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Chicken production systems

Free-range chicken production system

This chicken production system is practiced in most rural areas of the country and objectives of production are for household consumption and as source of additional income for the household. It covers 95-98% of the chicken production system in Kenya and  it is not profitable since it is not market oriented. It contains small flock size (5-20 chickens per household) which are indigenous breed types mostly depend on locally available feed material as supplement with low health services and other management practices. The chicken does not have their own constructed chicken house rather maintained in the main house with the family. Chicken brooding and rearing is only the care they obtain form their mother/hen. Because of these there is high mortality of chicken and long broody periods and there is risk of exposure for different chicken diseases and predators. The major feed sources for chicken are worms obtained from free scavenging, legumes, cereals and sometimes there is supplemental feed during feed shortage. The amount given is small and do not fulfil their nutrient requirement. Because of this their productivity is low. Indigenous poultry breed in this system of production does not produce more than 60 eggs per hen per year.

Advantages of free-range chicken production system

The advantages of free-range chicken production system include, the chickens are healthy since they exercise in the open air freely, there is minimal infection with parasites if enough space is available, there is little or no labour input, the chickens in this type of production system help to limit the amount of rubbish in a productive way and the direct costs of the system are low.

Disadvantages of free-range chicken production system

The disadvantages of free-range chicken production system include, it is difficult to control and manage the chicken especially the young chicks are easily exposed for predators and unfavourable weather conditions, the chickens eat sown seed when looking for feed, a large percentage of the eggs can be lost as the laying hens are not accustomed to laying nests, high diseases transmission and occurrence of high death, chickens are less productive.

Semi- intensive chicken production system

This type of chicken production system is better than free ranging production system since it uses inputs like supplemental feed, vaccine, etc. It has a small house which accommodate laying nest and feeders which serves as chicken house for night time. The house has one or two side open door for easy movement of the chicken to the fenced area during the day time. The fence can be made from mesh wire or other materials and will not allow the chicken to escape above on it. The fenced area should be always clean and dry. Since the feed the chickens obtain from the scavenging is very low, they should be supplemented with energy and protein feeds. Since the main objective of the production is to get profit, they should get better health management practice like vaccination against New Castle Disease (NCD) than free scavenging system. They are more productive than the chicken in free scavenging system. It contains flock size of 50-200 birds/chicken per household which are improved breeds.

Advantages of semi-intensive chicken production system

The advantage of this system include, complete control over operation, useful for record purposes, operational throughout the year, economic use of land (free range) and there is better protection during the cold season.

Disadvantages of semi-intensive chicken production system

The disadvantage of this system of chicken production system include, high cost in fencing, danger of over stocking and exposure for different disease if the compound is not clean and dry.

Intensive chicken production system

This type of chicken production system use more inputs (feeds and feeding, breed, health, housing and other inputs) than the above two chicken production systems. It is market oriented and the main objective of production is to get better profit. The number of chickens involved are relatively high (more than 200 chicken). The chicken breed used is specialized improved breeds (layer or broiler). They should provide the  expected product within that time.

There are three types of intensive chicken production systems which include deep litter system, cage system and full slated rearing which are stated bellow in detail.

Deep litter system

It involves rearing of chickens on a floor littered by 5-10 cm thickness litter. The litter can be made from locally available material such as dry hay, straw, coffee pulp and sow dust. The litter should be dry at any time otherwise it can cause occurrence of different disease. In addition to provision of comfort for the chicken, the litter absorbs any waste material excreted from the chicken and make the house dry. It is possible to place the feeders and drinkers in the house on the litter. But it is advisable to hang them as the age of the chickens increase. It is also important to place laying nest in the house. In this way it is possible to rear either layer or broiler. At least once a week, the litter should be sprayed with disinfectant chemicals. Deep litter is recommended for both meat birds and layers.

To keep healthy chicken in this type of system, the following points should be noted:

  • The existing litter should be removed totally when the existing stock culled
  • Before introduction of new stock, the house should be cleaned carefully and left free at least for two weeks
  • Make sure that the litter should be dry at any time
  • At any time the thickness of the litter should not be less than 5cm
Advantages deep litter system

The advantages of the system included proper accommodation, prompt culling of unproductive birds, proper control of diseases and predators, good record keeping and high egg production. It has also advantageous in that land requirement is minimum, easy and economic management, scientific feeding and management, high degree of supervision, minimum labour, automation is possible and manure value is increased. Deep litter is a good insulation. It protects chickens from cold weather, and during hot seasons they can nestle into it and reach the cool floor below. Studies show that when all other factors are equal, layers produce more eggs on deep litter than in cage systems. Chickens can be brooded and kept through their productive lives in the same house. Deep litter allows the bird to dust itself against lice and other parasites.

Disadvantage of deep litter system

The disadvantages of this intensive system of chicken production include high capital investment, problem of cannibalism and diseases outbreak. If the management is bad, liberation and accumulation of ammonia, wet litter problem dirty eggs, disease problems may result. There is a greater chance of worm and tick infestation and coccidiosis (internal protozoan parasites) than with cages or raised floor systems. The deep-litter system is inappropriate for very humid areas (80 – 90% humidity) damp litter spreads diseases. The litter must be turned often, particularly in damp weather, and this requires more labour than other systems. Sometimes adequate litter is difficult to obtain.

Cage system

 This type of intensive production system involves rearing of chicken in one house on the prepared cages or nests and it is more appropriate for layers. The egg produced is used only for food since there is no cock. The chicken has no any access for free ranging. Therefore, the chicken should get the required nutrient through supplementation. The ration can be formulated in the house using locally available materials like maize, cotton seed cake and other materials. Even though the system requires high initial capital investment, it is profitable. The rearing cage can be made from locally available materials like timber and wood. Cages are good for climates with high humidity, where labour costs are high, and  when a farmer wants to keep a large flock of layers. Where ticks are a problem, cages are especially advantageous. Cages are recommended for layers, but not generally used for meat birds.

Advantages of cage system

The advantages of the system include cages can be placed under existing roofs; thus, a special building may not be required. With cages more birds can be kept in a building than on deep litter. Less labour per bird is needed than other systems. Poor layers can be identified immediately and culled, thus saving feed. Problems with parasites, particularly ticks, are reduced, but nutrition may be a problem. When properly constructed, cages can last many years. Fewer disease problems are caused by transmission through faecal matter. Cages are a cheaper investment in the long run due to ease in care and feeding of the birds.

Disadvantage of cage system

The disadvantages of the system include, high cost of installation, breeding is not possible unless artificial insemination is practiced, cage layer fatigue or paralysis is a problem if not attended to, cages are hard to construct properly, they involve very high initial investment per bird. There must be constant and excellent ventilation. There are more broken eggs than  with deep litter. The feed must contain all necessary vitamins and minerals needed by birds.


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