- Provide the birds with a comfortable environment to protect them from the extremities of rain, wind, sunshine, predators and keep diseases at bay and to ensure adequate stocking density of two square feet per bird.
- A hen needs 72 square inches of space to be able to stand up straight and 303 square inches to be able to spread and flap her wings.
- Raising birds in cramped conditions can result in overcrowding, diseases, high death rates, and observable unhappiness.
- Change the sawdust inside the poultry house regularly and ensure it is always dry.
I have narrated before what made me arrive at my decision to raise Kienyeji chicken as opposed to exotic varieties that mature faster and rake in higher profits.
One of the things that determined my decision was a conversation I had with a farmer on ethics of animal husbandry.
“You need to think like a chicken to understand and empathise with them if you are to get more profit,” the farmer told me.
Now, if you find that weird, don’t worry, you will soon understand. Thinking like a chicken or empathising with the birds is certainly not something that concerns most farmers, who are struggling daily with high cost of feeds and poor access to ready markets controlled by unscrupulous middlemen.
The farmer convinced me to balance profit with animal welfare. You see, in many parts of the world, including Kenya, there is pressure to increase production of eggs and meat to meet the needs of a growing population.
As a result, factory-farming industries have emerged to ensure chicken production is designed for maximum profit. I once watched a documentary on the BBC where one farmer in Brazil slaughters 500,000 chickens (kept under the cage system) per day. That is a feat.
Well, it may be true that large-scale chicken farming doesn’t lend itself to humane conditions like outdoor access to fresh air and ample space for pasture. As a result, I have always favoured chicken raised under free-range and that is why I keep Kienyeji chicken.
I provide my birds with a comfortable environment to protect them from the extremities of rain, wind, sunshine, predators and keep diseases at bay and to ensure adequate stocking density of two square feet per bird. I have also provided the birds with a run outside the coop enclosed with a chain link to allow them to free-range outside and get fresh air and sunshine.
I have also observed over time that chicken raised under free-range systems are constantly moving, pecking at the ground, and interacting with others and this makes them happy and productive.
If you think about it, this free-range system cannot be compared to battery cages that allow each hen an average of 67 square inches of space only—less than the size of a standard sheet of paper.
DEMAND FOR CHICKEN GROWING FAST
I asked an expert to help me to put this into perspective and was utterly shocked by his answer.