Why more farmers are opting to rear kuku kienyeji

Kuku kienyeji has found its way into the menu of almost all restaurants and high-end hotels. Recently, I visited a popular joint in downtown Nairobi and could not ignore the agony of disgruntled patrons when they were told that “kuku kienyeji imeisha” (we are out of kuku kienyeji).

Kuku kienyeji has been around for as long as we can remember but only now that it has become a delicacy. By why the current upsurge in demand?

According to many people, the local indigenous chicken has always been the preferred choice compared to the exotic broilers. The downside has been the availability of the breed.

Most of the farmers who reared the local breed did not practice agribusiness and only kept the chicken as a hobby.

Viability of keeping the original indigenous chicken as a business has always been a challenge due to its slow growth rate as well as low egg production.

The emergence of the improved kienyeji chicken has at last solved the issue of low production and slow maturity, but ample supply still remains a challenge.

The term improved kienyeji was coined by Karlo (Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation) —formerly Kari — known for the popular Kari-improved kienyeji breed.

Kari conducted research on local indigenous chicken and they were able to select birds with superior traits like faster growth and high egg production.

Therefore, the cross-breeding did not involve any hybrid/ exotic breed as some people claim. It is a pure indigenous bird.

The breed performs better in terms of growth rate with the cocks attaining a live weight of approximately 3kg at 5 months.

The hens on the other hand lay between 220-280 eggs per year.

Some of the companies or institutions that produce the improved kienyeji breeds are Nature Kuku in Naivasha, Kuku Chick who produce rainbow rooster and kuroiler which is originally from India but introduced in Kenya through Uganda. Karlo in Naivasha also supplies day-old chicks of the Kari-improved chicks.


With the introduction of the improved kienyeji, more farmers have opted to venture in to rearing the breed with an aim of making profits.

The high productivity quality of the improved breed has made the business viable with farmers appreciating the growing demand for both meat and eggs.


Market price for both kuku kienyeji meat and eggs is evidently higher as compared to hybrid chicken.

With the stimulated purchasing power of most people and growth of the middle-class, thanks to the country’s growing economy, meat lovers are turning to kienyeji chicken products. One of the main reason is health-related.

Kienyeji meat is tastier and most importantly leaner as compared to hybrid chicken. Fat content found in kienyeji meat is way below that found in broilers and for the taste I can leave it up to the readers to judge.

With most people being health conscious and in addition to knowing the dangers of consuming animal fat, the kienyeji meat is offering a better option in terms of lean meat.

This breed also possesses other desirable characteristics which include disease resistance, ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions, tasty meat as well as yellow yolk eggs. They also do well when left to scavenge.

However farmers should be cautioned when it comes to sourcing of their kienyeji chicks. Just like any other poultry breed, a parent stock is of prime importance in production of quality chicks.


A parent stock literally means parents of the chicks. These are the birds that produce fertile eggs that get incubated to produce chicks that will be supplied to the farmers.

The parent stock goes through a thorough genetic selection process which ensures no genetic relation between the males and the females.

Chicks produced from this parent stock are of high quality and are referred to as the first generation or F1.

They have uniform growth and vigour.

Farmers sourcing for hatching eggs should also ensure they get their eggs from the recommended parent stock. Inbreeding occurs if the first generation or consequent generations of birds are used as parent stock.

Problems such as stunted growth, susceptibility to disease and low production are the results of inbreeding. The birds take longer to mature and they may start laying eggs as late as seven months.

Farmers should ensure they get their chicks from reputable farms that have the proper parent stock.

Though improved kienyeji birds are disease-resistant they too get infected with diseases and need good care. This encompasses disease control measures such as biosecurity, hygiene and vaccination.

With proper management practices, production cost of the kienyeji bird is greatly reduced. Companies that produce the day old chicks also train farmers.

—The writer is a veterinarian surgeon and runs the Nature Kuku farm in Naivasha that produces kuku kienyeji breeds and also trains farmers on rearing.