Most African homes keep local chickens by free range system. They multiply naturally with hardly any input from the members of the household besides periodic cleaning of the room where the chickens go to roost at night.
Chickens are a good source of animal protein in form of eggs and meat. They are also sold for cash and increasingly keeping local chicken has become an economic activity among smallholder farmers.
What can a can a farmer do to support a brooding hen? The hen will find a quiet darkened place where to lay its eggs.
She will arrange the grass or any other dry organic material like coffee husks or leaves to make a nest. The farmer is expected to inspect that place to ensure that it is not accessible to vermin or any harmful insects.
The farmer can harvest some eggs during this time but he should provide good feeding to the hen in form of grains, greens, and water.
The farmer should not however remove all of the eggs from the nest as this could confuse the hen and force her to relocate to another place to continue laying eggs.
The idea is to make her lay as many eggs as possible and one way to achieve this is to keep only one or two eggs in the nest until she begins making brooding sounds which is an indication that she is about to start the incubation period.
It is at this time that the farmer will then return about ten eggs into the nest for her to sit on for the next twenty-one days.
Too many eggs in the nest will not allow uniform warming of all the eggs for successful hatching.
Every day she will leave the eggs for some fifteen minutes to feed and quickly return to her eggs.
The farmer should provide good feeding throughout that period. The farmer should also ensure that the hen has easy access to the eggs every time she goes off them to feed.
Delays for the hen to return to the eggs can prevent successful hatching.