• Poultry industry in Kenya has developed tremendously due to the use of artificial incubation and brooding and easy availability of hybrid birds, both eggers and broilers.
  • Poultry production has become an easy source of income and food for the rural as well as the urban communities.
  • The term poultry includes domestic birds such as turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, doves and pigeons.
  • Of late ostrich farming has become a lucrative activity.
  • Poultry production starts with incubation of eggs.

Parts of an Egg


  • Forms 10-12% of the whole egg content.
  • Made of calcium and phosphorus.
  • Protects the inner egg contents.

Shell membrane

  • Made of inner and outer membranes.
  • Lining of the egg shell.
  • Constitutes 1 % of the total egg content.

Albumen (egg white)

  • About 55-60% of the total egg content.
  • It is divided into chalaza, thick and thin albumen.
  • Chalaza holds the egg yolk in position.
  • Albumen serves as food for the chick.


  • 30-33% of the total egg content.
  • Supply embryo with nutrient

Germinal disc -The embryo which develops into a chick if fertilized.

Vitelline membrane – Gives the yolk its round shape.

  • Air sac
  • Keeps the egg fresh by allowing gaseous exchange.
  • Provides oxygen for the embryo

Egg Candling:

  • This is the practice of determining the internal qualities of an egg by examining it against a light source.


  • The egg is placed on a hole made on a .cardboard box.
  • This is called a candling box.
  • A source of light is placed in the box directly under the egg.
  • The observer then looks through the egg against the source of light below.
  • Abnormalities on and within the egg can be seen through the translucent shell.


  • Involves the provision of fertile eggs with the proper condition for embryonic development.

Selection of Eggs for Incubation

  • Should be fertile.
  • Should be of medium size about 55- 60gms in weight.
  • Should have smooth shell.
  • Should be oval shaped.
  • Should not be cracked.
  • Eggs should be clean to ensure that pores are open.
  • Should not have abnormalities such as blood spots, meat spots and double yolk.     .
  • Eggs should not be more than 5 days old.
  • Eggs should be fresh that is collected within one week.

Internal egg qualities can be determined through the egg candling process.

Methods of Incubation

Natural Incubation

  • This involves the use of a broody hen which sits on the eggs to provide them with conditions necessary for hatching.
  • Takes 20-21 days.
  • The hen is given about 10-15 eggs.

Signsof Broodiness in Poultry

  • Tendency to sit on an egg after laying.
  • Moulting of the hen.
  • Making some noise at the laying nests.
  • Feathers are raised.
  • It becomes aggressive when disturbed.
  • It stops laying.

Preparation and Management of Natural Incubation

  • The hen is given “China eggs” to sit on to induce broodiness.
  • When broody the hen should be provided with a nesting nest or a saucer­shaped nest scooped on the ground.
  • The nest shall be lined with soft bedding and fertile eggs provided.
  • The eggs are set in the evening or night.
  • The bird is dusted to control external parasites.
  • The hen is allowed t hour outside to feed and exercise everyday.
  • Broken eggs should be removed immediately.
  • The hen should not be disturbed.

Advantages of Natural Incubation

  • It is cheap.
  • High hatchability.
  • Low risk involved.
  • Useful in small scale production.
  • Less skill is required.
  • Less laborious.

Disadvantages of Natural Incubation

  • Egg production is low because the hen will not lay eggs during incubation.
  • It is not possible to plan when to incubate.
  • If the hen dies the eggs will be destroyed.
  • If the hen deserts the eggs or refuses to sit on them the farmer will incur losses.
  • Only few chicks can be hatched at a time by one hen.
  • Diseases and parasites could easily be transmitted to the chicks.

Artificial Incubation

  • This is the use of artificial device known as an incubator for hatching eggs.

Conditions Necessary for Artificial Hatching of Eggs

  • Temperature – maintain at 37.5°C-39.4 °C throughout to control the rate of embryonic development of the chick. High or low temperatures are lethal.
  • Ventilation – Good air circulation.
  • Carbon dioxide: oxygen ratio maintained at 0.03%:21 %.
  • Relative humidity – Maintained at 60%.
  • High humidity leads to marshy chicks
  • low humidity the chick may stick to the shell.

Turning of Eggs –

  • Done 3-4 times a day to facilitate uniform distribution of heat for uniform development of chick.
  • Turn slowly 180 ° clockwise along the axis to avoid breaking the blood v
  • Some incubators have automatic turning mechanism.
  • Cleanliness – cleaning and disinfecting the incubator with formaldehyde solution.

Advantages of Artificial Incubation

  • It facilitates large scale production of chicks.
  • Incubators are always ready when needed.
  • Artificial incubation leads to higher egg production because broodiness in the hens is not required, so there is more time for laying eggs.

Disadvantages of Artificial Incubation

  • High initial capital in buying an incubator.
  • High level of management and attention is required.
  • It is not economical for only a small number of eggs.
  • High risks involved in turning the eggs.

Brooding and Rearing of Chicks

  • Brooding is the rearing of day old chicks upto 8 weeks old for the layer chicks and 2 weeks for the broiler chicks.
  • For successful brooding the source of the chicks should be considered.

Sources of Chicks

The following factors should be considered:

  • The reputation of the supplier (hatchery).
  • Time taken by the chicks in transit.
  • Proper sexing and breed identification.


Natural Brooding

  • A hen is allowed to take care of the chicks.
  • She provides them with warmth and security.
  • She stays with the chicks for 8 weeks and then rejects them.


  • It is cheap.
  • Less labour is needed.
  • Suitable for small scale.

Disadvantages of Natural Brooding

  • Not possible to produce large numbers of chicks.
  • The hen goes off laying during brooding time.
  • Only possible when a broody hen is available.

Artificial Brooding

  • The chicks are raised artificially in a structure known as a brooder until they are 8 weeks old.

Brooder Requirements

  • Temperature – should be about 35°C in the 15th week and reduced to 21°C by the 8th week.
  • Litter – wood shavings which are capable of absorbing 60% moisture without showing wetness should be used.
  • Space confinement – Done by use of hardboards which are about 25cm high and form a circular space. A space of 1m2 for 25 chicks is required.
  • Feeders and waterers – should be enough for the chicks and evenly distributed in the brooder.
  • Ventilators – windows should be enough to allow proper air circulation but direct draught should be avoided.

Types of Heaters in the Brooder

  • Electric heaters – one ordinary bulb 100 watts can raise 30 chicks.
  • One infra­red bulb 240 watts can raise 100 chicks.
  • Kerosene burners – Hurricane lamps can raise 100 chicks.
  • Charcoal burners – these are specially made jikos with heat deflectors.

Brooder Management

Preparation Before Chicks Arrive

  • Start 2-3 days before arrival.
  • The brooder house should be cleaned to remove old litter and then disinfected.
  • New litters 5-1Ocm high should be put in and covered with absorbent materials/news papers.
  • Equipment should be cleaned, disinfected and tested to make sure that they are working.
  • The brooder is lit about 6 hours before the chicks arrive.
  • Feed and water should be placed into shallow containers.
  • Brooder space should be confined with a hard board to prevent chicks straying far from the source of heat.

Management After Arrival of the Chicks

  • Chicks are placed in the brooder during the day to familiarize with the brooder.
  • If chicks arrive stressed and weak they should be given glucose solution in the waterers.
  • In case the heat source is charcoal burners they should be covered with wire mesh.
  • Feed chicks with chick mash which is later mixed with growers mash as the chicks grow.
  • Clean water should be provided and changed regularly.
  • Constant attention should be given to the chicks for the first 2 weeks.
  • Any vices should be checked and controlled.
  • Any dead chicks should be removed as soon as seen.
  • Ventilation should be used to control the temperature and humidity in the brooder.
  • Constant disinfection is required at the entrance to avoid diseases.
  • Brooder space should be increased as the chicks grow.
  • Debeaking should be done at 10 days old.
  • Vaccination against diseases such as Gumboro after 2 weeks, New Castle at 3-4 weeks and fowl typhoid at 7 weeks.
  • Dusting to control external parasites.
  • Growers’ mash should be introduced gradually at 7 weeks old.
  • Chicks are removed from the brooder when they are 8 weeks old.
  • On average the chick uses about 1.5kg – 2.2kg of chick mash by the time it is 8 weeks old.


Temperature Control in the Brooder

If the brooder temperatures are low the following should be done:

  • Brooder space is reduced.
  • Heaters are increased.
  • Ventilators are closed.

If the brooder temperatures are too high the following should be done:

  • Brooder space is increased.
  • Heaters should be reduced.
  • Ventilators should be opened.

Management of the Growers

  • The growers are birds at the age of 9 weeks to the point of lay that is at 18 weeks.
  • Growers should be fed on growers’
  • By this time the growers should be occupying the main poultry house.
  • Sick birds should be isolated and treated.
  • A foot bath for constant disinfection should be placed at the entrance.
  • Each bird is fed 115 gms per day of growers’ mash.
  • Greens and soluble grit should also be provided.
  • Clean water should be provided all the time (adilibitum).
  • Drenching against internal parasites should be done by adding a dewormer into the water.
  • Vermins should be controlled.
  • Litter should be kept dry by turning.
  • Vaccination should be done as required.
  • Layer pullets require dimly lit house.

Management of the Layers

  • Layers’ mash should be introduced at 18 weeks and increased gradually.
  •  The birds start laying at 18-21 weeks.
  • The birds should be vaccinated against New Castle and fowl typhoid.
  • Enough floor space roosts, feeders and waterers should be provided.
  • Each hen should be given 120gms per day of layers’ mash.
  • Clean water should be provided adlibitum.
  • Eggs should be collected twice a day at noon and in the evening.
  • Green leaves should be provided to keep the birds busy thus preventing cannibalism and improve the yellow colour of the yolk.
  • Grains should be given in addition to the layers’ mash at the rate of 65gms per bird per day.
  • Soluble grit or oyster shells should be provided at all times for efficient digestion and strong shelled eggs.
  • Layers should be fed according to their body weight and the rate of egg production for example a 70kg bag should feed 100 layers for 4-5 days.
  • Enough laying nests should be provided at least 1 per 5 layers.
  • The laying boxes should be dimly lit to reduce egg eating.
  • Debeaking should be done when necessary.
  • Broken eggs and dead birds should be disposed off properly.
  • The non-layers and cannibals should be culled.

Management of Broilers

  • Broilers are table birds kept for meat production.
  • They have high growth rates or high feed conversion ratio.
  • The objective is to produce a kilogram of quality poultry meat from less than two kg of broiler feed.
  • The broiler chick requires special broiler feed from day old to 4 weeks of age.
  • Broiler starters’ mash or crumbs should be fed.
  • This contains coccidiostat, high level of protein, vitamins and trace elements for early growth.
  • From 4 weeks to 8 weeks they are given broiler follow-on mash or pellets.
  • This feed contains high level of metabolisable energy to ensure a good cover of subcutaneous fat in the finished broiler.
  • From 8 weeks until slaughter finisher pellets should be given to increase the size.
  • Adequate clean water should be provided at all times (adlibitum).
  • High level of hygiene should be maintained to reduce mortality rate.  
  • Birds should be dusted with appropriate pesticides to control external parasites.
  • Deworming should be done routinely.
  • Vaccination against common diseases should be done.
  • Dead birds should be disposed off properly.
  • Broilers should be kept under deep litter system, the house should be well ventilated and well lit.

Poultry Rearing Systems

  • extensive,
  • semi intensive
  • intensive systems.

The Extensive Systems

Free Range

  • Birds are set free throughout the day to fend for themselves.
  • Birds are confined in night shelters for the night.
  • There is no supplementation.


  • Birds eat insects and green leaves therefore less feed is required.
  • Cheap method.
  • Cannibalism and egg eating are reduced since the birds are not crowded.
  • Manure is evenly spread in the runs.
  • Low labour requirement.
  • Birds get plenty of exercises thus helping to keep in good health.
  • No need to provide grit as birds pick it from the soil.


  • More land is required if a farmer wants to rear many birds.
  • Birds can be stolen or eaten by predators.
  • Eggs get lost in the vegetation or stolen.
  • Eggs get dirty.
  • Difficult to determine layers from non-­layers.
  • Birds get easily infected with diseases and parasites of the area.
  • Breeding programme is not easy to follow.
  • Birds can destroy crops where perimeter fencing is not constructed.
  • Low productivity per unit area.


Fold System

  • Birds are confined in small portable structures called folds.
  • A fold measures 3.5m long, 1.5m wide and 1.5m height.
  • 1/3 of the fold is roofed while the rest is enclosed with wire mesh.
  • Birds get plenty of sunlight.
  • Birds get fresh grass as the fold is moved to new grounds.


  • Manure is evenly spread in the field.
  • Less feed is used because birds eat grass.
  • Reduces build up of parasites and diseases since the fold is moved often.
  • Birds are protected from predators.


  • Few birds are kept per fold.
  • It is laborious since the folds are moved from one place to the other.
  •  Individual egg production record is difficult to keep.
  • The fold does not last long because of
  • high frequency of handling.
  • The return per unit area of land is low.

Intensive System

Deep Litter System

  • Birds are confined in a house throughout their life.
  • The floor of the house is made up of litter which accumulates over time.
  • Enough feeders, waterers and laying boxes are provided depending on the number of birds and space available.
  • Movable roosts and perches made of timber frames should be provided in the house.
  • Stress and vices should be watched closely and controlled.
  • Eggs should be collected as frequently as possible to prevent dirt and egg eating.
  • The house should be dimly lit.
  • The floor space requirement should be 1m2 per 2-3 birds.


  • High stocking rate per unit area of land.
  • Low labour requirement.
  • Fast accumulation of manure.
  • There is control of feeding, egg production and movement of birds.
  • Safety of the birds is guaranteed from predators.
  • No loss of eggs.
  • Useful method when rearing breeding stock.
  • Regular cleaning of the house is not necessary since the litter absorbs the droppings.
  • Easy collection of eggs.


  • High incidence of cannibalism like egg eating, feather plucking and toe pecking.
  • Pests and disease causing organisms accumulate in the litter.
  • Individual records of the birds are not possible.
  • May be difficult to find litter.
  • Eggs become dirty if laid on the floor.
  • Feeders and waterers may be contaminated by the litter.
  • The system encourages broodiness in hens.
  • High infestation of diseases if the management is below standard.
  • If there is a disease outbreak, it can spread very quickly throughout the house due to the communal housing.
  • High cost of building deep litter house.

Battery Cage System

  • Birds are confined in cages which are placed in the poultry house.
  • The cages are made of wire mesh
  • Each cage contains 1-3 birds.
  • Water and feed troughs together with eggs trays are fitted along the front side of the cages.
  • The floor of the cages should be slanting to allow the eggs to roll out of the cages.
  • Droppings from the cages fall from behind for easy cleaning.


  • Records are easily kept therefore culling is easy.
  • Birds do not become broody.
  • More eggs are collected due to restricted movement of the hens and complete control of egg eating.
  • Tender meat is obtained from the culls because the muscles have not been toughened much.
  • Handling is easier than in the other systems and individual attention to hens is given.
  • Stocking rate is very high.
  • Vices are greatly reduced.
  • Eggs are clean because hens do not step on them.
  • The system can easily be mechanised.
  • Birds do not contaminate the food and water.
  • Sick birds can be detected easily and isolated for treatment.
  • Wire floors prevent re-infestation of parasitic worms and coccidiosis.
  • No bullying during feeding.
  • Low labour requirement.


  • Initial costs for cages, equipment and house are excessively high.
  • Requires high level of management.
  • Higher maintenance costs where automation is used.
  • Birds may get fatigue due to lack of exercises thus lowering productivity.
  • In case of disease outbreak, spreading is very fast.
  • Birds develop bruises on combs, breasts and toes as they stick their necks out-to feed and walk in the cages.
  • Not useful when rearing breeding stock and the rearing of broilers.
  • Cannot be used for brooding young chicks.


 Stress and Vices in Chicken

  • Stress is a condition imposed on the birds making them disturbed and uncomfortable.
  • Stress reduces production and brings about poor performance.
  • Vices are habits developed by animals.
  • These affect production and health of the birds.
  • Usually they are bad habits.

Cause of Stress in Poultry

  • Sudden changes in routine management.
  • Presence of strangers in the poultry house.
  • Presence of animals and vermins.
  • Too much noise.
  • Constant and poor handling.
  • Sudden weather changes.
  • Disturbance of the pecking order.
  • Overcrowding
  • Poor hygiene.
  • Disease and pest attack.
  • Lack of food and water.

Control of Stress

  • Poultry house should be kept quiet and constructed away from noise.
  • Poultry house should be insulated to maintain constant temperatures.
  • Parasites and diseases should be controlled.
  • Change in routine management should be gradual.
  • Enough feed and water should be provided.


  • Feather pecking.
  • Cannibalism (toe and vent pecking).
  • Egg eating.

Pecking and Cannibalism

  • Situation where birds peck at each other resulting in death or injury.


  • Feather and body growth rate IS reduce
  • Loss of birds due to death may result from cannibalism.
  • Culling rate is increased (economic loss).
  • The appearance of the carcass is spoiled thereby reducing its market value.

Causes of Cannibalism

  • Overcrowding in the house.
  • High temperatures in the poultry house making the birds uncomfortable.
  • Too bright light.
  • External parasite infestation.
  • Inadequate and incorrect feeding.
  • Idleness of the birds.
  • Greediness of the birds.
  • Disturbances of the pecking order.
  • Prolapses of the rectum which occurs once in a while.
  • Bright light in the lying boxes.

Preventive Measures

  • Ample spacing should be provided on the floor, feeders, waterers and laying boxes.
  • Overheating should be avoided during brooding.
  • The house should be dimly lit for the layers.
  • Laying nests should be darkened and above the groun
  • Dusting should be done to control external parasites.
  • Provide enough balanced ration.
  • Birds should be kept busy.
  • New/strange birds should not be allowed in the house.

Egg Eating

A vice influenced by the following:

  • Presence of broken or soft shelled eggs.
  • Idleness of the birds.
  • Inadequate laying nests.
  • Mineral deficiencies.
  • Bright light in the laying nests.
  • Greediness of the birds.

Preventive Measures

  • Eggs should be collected regularly.
  • Laying boxes raised above the ground.
  • Birds should be given balanced ration.
  • Debeaking should be done as need be.
  • Birds should be kept busy with greens.
  • Birds should be kept according to age groups.
  • Injured birds should be isolated and treated.

Marketing of Poultry Products

  • Poultry products include eggs and meat.

Marketing of Eggs

  • Eggs are delicate and perishable foods and have the highest value when fresh.

The factors considered when sorting out and grading eggs for the market include:

  • Size/weight of the egg – large eggs fetch high prices than small ones. The average weight should be about 57gms.
  • Shape of the egg – The normal egg shape is oval, with a broad end and a narrow end.
  • Cleanliness – Consumers prefer clean eggs.
  • Colour of the shell – Brown eggs are popular with the consumers.
  • Candling qualities – candling is done to determine freshness of the eggs and presence of any other egg abnormalities.
  • Shell texture – should be smooth and without cracks.

Poultry Meat

  • Broilers are slaughtered at the age of 1-2.5months old with a life weight of 1.5-2kgs.
  • The birds are killed and dressed in a clean way before being wrapped in clean bags ready for sale.
  • The meat is sold in hotels and restaurants.
  • Whole birds can be sold live in local markets.
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