About two kilometres off Kenol-Sagana highway in Murangโ€™a County, one finds Kenchic Kakuzi Broilers Farm.

The farm is a highly restricted area, with observance of bio-security protocols starting at the gate.

One must bath and change their attire; wear the firmโ€™s uniforms and gumboots, with all these meant to ensure the birds remain safe.

โ€œWe have these protocols to guarantee food safety, ensuring what reaches consumers is healthy and safe,โ€ says Sam Ali, the farm manager.

The chicken houses, each measuring 15 by 120 metres, are electronically operated. They are fitted with an environmentally controlled (EC) system, a technology which performs everything for the chicks from the time they hatch to maturity, says Ali.

The system comprises sensors, fans, heaters and air inlets, which according to Ali in case of weather variation in the brooder, sends a signal to the computer for regulation.

โ€œHumidity, temperature, air speed and general air quality are controlled automatically using this system,โ€ states Ali, an animal health and production specialist, adding that an attendant only monitors the performance of the system.

He observes that the technology introduced in 2018 has helped them address bird welfare, in terms of freedom of movement and thermal comfort.

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Chickens grow well if best animal welfare standards are provided, according to him. โ€œThe computer controller is pre-set with the temperature, humidity, air speed and quality requirements needed to raise chicks, based on age to maturity. Thus, our broilers mature between 32 and 35 days after the eggs has hatched.โ€

The birds are watered using nipple drinkers, with the gadgets and feeders operated automatically to ensure they donโ€™t miss anything.

A nipple drinker serves 12-15 birds, while a feeder 50-65 birds for commercial broilers.

Each unit hosts 40,000 birds and has a pen for isolating sick and injured birds for treatment.

Mr Julian Davidson, Kenchic – Kakuzi Broiler Operations Manager, Murangโ€™a County.

Julian Davidson, Kakuzi Broiler operations manager, reveals that the system cost them Sh20 million for each unit.

โ€œIt was an economic decision, and has paid off. It has helped us balanced the birdsโ€™ welfare and environment,โ€ Davidson says.

Besides increased productivity and low death rates, the farm is able to trace its products, thanks to the system.

โ€œOur mortality rate stands at 0.09 per cent per day, which translates to 3 per cent of the 40,000 flocks upon maturity,โ€ he explains.

Despite keeping over 100,000 birds on the farm, it is run by six workers only, with Ali noting their labour costs declined drastically.

However, one of the biggest challenges of the electrical system is that in case of power outage, without backup of a generator, one can lose the entire flock.

Apart from the Kakuzi unit, Kenchic also runs farms in Naivasha, Kajiado and a processing plant in Thika.
In Naivasha there is a breeder farm, where the broilers’ parent stock and layers are bred.

โ€œWe produce on this farm clean fertile eggs for hatching and multiplication,โ€ says Daniel Ogwalla, the production manager.

The birds are kept under the deep litter production system to meet animal welfare standards.

He notes that generally, their broilers are on a three-phase diet, starting with starter crumbs (for day-old chicks), growers and finisher pellets.

โ€œThe stocking density for broiler parent stock is five birds per metre square, while layers is six birds per meter square,โ€ Ogwalla states.

Feeder space for hens is 15cm, cocks 20cm, Ogwalla says, noting the measurements are adequate to ensure the birds access feeds comfortably.

According to Davidson, poultry houses vary in design. โ€œIn an open sided system, the wall is only a few feet high and the rest up to the roof should be chicken wire, while in an EC house, the natural light is brought in through air inlets, fans and rack and pinion doors.โ€

For an EC unit, Davidson says the ideal measurements should be height 2.8m, length 120m and width 15m. Ventilation inlets should approximately be 70 minimum.

โ€œThe unit should also have two rack and pinion doors, which allow for tunnel ventilation. Two or four heaters (120kva or 60kva), circulation fans and exhaust and tunnel fans. Other components are pan feeders fed by silos outside the house and nipple drinking system.โ€

He explains that wood shavings (saw dust) are commonly used on the floor though some farmers will use alternatives such as rice husks.

The farm monitors the environment parameters to control ammonium, carbon dioxide, temperatures and wind speed.

The firm mainly deals with broilers, layers and Kenbro breeds. David Opepo, the hatchery manager says, for broilers, they vaccinate against Gumboro (IBD), Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis. Layers and Kenbro are vaccinated against Mareks, Gumboro, Newcastle and infectious bronchitis.

The vaccines are administered when the birds are day-old.

โ€œWe serve all levels of clientele that include small-scale farmers who purchase less than 1, 000 birds at ago, medium-scale up to 5, 000 chicks and large-scale more than 5, 000,โ€ says Mark Kibe, the sales manager at the day-old chickโ€™s department

Genetically, broilers produce meat, and besides multiplying them to supply their clients with chicks, they clear the parent stock when birds attain 60 weeks of age.

โ€œWe sell them to retailers and a certain percentage we retain for our processing plant in Thika,โ€ Ogwalla reveals.

At the plant, the chickens are slaughtered, packaged and processed into sausages, chicken burger patties, boerewors (mutura) and chicken viennas.

Kenchic managing director Jim Tozer said a good commercial poultry firm should strive to meet and comply with national and international set standards for animal welfare.

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