Julius Gaya is a member of Homa Bay County assembly representing Karachuonyo Central ward, but that is a title he always drops immediately he ventures into his five-acre-farm in Central Karachuonyo, which is home to 3000 kienyeji chickens and seven dairy goats.
Gaya began rearing chickens in 2013.
“My mother was a poultry farmer and she passed away I decided to follow in her footsteps,” says Gaya.
So with a capital of Sh96,000, Gaya bought 122 kienyeji chickens from farmers in the village and in local markets at Sh500 per chicken and built poultry shelter, bought feeding equipment and erected a fence around the poultry yard.
Today with a monthly income of between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000, Gaya can claim success in the venture.
Unfortunately, this success is under threat.
When he went for kienyeji chickens knew they are resistant to many poultry diseases. Cannibalism was the farthest thing from his mind when he noticed aggression amongst his chickens until began losing about two birds every week.
According to Sophie Miyumo, a poultry expert at Egerton University, cannibalism is easier to prevent than to treat. The cause has a genetic component, but management conditions also play a key role.
Cannibalism is the pecking, tearing, and consuming of skin, tissue or organs amongst flock mates. It is a problem that can occur among birds of any age and of any breed.
“Outbreaks can occur in even the well-managed flock, but problems are less likely to occur if preventive measures are in place,” says Ms Miyumo.
Ms Miyumo explains factors which are possible causes of cannibalism.
“Notable causes of cannibalism includes excessive light for the chickens, inadequate nutrition, injured or dead birds left in the flock, intermediate flock size, abrupt changes in management of the chickens and combining flocks of different ages and colours,”says Ms Miyumo.
In placing the experts’ take on cannibalism into perspective of his own poultry rearing practice, Gaya singles out inadequate nutrition as the cause of cannibalism in his birds.
“I have adhered to spacing requirements and also ensured that the birds are provided with the correct amount of heat, I believe this problem is caused by inadequate nutrition,” says Gaya.
Gaya admits that he has been feeding his chickens without observing mineral requirements need for growth of chickens.
PROVIDE A BALANCED DIET
According to Jennifer Ndege, the Chief Officer of Agriculture in Homa Bay County, it is important for a farmer to provide birds with a well-balanced diet and an ample supply of water, this is because cannibalism has been linked to deficiencies in protein, sodium, and phosphorous.
“Extremely high-energy and low-fibre diets cause the bird to be active and aggressive” says Ndege.
Ms Ndege adds that the feeds lacking protein and other nutrients, particularly the amino acid methionine, will also cause birds to prick feathers.
He therefore advise farmers to provide a diet that is balanced appropriately for the age and types of fowl a farmer is rearing, as protein requirements change as chicks grow and should be adjusted on the basis of a recommended feeding schedule.
A mash diet, rather than pelleted feed, may also help prevent outbreaks of cannibalism because birds sift through variety of ground particles and take longer to consume their feeds.
Care should be taken when feeding supplement materials, such as grains, which should be provided only in the afternoon, after the birds have had eaten their complete diet, it should be provided for only as much as can be consumed in about 15 minutes.