Poultry Keeping: What farmers need to succeed

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Poultry keeping continues to be one of the most popular enterprises among small-scale farmers in Kenya. This is because it is one of cheapest farming enterprises that require little capital to start. Of late, there has been a shift towards keeping indigenous chickens.

This is because maintaining hybrid chickens is costly as their feeds are too expensive for many small-scale farmers, and moreover do not yield the expected profits.

Do not rush

Kenyan farmers are fond of starting new enterprises if there is the slightest rumour that they can generate good money and in a short time. This was evident with the quail fiasco at the beginning of this year.

Huge demand for KARI chickens

Recently, there has been a rush for improved indigenous chickens from KARI, not to mention Kuroiler and Kuchi breeds of chickens. TOF has established that the demand for KARI chickens is so high that KARI has an eight-month backlog of orders, which they are yet to deliver. Farmers should understand that KARI is a research institution and not a commercial enterprise. What farmers need most from this institution is training on the breeding and management of chickens. They can then use this knowledge to start their own breeding projects in their respective regions and sell this breed to other farmers.

Like most farm animals, the improved indigenous chicken breeds need to be well cared for and vaccinated to yield good returns. They are therefore not ‘miracle’ breeds that yield profits overnight.

Farmers can breed their own chickens

There are many successful poultry farmers who have good indigenous chicken breeds and sell to other farmers. With proper training, any farmer can become a successful breeder and supplier of improved indigenous chickens, which now fetch good prices in the market.

The cost of feeds is another major constraint that poultry farmers in the country face. Many farmers have abandoned production of hybrid chickens since they cannot afford to buy commercial feeds. Again, we show farmers how to cut their production costs by making their own feeds at home, which can cut feed costs by up to 30 percent and improve poultry farmers’ incomes.

Since TOF published information on chicken feed formulation last year, (TOF No. 102, November 2013) many farmers have managed to make their own feeds at home. Some farmers are, however, yet to understand how to formulate chicken feed in the right way. Following the questions sent in by farmers, it is clear that most farmers need additional information on how to make nutritionally balanced feed for their chickens in each growth phase.

Making feeds at home drastically cuts down production costs especially if farmers can get the raw materials cheaply. The most common ingredients are whole maize, maize germ, cotton seed cake, soya beans, sunflower or fishmeal (omena). In addition, farmers need to add several feed additives (micronutrients, minerals and vitamins) to make sure their chickens have a balanced feed that meets their daily nutrient requirements.

As we cautioned before, the quality of some feeds in the market is so poor that farmers using them incur huge losses when they buy such feeds feed their chickens. Farmers who formulate and make their own feeds at home save an average of KSh 840 for every 70kg bag of chicken feed, which is a great saving for commercial producers.

Below are feed formulations for each category of chickens during every stage of growth. Farmers can use these simplified formulations to prepare feed for hybrid layers and broilers:

Making a 70 kg chick mash (1 to 4 weeks)

Growing chicks require feed with Digestible Crude Protein (DCP) of between 18 to 20 per cent. The following formulation can be used to make a 70 kg bag of layers chick mash:


31.5kg of whole maize

9.1kg of wheat bran

7.0kg of wheat pollard

16.8kg of sunflower (or 16.8 kg of linseed)

1.5kg of fishmeal

1.75 kg of lime

30g of salt

20g of premix

Amino acids

70g of tryptophan

3.0g of lysine

10g of methionine

70 g of Threonine

50g of enzymes

60g of coccidiostat

50g of toxin binder

Making a 70 kg bag of growers' mash (4 to 8 weeks)

Growers (pullets or young layers) should be provided with feed having a protein content of between 16 and 18 per cent. Such feed makes the young layers to grow fast in preparation for egg laying:

10kg of whole maize

17kg of maize germ

13kg of wheat pollard

10kg of wheat bran

6kg of cotton seed cake

5kg of sunflower cake

3.4kg of soya meal

2.07kg of lime

700g of bone meal

3kg of fishmeal

Additives: 14g of salt, 1g of coccidiostat, 18g of Pre-mix, 1g of zinc bacitracin,  7g of mycotoxin binder. 

Making a 70 kg bag of layers’ mash (8 weeks and above)


34kg of whole maize

12kg of Soya

8kg of fishmeal

10kg of maize bran, rice germ or

Wheat bran

6kg of lime

Amino acids

175g premix

70g lysine

35g methionine

70kg Threonine

35g tryptophan

50g toxin binder

Layer feed should contain a Digestible Crude Protein (DCP) content of between 16-18 per cent. The feed should contain calcium (lime) for the formation of eggshells (laying hens that do not get enough calcium will use the calcium stored in their own born tissue to produce eggshells). Layer feed should be introduced at 18 weeks.

Formulating a 70 kg bag of broiler feed

Broilers have different feed requirements in terms of energy, proteins and minerals during different stages of their growth. It is important that farmers adapt feed rations to these requirements for maximum production. Young broilers have a high protein requirement for the development of muscles, feathers and other body organs. As the broilers grow, their energy needs for fattening up increase while their protein requirements decrease. They, therefore, require high protein content in their starter rations than in the grower and finisher rations. Broilers should have feed that has between 22 -24 per cent DCP.

The following guidelines can help the farmer to make the right feed at each stage of growth:

Preparing broiler growers feed (70 kg)

10kg of whole maize

16.7kg of maize germ

13.3kg of wheat pollard

10kg wheat bran

6kg of cotton seed cake

4.7kg of sunflower cake

3kg of fishmeal

2kg of lime

3.4kg of soya meal

40g of bone meal

10g of grower PMX

5g of salt

5g of coccidiostat

5g of Zinc bacitracin

Broiler starter feed (1-4 weeks)

40kg of whole maize

12kg of fishmeal (or omena)

14kg of soya bean meal

4kg of lime

70g of premix

Amino acids

35g of lysine

35g of Threonine

NOTE: For farmers who have more than 500 chickens it is advisable to make 1 tonne of feed at once (there are 14 bags of feed in one tonne). To make 1 tonne of feed, multiply each of the ingredients by 14. Ensure that all the feed you make will last for one month and not longer – this ensures the feed remains fresh and safe for chickens. Any feed that lasts more than one month may deteriorate in quality and can affect your chickens.

Daily feed requirements for each growth stage

Farmers should maintain the right feed quantities for chickens at each stage of growth as shown below: 

  •  An egg-laying chicken requires 130-140g of feed per day.
  • A chick requires a minimum of 60g per day - if they finish their daily rations, give them fruit and vegetable cuttings to ensure they feed continuously.
  • Young chickens (or pullets), which are about to start laying eggs should be fed 60g for 2½ months and then put on layer diet (140g per day). Supplement the feed with vegetables, edible plant leaves and fruit peelings in addition to their feed rations.
  • Broiler chicks require 67g per day. Broiler finishers require 67g of feed per day to the day of slaughter.
  • Rat-proof all chickens sheds to keep away rats and birds which eat the chickens feed and bring in fleas and even diseases. To do this, ensure the floor is made of concrete and the chicken wire holes are too small for rodents to get in (preferably ½ inch by ½ inch).
  • Chickens are sensitive to aflatoxins - never use rotten maize (maozo) while making feeds.

 >>Share your experiences with TOF and fellow farmers. Send email to admin@theorganicfarmer.org,  leave a comment below this article or SMS to 0715 916 136.

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