LIFE BY LOUIS: Lessons from chicken-rearing open day

Wednesday March 18 2020

If the beetles are afraid of flying around, the hen digs them out of the dung and eats them together with all their children. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH


Education is the key to life. I still believe in this adage although all the education I have is yet to give me all the keys that I want in life. There are a few doors that still remain closed.

I want keys to being a Governor in my county so that I can use my surplus budget to support peace-keeping initiatives in neighbouring war-torn countries.

I also want keys to those big mansions that I see when I accidentally drive through Thigiri Ridge Road.

I don’t mind keys to the big cars that don’t respect traffic rules.

Indeed, I want keys to those big cars, and all their chase cars that flout all traffic rules as they make their noisy way through traffic so as to ensure that the sole occupant of the big car is not late for important appointments.


I have figured it out that the only way to get the remaining keys is through my chicken rearing project in Matimbei.

That is why I accepted an invitation to attend a chicken farmers’ open day in Thika. It was supposed to be an educational tour for aspiring entrepreneurs who wish to venture into large scale chicken rearing, and it did not disappoint. 

I had not seen four thousand broilers at a go before and my excitement was profound. The farm contrasted sharply with my small coop that has just three small chicks that are not yet fully decided whether they want to become broilers, layers or kienyeji chicken.

I could not help but wonder how many generous tummies were going to be formed after all those broilers landed on dinner plates along the famous Moi Avenue fish and chicken eateries, especially if served with greasy potatoes and the free watery ketchup. 

Unlike the polygamous Matimbei rooster that takes six years to mature, during which time it grows a nail on the knee and its meat becomes hard like standard gauge railway, a broiler just takes 35 days to turn from an egg to your dinner.


The meat that grows in 35 days is soft and still looks confused as to whether it wants to be real meat or it wants to defect and become ugali.

The meat from our village rooster on the other hand feels like something that you just bought from a hardware shop. But what did you expect of a rooster that has multiple girlfriends across three ridges and chases them an average of fifteen kilometres a day?

Sometimes, I wonder why the rooster does not employ its executive powers and summon the hens into its coop in an orderly manner instead of chasing them all over the village and causing unnecessary commotions.

Back to the chicken rearing open day, I learned that the broiler chicken live like spoilt children in my Leafy Suburbs estate.

They can’t venture outside because they will catch terminal diseases like common cold from the other roaming chicken that feed from dust bins.

They walk slowly and spend most of their time eating and sleeping. Unlike my village hens, they cannot catch a beetle. Dung beetles are the main source of protein for the village hens.

The beetles are not served to the hens on a plate with ketchup and a side plate with lettuce and strawberries. The hen gets wind of a beetle flying a hundred metres away and gives a chase.

It is not over until the hen grabs the beetle from mid-air and converts it into a quick snack.

If the beetles are afraid of flying around, the hen digs them out of the dung and eats them together with all their children.

Poor broilers on the other hand cannot run to save their lives. And they would consider beetles as uninvited guests in their coop and demand that they be exterminated using powerful insecticides with immediate effect. Broilers also live a single and independent life and do not have to go through the hustle of chasing their lovers across the ridges.

The primary source of protein for broilers is fish. They will not touch a meal if it does not contain fish, calcium supplements and cereals. They only stop short of requesting for a glass of red wine and a soothing back massage.

The broilers don’t live in tiny coops tucked behind the main house where the naughty mongoose is likely to dig up the soil around the coop and snatch them at night as you sleep.

Broilers live in real houses with flowing water, electricity and an equivalent of a dinner table. They don’t go to bed after dinner.

The house therefore requires adequate lighting and a room heater if it is cold.

They will continue eating throughout the night and sipping water to avoid constipation and other mundane health complications arising out of poor dietary habits.

The drinking water is not just any water fetched from the nearby river that is shared by cows, laundry activities and boys who are swimming naked upstream.

The water is bought from supermarket shelves to give assurance that it is not contaminated and does not contain toxic impurities that may affect the broilers delicate health. At worst, the water is obtained from trusted boreholes and taken through an intensive treatment program before the chicken farmer tastes the water and confirms that it is fit for chicken consumption.

I have taken all the learnings and compiled them in a big notebook. My only weakness is that when it comes to serving the chicken with fish fillet and cereals, I may be tempted to take a serving as well.

I also aspire to live and eat well like broiler chicken.


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