Some poultry farmers in Kenya are now turning to organic keeping of the birds as consumers become conscious of what they eat for better health.

The farmers are keeping the birds organically by shunning the use of chemicals to treat them in case they are sick or kill parasites affecting them.

The poultry keepers are going back in time as that is how farmers in villages across the East African nation used to rear their chickens.

Besides using natural plants to treat their birds, the organic poultry keepers are shunning commercial feeds, letting the birds scavenge for feeds.

Vincent Nalianya, who lives on half-acre in Kitengela, a fast-growing suburb on the outskirts of Nairobi, keeps some 150 birds of various ages on the farm that also doubles up as his home.

He keeps the birds organically, allowing them to scratch the ground in search of feeds inside an enclosure he has made for them.

“These are free birds,” Nalianya, who keeps the Kienyeji (indigenous) breed said on Sunday. “I don’t lock them in any structure save for this enclosure and at night when they retreat to their house,” he added.

Inside the large enclosure made of wood and wire mesh, Nalianya has placed at selected points water drinkers with some green liquid from which the birds drink as much as they wish.

The water is a mixture of crushed aloe vera and capsicum, with the concoction helping him to keep his chickens free of diseases and healthy.

“That is the only medicine they drink and they rarely get sick. By using the natural plants, the chickens remain free of chemicals and diseases,” said Nalianya, adding that he does not even vaccinate the birds.

The farmer embraced the practice in search of higher returns from a niche market of Kenyans who are conscious of their health.

“I started organic poultry farming over a year ago after going to a high-end hotel and seeing on the menu organic chicken. It was even expensive than the normal chicken,” he said, noting the chicken was going for 15 U.S. dollars while the other 10 dollars.

His curiosity made him unearth plenty of information on organic farming, especially that of poultry that according to him is taking root in Kenya.

“People are going back to the roots as conscious consumers want chemical-free chickens. This is mainly because of increased antibiotic use in poultry farming currently,” said, adding his birds produce organic eggs that go for 0.20 dollars unlike the inorganic ones that go for half the price.

A recent survey by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) on the use of antibiotics in poultry showed that there has been increased use of the chemicals as growers seek to make a killing on high demand.

The survey indicated that Kenyan farmers were arbitrarily offering birds (broilers) antibiotics to stimulate growth and prevent illness so that they can sell them in about a month.

Scientists warn that the practice risks creating antibiotic resistance in human beings, putting lives at risk.

“Seventy-five per cent of samples were resistant to at least one of the 12 antibiotics tested, with resistance to tetracycline being the highest at 60.3 percent,” the Kemri scientists concluded in the 2015 study.

It is such findings that are making organic farming the buzzword on the lips of discerning farmers and consumers.

“People mainly prefer indigenous birds, especially those grown under indigenous conditions because their meat is sweet and free of chemicals. I sell my birds for up to 20 dollars each to a high-end hotel in Nairobi,” said Nalianya, an accountant, adding broilers raised on commercial feeds and antibiotics go for as low as 4 dollars.

Beatrice Mutahi, a chicken lover, noted that she better spends more on organic chicken than buy questionable birds at a low price.

“I buy my chickens from a farmer in Ruai who keeps them organically under the free-range system. I visited his farm and saw how he does it and liked it because the birds roam around and he rarely uses chemicals unless under the guidance of a vet,” she said.

The quest to keep organic birds has further given opportunity to insect keepers, who are selling crickets to poultry farmers.

“I buy crickets from a farmer who breeds them and sells them to me dry at 1.5 dollars per 2 kg tin. I normally grind them and offer my birds as a supplement to scavenging besides maize germ I get from posho mills,” said Milton Otiato, a secondary school teacher in Kisumu.

Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in Kitale, western Kenya, noted that several natural plants are well known to be medicinal.

“Pepper, aloe vera, sisal leaves, neem, cinnamon and garlic have medicinal properties that are used for the treatment of diseases like coccidiosis, Newcastle disease and fowl pox and also treat worms. Use of these plants instead of antibiotics help to keep chickens free of drugs,” he said, adding organic farming is the best way to grow crops and rear animals.

The 2009 census report showed that there are 32 million birds in the East African nation, majority of them kept under free-ranging but not for commercial purposes. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh



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