Indigenous chicken farming in Kenya dominates the poultry farming of the country. About 90 percent of the population in Kenya keep small flocks of chickens in free range. This type of farming is very flexible and requires very little space. To this end, Reach The Children has exploited this opportunity to provide communities with chickens to keep for their sustainability. This free-range farming offers an important means of supplying the increasing human population in Kenya with high quality food (proteins) and also provides some small income. With more people comes the need for more food. This is why indigenous chicken farming is getting increased attention in Western Kenya.
The chicken rearing program has been designed as a multiplication system whereby a few individuals are given five chickens and after they produce, these farmers give out five chickens to the next beneficiary in the same group. With time, every member of the group will benefit from the program. The expansion of the program is exponential considering that if five members get the chickens, they will give to five other households/members and so on and so on. This means ten people will be having chickens. The next time they give out the ten members will give out to ten other members meaning that twenty people will be having chickens. The trend continues until all members benefit. The farmers contribute very little start-up capital to assist them to construct chicken housing and for health maintenance of the chickens. The products from chicken rearing include eggs and meat and manure. These products are mainly used as food for the familiy, but sometimes the excess is sold for some income to the households. Phillip Akondo who is a member of SHIEBU community based organization is one of the beneficiaries of the program. At the initiation time, in 2008, Reach the Children gave out 100 chickens to twenty families. Since then, the program has been increasing steadily though the farmers have faced serious challenges of diseases and theft. People earn a better living as they increase the number of chicken they own and find a bigger market for the sale of thier chicken products. For instance, by supplying chickens to schools or hotels. The income obtained from this becomes enough for sustaining a small household when these farmers supplement their chicken income with other resources from activities like cattle farming. Most of them are mixed farmers, meaning they raise several animals and some crops.
The chicken farming program offers quick returns to the farmers and relatively simple ways of managing the farms. The purchase of eggs and chicken is also very affordable even to the low-income earners. Average production of each chicken is about 40-100 eggs per year. Each egg costs 8 - 10 shillings (0.75 USD) .For meat, each chicken weighs about 1.3 to 1.8 kg. a chicken goes for about 250 - 500 Kenya shillings, depending on the size and season. During holidays and festive seasons, chicken prices are usually very high. However, the production of these indigenous chickens can be very low at times because of their genotype, low adoption of the new technology and the poor feed conversion effectiveness. The main system used here is that free-range system. The chickens are reared based on indigenous knowledge. This is where the birds are left on their own to scavenge for their food during the day and are housed at night. They feed on insects, vegetables and the scattered seed or grains. These birds are occasionally fed by the owners on maize, cowpea, brewing seeds, millet, sorghum and papaw seeds, among others. The birds of all ages just scavenge together and find water in tins and broken bowls. These chickens are efficient foragers and tolerant to the harsh tropical conditions. Night housing is only to protect these birds from the predators, thieves and extremes of weather.
Chicken rearing does not entail a lot of work or the investment of a lot of resources. This is why Reach The Children has been able to reach a higher number of people in Western Kenya compared to other projects like dairy cows. Even the disabled are able to keep these chickens since there is not so much labor is involved. Some of trhe advantages of this project are:-Chicken rearing plays a big role in the effort to eradicate poverty.-The program has been an opportunity for self employment to many members of community based organizations in their areas of operation-Many members of the community who have benefited from the program are becoming self reliant and responsible members of the community-The project has reduced cases of social ills, especially theft, as many more people are encouraged to join community groups to benefit through such means whereby they will earn their living genuinely-The economic standard and quality of life of the members has improved as they can produce their organic food and earn some cash from the project-Last and certainly not least, the community is more united than ever because of the interaction in group meetings, sharing the farm inputs and rotational manner of handing over the chickens