The 'Village Chicken' is still favored in Kenya. Indigenous chickens, fondly refered to as 'village chickens' by residents in Western Kenya are still the dominant variety raised in developing countries like Kenya, especially in rural areas. Regardless of the introduction of exotic chicken in the 1920s, they indigenous chicken still make up about 74% of all the chickens that are reared in Kenya. The local people simply prefer the meat of the indigenous variety.
The village chicken is more adaptable to the local environment and as such is more resistent to disease. The meat and eggs from this variety can help to break the cycle of poverty among the locals and will help prevent continuing incidence of malnutrition. The meat from these indigenous chickens is very rich nutritionally as it offers protein, with some fat, minerals and vitamins. Therefore, the indigenous chicken provides a good source of cheap nutrition for the poor families in the rural areas and thus improvies the health of the children and alleviaties malnutrition. In some locations chicken is a delicacy and according to the tradition of the people of western Kenya, chicken meat is mainly consumed on special occasions and when important visitors are received. Farmers in this area have a preference for chicken with brown plumage since they believe that they lay many eggs as are very readily marketable.
Patrick Oketi, a new poultry farmer, got five birds from Francis Obunaka. Both are members of EBINATE self help group which partners with Reac the Children to provide chickens for this poultry project. From his small flock of five chickens, Patrick he already increased his flock to about 20 chickens, which he maintains at that number because of space and manageability.
The greatest challenge to the success of this project has been that the village chickens experience higher mortality rates due to Newcastle disease, which is common in Asia and Africa. it is a problem especially when raising the new chicks but it is believed that this is a preventable problem. Therefore, in order to harness the potential of the village chicken, Oketi is pursuing chicken rearing classes via better extension services. He has been active in farmers training programs and provides professional treatment of the chicks hatched on his farm.
Oketi is a school teacher in Lunza area of Kakamega county of Kenya and due to his job responsibilities; he spends most of his day time at school. Because of this his wife manages the flock during the day and allows them to feed mostly under the scavenging system, then houses them at night. In most parts of Kenya, it is the women who take care of the farm, as men tend to seek more formal jobs and jobs considered better than farming in terms of technicality and earnings.
Just like the many farmers that Fred, the Reach the Children reporter, has observed, Mrs. Oketi shares her residential house with her chickens! The chickens are housed overnight in her kitchen! She has nonetheless constructed a chicken house attached to her kitchen which is built on the outside as in the pictures below. She houses little chicks in the kitchen, as they are more vulnerable, to assure their security becauseof the threat of thieves and other predators.
Mrs. Oketi uses saw dust as the main bedding material for her chickens in the rooms where they are usually housed for the night. Many other farmers use soil, sacks or mats. This enables them to sweep the droppings away each morning. A woven basket offers the commonest housing for confinement of chicken overnight. The basket is locally known as “Lisera” in Luhya, a local language in western Kenya. Its increased use comesa because people do not want to invest in chicken houses or they cannot afford to.
Mrs. Oketi gives supplementary feed to her chickens. She buys some of her supplements in the local agricultural shops and some feeds are just prepared at home, like maize meal. The supplements are spread on the ground during feeding time. The feed resource base is basically maize, rice bran, flour, wastes from kitchen, and commercial feeds. In general, about 75% of the farmers in her area give supplements of carbohydrates to the chickens. Chickens are watered on the farm by use of some containers such as dishes that are secured in holes dug in the ground. These containers are rarely removed for cleaning or sanitation; rather water is simply refilled when the level has gone very low.
The mortality rate in some casesis close to 50%, but falls to 10% when the flock is well cred for. During disease outbreaks, the mortality can be worse. Mrs. Oketi treats her chickens well by seeking the help of the veterinary officers of the agricultural extension officers in the region. Since Reach The Children began its operations and educating the farmers, the number of the people who treat their chickens has greatly increased to about 99%. However, the treatment methods vary ranging from concoctions of traditional medicines to modern drugs. According to Mrs. Oketi, the thing that worries her most is the disease symptoms which are at times hard to detect. However, the common symptoms have included closed eyelids, mucus from the mouth, white diarrhea, and a swollen head. These symptoms tell of the common diseases in the area which could include Newcastle disease, fowl cholera, infectious bronchitis, coccidiosis, fowl typhoid and infectious Coryza.
One hen can lay an average of about 15.4 eggs per clutch and there are possibly 3 clutches per year. This would mean that she cannot have 5 clutches per year in that her hens would be spending about 270 days a year brooding chicks. She plans to invest in brooding chicks for sale. However, most of the eggs are for household consumption and some are sold for income. She plans to have both...brooding hens and layers so she can accomplish all of her goals. The challenge to this brooding venture is that, predators pose the highest risk of death of the chicks, then diseases is the second. Least likely cause of death is that sometimes chicks drown in water puddles around the farm or in domestic containers with water.
The major constrainst to rearing chicks is the lack of proper and adequate feed, poor housing and diseases. However poor management and predators are also a form of restriction. Mrs. Oketi’s perspective of resolving the problem of this nature is to construct proper poultry houses, prepare the feeds from home, vaccinate the birds regularly and treat them in time by use of the modern drugs, training the farmers and maintain the existing farming groups.
Mrs. Oketi's target is to have a larger flock in the future, with which she can be selling an average of ten chickens per month and this could earn her about $62.25 which is above poverty level in Kenya. The income can increase with better management to reduce the mortality of her chickens, increase the clutches per year and improve the growth of the chickens. Thanks to Reach the Children she plans to reach her target.