Agriculture contributes 25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Kenya with poultry playing a major role, representing 30 per cent of the agricultural contribution to GDP. Some poultry companies in Kenya have operations that qualified it to be classified as a sector one farming system, with contract farming as part of their strategy.
A substantial number of day old chicks produced in Kenya (about 42 per cent) are exported to neighboring countries.
A report from the Ministry of Livestock and fisheries development shows Kenya has an estimated poultry population of 31 million birds. Of these, 75 per cent consist of indigenous chicken, 22 per cent of broilers and layers and one per cent of breeding stock. Other poultry species like ducks, geese, turkeys, pigeons, ostriches, guinea fowls and quails make up two of the poultry production.
Indigenous chicken are mainly found in rural areas but broilers and layers are mostly kept in urban areas. The commercial poultry sector is producing over one million chicks per week. The commercial poultry sector is mostly linked to a growing urban population and growing retail sector such as fast food branches, supermarket branches and restaurants.
This is probably because of the short time it takes for one to start earning income from the sector or because of shrinking land which is slowly forcing the Maasai to change their lifestyles.
This has been the case of one Haron Kariuki, a 62-year-old accountant by profession and a consultant in Narok town, his interest in poultry faming grew after he realized his son was interested in farming when he found out that his 10-year- old son spent most of his time during the school holidays feeding his feed grandmothers few chicken.
After his son completed his primary school education, Kariuki decided to take him to Rongai high school in Nakuru; a school that has agricultural programmes that educate on poultry and dairy farming.
To be honest my son played a big role in helping me venture in poultry business and I started attending seminars to learn more after which I bought ten chickens in Kitale to start my project, Kariuki says.
He then started breeding chicken and increased them to 60 chicken in 2013. I then started purchasing one day old chicks from Ken chic Company where I bought 100 chicks, increased to 300 and afterwards I was able to purchase 1000 chicks, Kariuki narrates.
Kariuki now boasts of having 1,500 birds in his Narok farm alone where he sells about 1,500 birds per month which earns him about Sh.300, 000 per month then he replenishes the stock. He has another upcoming farm in Thika after realizing that poultry farming is profitable.
He then registered a company called Analex poultry farm, which helped to publicize his project more, and market his chicken. Through this company, he rears his chicks for one month before selling them. They are always ready for slaughtering within a month since he feeds them at close intervals and gives them supplements.
Kariuki says the quality of the chicken depends on how you feed them and therefore determining the amount much they will cost as the live chicken are weighed on scales to determine the weight.
His main market is in Nakuru, Kitale and Thika in tourist hotels. Kariuki transports the chicken in crates each containing 30 chickens and can carry over around 50 crates.
However, he says that chicken require a close supervision as they are prone to diseases such as Newcastle and ‘Gumboro which if not attended to in time can wipe out all chicken in a day. To curb this he works closely with the veterinary department who keep vaccinating his birds frequently and advise him on the feeding programme and how to manage the chicks.
Kariuki further says that once chicken are infected especially by Gumboro it is very hard to recover. There is no need to vaccinate sick chickens, Kariuki advises. He stresses that Newcastle should be treated after every two weeks.
He however says cost of feeds and drugs for vaccinating his birds are quite expensive and end up eating into his profits. Kariuki says for instance he uses chick mash which costs Sh. 2,700 per bag and growers which goes for Sh. 2,300 per bag and he has to buy one bag of each every week to feed the birds for four weeks before they mature.
The accountant turned farmer says the more you feed your chicken the more and faster they will grow. For him, he feeds his chicks day and night and this has seen his one-month chicken stand out from other farmers therefore doing well in the market.
Besides being involved in rearing and selling chicken, Kariuki adds that he also keeps about 200 layers who give him about 140 crates of eggs per week. He stresses that this type of chickens need proper care too.
Eggs production from a commercial layer farm depends on the care and farm management. If you take good care of your birds and manage them property, then the production and profit will be high, Kariuki explains.
He collects a minimum of two crates of eggs per day, which he sells to traders at Sh.300. He also gets orders from different hotels in the town and adds that the demand is so high that one can never satisfy it.
Kariuki urges farmers in Narok to invest in this kind of business claiming that Narok town has low production of eggs adding that the demand is so high as a result of many hotels which find themselves ordering eggs as far as from Limuru and other parts of central Kenya. This, he says has also been the case with broilers; the chicken reared for meat.
The farmer also says that one should take measures while constructing a poultry house as good ventilation and proper temperature maintenance play a big role in enhancing maximum production for both layers and broilers. He says cold weather for instance reduces production particularly of layers chicken.
Through his poultry farming, Kariuki says that he has been able to educate his four children without any financial constraints, three of them he says are in private universities He has also constructed rental houses in Narok and several plots in Thika and Kitale. He has now started a poultry farm in Thika and Kitale towns.
Kariuki encourages Narok farmers to venture in poultry farming saying that the county has favourable and suitable climate for this type of farming and a ready market. He also advises the young farmers to first attend training seminars and programmes so that they can acquire more knowledge from successful poultry farmers.
Reading widely on poultry, keeping online and reading magazines and books on the subject also helps, he says.
Source: Kenya News Agency