Traditionally, farmers have relied on egg fertilisation by the cock a process that has always proven expensive and inconvenient as the chances of finding a cock and a hen at the same time is usually hard.
Again the ratio of cocks to hens is staggering with statistics showing that for every one cock on an average African poultry farmer setting there are 10 hens.
But scientists now aware of the inconveniences buffeting smallholder farmers have come up with a new technology that allow the farmers to harvest semen from the cock and transfer it to hens.
The artificial insemination in chicken is a project by the Department of Animal Science at Egerton University. “We are looking at the prospects of tapping into the huge amount of semen that a cock produces that can then be distributed to many hens therefore saving on cost and stemming wastage,” said Churchill Arogo, an assistant researcher at the university.
Farmers first require a one week training to harvest semen from the cock and depositing it in the hen.
The process involves holding the cock upright and tightly by the legs then stroking it from front to back with a hand. The process which should be done at least for two weeks is to ensure that the cock gets used to the process of releasing semen.
Once the ejaculation happens, farmers collect the semen in clean tubes and dilute it to increase the volumes.
The amount of semen produced varies depending on cock and time they need to replenish their supply but on average cocks produce between 0.1 to 0.40 cubic centimetres.
“Semen collection can be done between two to four days without harming the bird. However, one needs to be very careful on the kind of tube they are using which needs to be very clean as bacteria and other disease causing organisms could damage the sperm or the fertilised eggs,” said Arogo.
Semen can be used in controlled conditions such as being refrigerated to avoid losing fertilising capacity but without these conditions, it should be used for one to two hours before being rendered useless. A pipette is then inserted on the hens using a special technique which farmers are trained on.
According to experts, it is recommended to do the insemination frequently at the beginning, but once the eggs have been fertilised doing it on weekly basis is enough to maintain a satisfactory level.
With this method, fertile eggs can be obtained between 48 to 96 hours after insemination or even upto three weeks later.