Proper management improves poultry production

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Many poultry farmers assume that indigenous chickens can fend on their own especially when put on free range. But, this is not the case. Chicken require thorough care; feeding, housing, disease control and protection from predators.

Below we look at each of these requirements once more to remind farmers of their importance:

Housing: Housing is a challenge to many farmers who rear chickens. Poor housing exposes chickens to various risks. A good chicken house should protect the chickens from the cold and wind. It should keep away predators such the mongoose, dogs, wild cats or snakes. The house should be spacious enough to reduce congestion, which causes stress in chickens and even cannibalism and pecking. Ideally, each chicken requires at least 2 square feet of space. If space allows, ensure that you leave an open area where the chickens can be released in the evenings (this is called a chicken run) where they can run, pick insects and eat vegetative matter such as grasses and plant vegetables such as sukumawiki. 

These can be picked and hang in the chicken house for them to eat throughout the day after their normal feed.

Direction of chicken house

'To be successful in rearing indigenous chicken farmers have to exercise a high level of management in housing, feeding and disease control.'

A chicken house should be constructed facing East to West (or depending on the direction that wind blows in the chosen location) to reduce wind or draft that can affect chickens. Make laying nests, which have a darker side where the layers can hide their hind side to prevent exposure to other birds, which can prick and injure them when laying eggs.

Spread wood chippings (not saw dust), on the floor of the chicken house and replace them every 4 to 5 days depending on the state of the beddings. Wet beddings can lead to disease outbreaks. Always spray disinfectants every week if possible to keep away any disease pathogens from the house.

Feeding: Feeding is very important if a farmer has to get good returns from their chickens. Chickens can be fed twice a day, in the morning and evening. A laying hen for example requires 122g of feed every day for good production of eggs. Similarly a chick requires at least 30g of feed per day to grow well. A farmers should multiply this ration with the number of birds they keep to determine how much feed they can give per day. Chickens should be provided with clean water at all times. The water helps to transport feed to all parts of the body and to maintain their health. Farmers can also add 2 or 3 teaspoonfuls of EM1 and Aloe Vera solution in the water to improve digestion and provide immunity from diseases.

Disease control: Chickens, whether indigenous or hybrid, are very prone to diseases. For a serious poultry farmer protection is always the first line of defence against diseases. Ensure that all your chickens are vaccinated against the most common diseases such as fowl pox, Newcastle, Mareks and coccidiosis diseases. Diseases make chickens weak and retard their growth, feed conversion, egg production and eventaully reduce the good returns that farmers desire.

The poultry farmer should always observe their birds carefully, several times a day for signs of sickness in their flock. Sick birds usually stand half asleep at the corner of the house, with ruffled feathers, heads hidden into their wings and with drooping tails. Isolate any sick bird to prevent the spread of the disease to other birds. Consult a vet as soon as possible to treat the birds on time and avoid loss.

Any new birds should be isolated from the rest and observed for any signs of disease before they are mixed with other birds. Spray or dust your birds with acaricides to prevent pests and parasites at all times to ensure the birds are healthy and productive.

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