How to succeed in chicken broilers farming in Kenya

Broilers are meat birds often referred to as fryers in some places. They are bred to grow fast so that they are ready for the dinner table between 4 and 10 weeks of age. Currently, in Kenya there seems to be a huge demand for broilers which may not be satisfied any time soon. But the catch is to know the market, i.e. whom are you producing for?

Broilers are sold between 1. 5 and 3 kg live weight depending on consumers’ preferences and market demands. Finding out the market outlets should be the first task before investing in broiler production. You ought to make marketing arrangements with local hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, groceries, and other regular users before rearing broilers for sale. This will ensure timely and regular orders for the birds and that no birds are left unsold.

Sell graded or classified birds because proper grading or classification attracts different types of consumers. This will also enable the consumers to make purchasing decision on bird size at hand. Broilers are judged on cleanliness and the valuable meat areas i.e. large breasts and thighs. They should also be appealing when dressed out, which means they should not have any skin imperfections or broken wing feathers. After dressing place them in seal bags and only show the broilers that look perfect.

Don’t forget to keep records of your expenses. It may cost more to raise broilers than to buy them at the supermarket, but the recreation and satisfaction derived offset the higher cost. In addition, manure and litter from broiler production can be used as organic manure.

Housing preparation

Broilers are relatively easy to rear. Before bringing in the chicks, the whole house should be disinfected and brooder rings placed in the house. These rings create a microclimate relative to the rest of the room to prevent drafts and keep the birds warm and near the feed and water. The waterers in the brooder rings must be kept filled. When the birds arrive, they are placed into the brooder rings and introduced to the waterers and feed.

To start of, feed is placed in the feeder lids or plastic feeder trays in the ratio of one per 100 chicks. Feed can also be spread on paper placed on the floor to encourage young birds to eat. Gradually remove the feeder lids or trays, replacing them with the adult feeders. By the time the birds are ten days old, all the lids and trays should have been removed.

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Normally, broilers are brooded in a portion of the house until a certain age before being given access to the entire house. The house should be divided so that 33% of the cage is destined for chickens in their two to four week age period. The 66% remaining space is destined for the broiler chickens in the four to eight week age period. The floor has litter made of straw, wood shavings, or some other material that absorbs moisture, keeping the birds clean. Have enough floor space for each bird to at least one square foot from age six to ten weeks. After ten weeks they will need at least two to three square feet per bird.

Don’t provide perches for broilers. They are not developed to perch, and a perch can also cause deformities in the legs and breast.

Feeding broilers

The three common mistakes in feeding are: inconsistent feeding, overfeeding, and underfeeding. Feed is the greatest expense in commercial poultry establishments, therefore it is important to purchase feed from reputable millers who can assure consistency in the quality and performance of the feed.

Broilers need quality ration.  Readily mixed feeds that are recommended for growing lots of meat on these broilers are available at local feed stores. You can mix your own feed for say twenty-five broilers, but in most cases, it is not any cheaper and can be quite a bother to mix thoroughly when you can buy it already mixed. Always follow the manufacturer instructions on the feed and avoid mixing feeds from several millers, adding other protein sources and mineral salts as this changes the balance in the feed thereby affecting performance. Consult your nearest livestock extension officers if you need help on how to vary the feed.

During the first three weeks, broilers need a feed that consists of twenty to twenty-four percent protein. The broiler starter crumbs/mash is excellent during this period. At four to six weeks the broilers are placed on a broiler finisher mash which gives them an increased energy level and also reduces the protein level. Some people give pellets to broilers from six weeks until it is time to slaughter.  Mix the two rations so that the change is gradual during the changing period of the rations. An abrupt change is stressful to the birds and can affect performance. Vitamins can be provided during this time to reduce the stress.

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Provide up to 2 weeks 5 cm and from 3 weeks to finish 10 cm linear feeder space per bird.

Raise the level of the feeder as the birds grow. Do not fill the feeder more than half. If tube feeders are used, provide 3 feeders of 12 kg capacity per 100 chicks.

Some people separate male and female birds, a practice called separate-sex feeding. Separate-sex feeding accomplishes a number of goals. When birds are separated and fed according to gender (versus rearing males and females together), there is more uniformity among males and among females in the flock. Separation of the birds also allows producers to feed diets that more closely meet the nutritional needs of the male and female birds.

Water, temperature, and ventilation

A broiler will drink approx. 2 liters of water for every kilogram of feed consumed. This means that it takes around 3. 5 liters of water for every kilogram of bird grown, that is if an average lifetime feed conversion of 1. 75 is assumed. When broilers are heat stressed, they increase consumption of water in an effort to cool down.

Wash and disinfect chick drinkers daily. Use a reliable water sanitizer like chlorine to control disease-causing organisms in the water. Ensure the drinkers are filled with fresh water after washing and never allow the drinkers to go dry.

Distribute drinkers evenly throughout the whole house, alternating them with the feeders so that they are easily accessible to all birds. The furthest distance to the next waterer or drinker should be 1.5 meters. Provide one chick fount for 75 chicks during the first week and gradually replace them with the regular drinkers. Always adjust the drinkers and feeders levels as the birds grow to ensure that the equipment is always slightly above the level of the birds’ backs to minimize spillage.

Chickens need a lot of air circulation so it’s best to keep the doors and windows open to provide natural ventilation. Make certain that the broilers do not overheat by ensuring the room temperature of about 18 to 24 degrees centigrade. In case of overheating cool the birds by using fans and other types of ventilation.

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Broilers are grown using 24 hours of light because lighting increases body weight gain and improves their feather growth. One or two 40-watt bulbs hung over the pen are adequate for most home projects.

Diseases and vaccinations

The greatest risk to a broiler operation is infectious diseases and every attempt must be made to control and prevent them. To detect diseases in their early stages the producer should be aware of the daily status of the birds. This can be judged from the behavior of the birds, droppings, feed intake, and death rates.

Broilers are much more susceptible to metabolic diseases than other categories of chicken. Tremendous improvement in growth rates and feed efficiency has, unfortunately, resulted in complications. Selective breeding for greedy birds and the addition of growth-promoters to the feed have resulted in an end-product twice as heavy at seven weeks as ordinary chickens.  Broilers sometimes can be so crippled that they cannot walk; consequently, they die from starvation and dehydration. Metabolic diseases such as ascites, sudden death syndrome, fatty liver and kidney syndrome, and tibial dyschondroplasia (td) have become the serious health problems of fast-growing broilers and cause enormous economic losses. Collecting dead birds if any should be a daily task.

A vaccination program is essential in flock health management. Review the program and seek approval from an experienced veterinarian in case of any changes. When vaccinating through drinking water, the water supply system should be completely free of chlorine, medication and other chemical agents for 48 hours prior to and 24 hours after vaccination. The birds should consume the vaccine within 2 hours after mixing it with water.

Broilers should be vaccinated against infectious bronchitis (IB), new castle disease (NCD) and infectious bursa disease (IBD / Gumboro).

Age Vaccination Method
Day 9 – 12 IB + NCD Eye drop / Drinking water
Day 14 – 16 Gumboro Drinking water
Day 18 – 20 IB + NCD Eye drop / Drinking water
Day 21 – 24 Gumboro Drinking water

Administer vitamins for a day or two after every vaccination to reduce stress.

This feature was first published in the Livestock Kenya online Journal.