Diary of a Poultry Farmer: Fresh start as my day-old chicks arrive on the farm

Friday June 16 2017

Farmer and a Freelance journalist, Edwin Mbuthia feed his Kienyeji chicken at his home in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County

Farmer and a freelance journalist, Edwin Mbuthia feed his Kienyeji chicken at his home in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua County. Farm biosecurity measures are a necessity in any poultry undertaking to keep diseases and pests away. PHOTO | JOHN GITHINJI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SUBIRI OBWOGO
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I was anxious when I called Kalro Naivasha to enquire about an order of chicks I had placed six months ago.

On the other end, someone picked, and when I uttered Grace, the lady I had expected to talk to, a male voice responded, “She doesn’t work here anymore.”

This raised alarm in my mind, thinking that I had been conned.

I went back to my records to confirm the M-Pesa transaction I did when booking for the 500 day-old chicks.

I had transacted Sh12,500 amounting to 25 per cent deposit. The chicks were to be delivered by March, but six months later, I was still waiting.

To my relief, the gentleman directed me to call another number for help.

I was relieved when Anthony informed me that my order would be ready by yesterday. If you recall, I haven’t brought in any new stock of chicks since sometime in August last year.

The reason for this for me to buy time to clean my infected chicken houses to get rid of two nasty infections. At the peak of the attack in December, I had lost about 594 (a 72 per cent death rate) of the stock.

I first got rid of the remaining stock and then swept the floors and walls to remove all the dust and organic matter. I also removed all the equipment including drinkers, feeders and laying boxes, cleaned them and dried in the sun.

I then washed the premises using a common soap detergent and later disinfected it to ensure the poultry house was disease-free. I had been advised to then leave the premises unoccupied for at least three months.

Now after a six months wait, my order is ready and I am about to resume my business.

OUTBREAKS NOW A THING OF THE PAST

From my own research, some disease-causing organisms like mycoplasma and infectious coryza that gave me trouble can survive in the environment for hours to days while others like coccidiosis can linger on for months.

There are good reasons why I didn’t want to source my chicks from unreliable sources. I know there are very many unscrupulous breeders who cash in on farmers.

The source of your chicks matters. One vet told me that “uncontrolled cross-breeding between various line of breeds of unknown genetic composition results in low stock productivity.”

It is, therefore, good to insist that the parent stock comes from a first generation.

What this means is that reliable multipliers (those who hatch day-old chicks for sell to other farmers) should secure their source of eggs for hatching by rearing their own hens as opposed to sourcing from questionable sources.

For a fact, using otherwise healthy looking birds that are carriers for diseases such as infectious coryza and mycoplasma as the breeding stock could transmit the bacteria to the eggs and the chicks.

Another thing I have learnt is that there is a vaccine against the notorious infectious coryza disease that the vets told me was the problem.

Dr David Ngugi of Murphy Chemicals told me the vaccine should be given first at 12 weeks and then at 18 weeks. The problem is that most agrovets do not stock it and you have to book from the supplier. Luckily, I found one and I have booked 1,000 doses of the same.

I am now combining hygiene practices (farm biosecurity measures) that I have put in place and vaccination programme.

I am confident that disease outbreaks will be a thing of the past. You will be hearing from me in the coming months.