Persistent power blackouts and rising electricity bills pose a major challenge to poultry farmers. Mr Alex Mugambi, a groiler breeder in Mathioya, Murang’a County, has had his fair share of frustrations, leading to the loss of golden chicks in his brooder.
But not anymore! The retired mechanical engineer, who left Kenya Breweries Limited 18 years ago, after more than four decades of service, has joined a growing list of chicken breeders that no longer count on the unpredictable national power grid to warm their brooders.
He has discovered that the traditional African pot can do more than cooking — it can keep brooding chicks warm, too, and save him thousands of shillings in electricity bills. Besides, the warmth from the pot is more reliable for his brooder than electricity.
“I used to spend between KSh2,300 and KSh3000 on electricity. I was always in a panic, fearing the frequent power blackouts. I had to remain around the compound monitoring the electricity,” he says.
So how does it work?
It is simple, all one needs is the traditional African pot and a handful of charcoal (Mugambi says he uses charcoal worth an average of KSh1, 500 for each generation of chicks).
Fill the pot with glowing charcoal, hang it from the roof of the brooder about 10 centimetres from the ground using a strong wire, and leave it to warm the chirping chicks!
“I do this every morning and it supplies the heat for 24 four hours,” he says.
“When it is extremely cold, the chicks gather around the pot and move some away when they have absorbed enough. The most important thing is to ensure enough ventilation in the brooder.”
The chicks are placed in the brooder soon after they hatch. They will enjoy the pot’s warmth for three weeks, after which they are big and strong to survive without it.
Considering that each of his 3 by 6-foot brooder cubicles holds a minimum of 200 chicks, Mugambi will have saved at least KSh1,500 on electricity bills.
A simple pot costs less than KSh600, and he has used one for the last 12 months. So far, it shows no signs of wearing out and could serve him for the next decade.
The brooder also helps him to control the number of chicks as he only breeds enough to meet the market demand.
He keeps up to 600 mature groilers that supply him with eggs for his hatchery, before transferring the chicks to their new environment.
With the demand for groilers growing, he plans to build more brooders, and buy a few more pots.
Read more on using the African pot to rear chicks in Issue 22 of Smartfarmer Magazine HERE