Diary of a poultry farmer: Telling apart the five ‘Kienyeji’ chickens

Today, I’ll add that if a customer questions the value of some of your products, it’s certainly not the time to jump in with the facts. Instead, listen to them and if possible, agree to disagree.

This is what I did a week ago when Millie, a regular buyer of my chicken meat, sought to buy eggs from me.

“How much do you sell a tray of eggs?” she enquired.

Although I’ve always regarded my Kari Improved Kienyeji chicken breed to fit this category, I decided to prod further. “What do you mean by 100 per cent Kienyeji?”

That meant Millie wasn’t going to buy my eggs. I was, therefore, surprised when she put in an order for five trays.

You see, unlike in the past, farmers who wish to rear poultry for profit now have a choice between hybrid breeds and the indigenous breeds to consider.

To make this easy, I’ve summarised in the table on the left differences between the ‘original’ Kienyeji and the four types of the so-called improved indigenous chickens.

The famous Kuroiler originates from Kegg Farms in India and was introduced in Uganda in 2010. It has indigenous traits. Rainbow Rooster is a multi-coloured breed originating from India also. Kenbro is a Kenchic breed.

Many readers like to refer to the free-ranged indigenous chickens that scavenge freely in the rural setting as the only ‘original’ Kienyeji chickens and even argue that it tastes different.

For the lack of a better answer, I’ve always responded to this question using this analogy: “Does eating a diet of fries, burgers and sausages as opposed to arrowroots make us less African and more Caucasian?”

As a matter of fact, experts say that unless when fed in large quantities, feeds have little effect on taste of chicken meat or egg because the hen puts the feedstuff through an effective refining process. For example, feeding chickens large quantities of fish meal or cod liver oil imparts a ‘fishy’ taste to the flesh.

On the other hand, the colour of the egg yolk depends on feeding hens a diet rich in beta carotene sources of feeds such as green leafy vegetables, alfalfa, yellow maize or sweet potatoes, not the chicken breed.

I also read somewhere that the superior and unique taste of traditionally raised farm chickens compared to the fast-growing commercial breeds is in their slow-growing genes, which confer quality attributes such as taste, culinary delicacy, correct texture and flavour.

As such, if you’re targeting customers interested in the taste of traditionally raised farm chickens with elongated breasts, longer legs, thinner skin, and less fat than commercial breeds, think no further.

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