Four years ago, many Kenyan poultry farmers started to keep new hardy breeds of chickens introduced into the east Africa nation by local scientists.
The birds, a cross of traditional breeds and hybrids, were to offer farmers climate-smart chickens that not only yield more but are also resilient to diseases.
The birds dubbed Kienyeji (traditional) chickens are now kept by thousands of farmers in Kenya for both commercial and subsistence purposes.
The shift to these birds and other related breeds has turned out to be a blessing for farmers in Kenya as the country grapples with the effects of climate change.
On his farm in Kiambu, on the outskirts of Nairobi, farmer Moses Kinyanjui keeps some 200 Kienyeji birds in houses made of iron sheets and timber.
However, despite the region and other parts of Kenya experiencing unusually cold weather for the past three months, Kinyanjui has never offered the birds supplemental heat.
The lengthy cold weather, which has seen temperatures fall to 12 degrees Celsius at night and average 19 degrees Celsius during the day, has been attributed to the effects of climate change.
The east Africa nation has also experienced unusually heavy rains since October 2019, according to the meteorological department. The rains are normally a recipe for poultry diseases.
“If I was keeping hybrid birds, I would have been forced to supply them with heat either from charcoal or electricity during the cold weather so that egg production is not disrupted. Incidents of diseases like coccidiosis would also be high. But my birds are hardy, I have not battled any diseases and egg production has remained constant,” said Kinyanjui, who collects 150 eggs daily.
Other climate-smart birds kept by farmers in the country, besides Kienyeji, are Kuroiler, Kenbro and Rainbow rooster.
At Osiligi Farm in Kajiado, south of Nairobi, they keep Kuroiler chickens, with the hardy breed offering at least 200 eggs in a year.
“We decided to keep the breed because it is resistant to common poultry diseases and pests, which puts our production costs down,” Paul Sosoika, the manager, said recently.
The chickens mature in about eight months and can be sold for both meat and eggs, making them more profitable.
“We make our own feeds and offer them and they can also be free-ranged, what makes them good for business,” he said.
And the fact that hens of the chicken breeds are broody has made it easier for smallholder farmers to hatch their eggs and increase their flocks since they don’t have to buy an artificial incubator. Enditem