Chicken Breeds in Kenya: The following feature was first published in The Organic Farmer: Many farmers rush to buy new chicken breeds coming into the market without knowing their qualities only to end up with regrets and losses. Poultry keeping is now one of the most popular agribusiness enterprises that many people in Kenya want to go into.
However, many farmers rush into it without the most basic information on how they can do it the right way. The quail fiasco two years ago no doubt left many farmers with empty pockets when they made huge investments in quail rearing leading to glut in the market and a fall in prices.
Many farmers do not seem to have learnt a lesson.
Currently, there are a lot of rumours, and misguided exaggerations about new chicken breeds that are said to do much better than local indigenous breeds in production, enticing farmers to spend a lot of their money in search of the breeds which they only learnt about in newspaper articles and adverts. In this issue, we would like to shed light on the breeds available in the country and their qualities so that farmers can make informed decisions on the best type of breed they can keep to get good returns by making the best choice from the various breeds in the market.
The KARI Improved Indigenous chicken breed is one of the most popular breeds in the country at the moment. The chickens can produce more eggs and meat compared to local indigenous chickens. The breed can also do well in areas with harsh climatic conditions such as the arid and semi-arid regions in Northern Kenya. The chicken can be reared in free range conditions especially for farmers who want to produce chickens organically. When properly managed, the KARI Improved hens can lay between 220 to 280 eggs a year. A hen from this breed can attain 1.5kg in 5 months. A cock weighs 2kg over the same period if they are well-fed. The breed has a quiet temperament, excellent feathering and is able to adapt fast to the conditions under which it is kept compared to other breeds.
At the moment there is a huge demand for KARI Improved chickens across the country such that KARI is unable to supply farmers who need this breed. But efforts are being made to train farmers who can breed the chickens and sell to other farmers.
The Kenbro breed is a dual-purpose (meant for eggs and meat production) breed which was specifically developed to serve the western Kenya market that has a high demand for chickens. It was introduced into the country about a decade ago by Kenchic Ltd to meet the demand for farmers who would prefer a breed that requires less intensive management than hybrid chickens. Kenbro is more resistant to diseases compared to hybrid birds. It can survive on free range. The bird matures faster with proper feeding and starts laying eggs at 5 months. It can attain up to 4kg with proper feeding. Kenchic produces more than 20,000 birds from this breed in a week but some farmers breed the birds and sell to others.
The quality of birds produced by such farmers is low because it is only the company that has the parent stock that can produce high quality birds. Kenbro is a heavy feeder and this is one reason it is able to put more weight than other indigenous chickens.