmers reduce the cost of production from 80 to 50 percent.

The KALRO improved kienyeji chicken consumes an average of 140 grams of feed per day with Macharia advising farmers to ensure 60 percent is made up of commercial feed to ensure a balanced diet for proper nutrition in your birds.

Macharia notes that those interested in venturing into poultry farming can acquire this breed from KALRO and then get day-old chicks costing Sh. 110 each while a one-month-old chick goes for Sh. 280 from the institution.

For farmers who want to crossbreed and improve their chicken breed, a mature cock is available at KALRO at Sh. 1, 400. Indeed, poultry framing is the way to go as its cost-effective as well as less labor-intensive as compared to the larger livestock. This kind of farming can also be done in a very small space and, hence can also be done in urban areas to help stem food insecurity.

By Mabel Keya – Shikuku 

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