The roosters at a recent farmers’ exhibition in Nakuru drew crowds. The visitors marvelled at the size of the five birds that dwarfed the hens that were in an adjacent cage.
Ann Walubengo, the farmer, fielded questions from the curious visitors. Many asked her about the weight of the huge cocks, which looked like a crossbreed of turkeys, what she feeds them, and about their breed.
Her answers surprised them. The roosters of Kenbro breed weighed 6kg, 2kg more than the weight of an ordinary cock.
During the exhibition by Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organisation in mid-October, the farmer sold 15 broilers at an average of Sh1,500 each.
Ann is a poultry farmer who keeps mainly broilers. Her farm is in Green Valley Estate in Njoro, a few kilometres from Egerton University in the Rift Valley.
She keeps both layers and broilers under a mixed system, which involves intensive and free-range methods.
The birds normally walk around her compound scavenging for worms and she later returns them to their cages.
What does Ann do for the birds to attain 6 kilogrammes?
“I offer them three main feeds namely kienyeji mash, worms and maize germ. I learned of the feeds three years ago at a farmers field day in Nakuru.”
She notes that her detractors have accused her of injecting the birds with hormones to make them big.
SEARCH FOR FOOD
Kienyeji mash is made from cotton and sunflower seeds, omena, pollard, and limestone, which are full of nutrients.
Ann explains that feeds are important for any farmer who keeps broilers because the market is very sensitive about weight.
Each day, the farmer starts by letting the birds out of cages so that they can search for food in her compound and exercise.
“They feed on grass, vegetables and worms that I offer them. This helps to complement the minerals they get from the maize germ and kienyeji mash that I give them later.”
To get the worms, the farmer puts the waste she gets from her poultry farm into a gunny bag and then ties at the mouth.
Worms develop in the manure after about a week, which she then gives the birds.
“I learned this from a farmer during a seminar that was organised by a chicken-brooding company. We were informed that chicken love worms, which free-range ones pick from the soil,” says Ann, who served as a civic leader at Nakuru County Council for 10 years.
Later in the afternoon, she serves the birds the kienyeji mash and maize germ.
Over time, she has learnt that chickens get stressed especially due to change of weather and environment.
She, therefore, adds anti-stress supplements in the water she offers her chickens to ensure they remain healthy.
A six-month old broiler fetches her between Sh1,500 and Sh1,800 depending on the weight. Her birds weigh between 5kg and 7kg, and they sometimes fetch as high as Sh2,200 each depending on demand.
“I sell an average of 10 roosters every week to consumers and farmers. I supply an average of six trays of fertilised eggs in the same period at Sh600 each. An egg goes for Sh20,” says Ann, who has now remained with 30 broilers and 20 hens after selling others.
She is in the process of restocking.
Dr Githui Kaba, a Nakuru-based livestock expert, says that although the average weight of Kenbro roosters is 5kg, they can weigh up to 7kg if fed well and stress-free.
“They should be fed twice a day and the feeds should be rich in protein, carbohydrates and vitamins.”
He advises farmers to feed their chicken early in the morning, give them up to 1pm to digest the meal before feeding them again.
Should be fed twice
Those farmers like Ann who rear their birds under mixed methods have the advantage of saving a lot on feeds because the birds search for food when they roam the compound.
The chickens, according to the vet, collect more nutrients from green matter and worms.
“Chickens love worms, but they may not get as much as they need in a compound where they roam. The worms are a great source of protein, thus if a farmer can manufacturer them, the better.”
However, he warns that many agro-vets sell multi-vitamins in the name of supplements.
“But these multi-vitamin supplements are still necessary as they help the birds relax thus boosting their growth.”