How to improve indigenous chicken

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Indigenous poultry production can be increased through proper breeding. Apart from selecting good breeds, the quantity and quality of chicken feed matters. The majority of Kenyan farmers rear indigenous chickens.

Out of the 29 million chickens in the country, 76 per cent are indigenous. 90 per cent of them are reared in rural households where the birds are allowed to roam free in the homesteads.

Problems of inbreeding

There is a high probability of inbreeding whereby related chicken, for instance a father serves their daughters, or brother their sisters. Inbreeding causes a lot of problems like stunted growth, reduced egg production, weak offsprings that are prone to diseases and many other abnormalities.

Controlled free-range management is important to avoid inbreeding. Chicken can be separated into different bunches and only released at different times to avoid mixing and increasing chances of inbreeding. A farmer who wants to succeed in indigenous chickens rearing has to combine both traditional and modern methods of indigenous chicken production.

Selective breeding

Selective breeding means: High quality breeds of hens or cocks with certain qualities such as high egg or meat production are crossed with the farmer’s own (and less quality) stock. There are three categories of chicken breeds:

  • Light breeds are good for egg production,
  • Heavy breeds for meat production,
  • Mixed breeds are suitable for both meat and egg production.

If farmers want to rear indigenous chickens for egg production, then they can cross-breed their indigenous breeds with a light breed that have a history of good egg production. If farmers want to push for meat production, they can look for a heavy breed. Farmers, who want a breed that is both good for egg and meat production, can cross-breed their stock with a mixed breed.

Choose the breed carefully

The breeding should not stop there. Experienced breeders go a step further and continue improving their chicken by cross-breeding them with other breeds which have special qualities or traits such as disease resistance, particular shape, egg size or good feed conversion rates.

The following criteria allow the choice of the right breed:

  • Any hen or cock between 1kg to 2 kg is classified as light breeds.
  • All chickens above 3 kg in weight are considered as heavy breeds.
  • Chickens weighing of 2 kg to 3 kg are mixed breeds.

A good breeding practice is to ensure that after every breeding cycle, the cock is either replaced, or the whole flock of chickens and eggs is sold off, and a new flock brought in to stop inbreeding. Allow only 1 cock for every 10 hens. Farmers can also reduce chances of inbreeding by keeping very simple records, for instance in marking breeding cages to ensure they know which chicken are in which cage at a particular period.

Record keeping is important

For farmers who want to go into serious breeding of chicken, record keeping is a must. Records help farmers to trace the lineage of each of their chicken selected for breeding in a way that can help them to analyze each of the breeds they have in their flock, including their performance, in terms of egg or meat production

>>Tell us how useful this information is to your farming enterprise. Share your experience by email to[email protected], send SMS to 0715916136 or leave a comment below this article.

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