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Characterization of indigenous chicken production systems in Kenya


Indigenous chicken (IC) and their production systems were characterized to understand how the whole system operates for purposes of identifying threats and opportunities for holistic improvement. A survey involving 594 households was conducted in six counties with the highest population of IC in Kenya using structured questionnaires. Data on IC farmers’ management practices were collected and analysed and inbreeding levels calculated based on the effective population size. Indigenous chicken were ranked highest as a source of livestock income by households in medium- to high-potential agricultural areas, but trailed goats in arid and semi-arid areas. The production system practised was mainly low-input and small-scale free range, with mean flock size of 22.40 chickens per household. The mean effective population size was 16.02, translating to high levels of inbreeding (3.12%). Provision for food and cash income were the main reasons for raising IC, whilst high mortality due to diseases, poor nutrition, housing and marketing channels were the major constraints faced by farmers. Management strategies targeting improved healthcare, nutrition and housing require urgent mitigation measures, whilst rural access road network needs to be developed for ease of market accessibility. Sustainable genetic improvement programmes that account for farmers’ multiple objectives, market requirements and the production circumstances should be developed for a full realization of IC productivity.

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Indigenous chicken


Arid and semi-arid areas


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We acknowledge the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for granting the first author financial assistance, the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project for funding the field survey and Egerton University, Ministry of Livestock Development, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin, Germany, for provision of facilities.

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Correspondence to Tobias O. Okeno.

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Okeno, T.O., Kahi, A.K. & Peters, K.J. Characterization of indigenous chicken production systems in Kenya. Trop Anim Health Prod 44, 601–608 (2012).

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  • Characterization
  • Indigenous chicken
  • Production systems