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Nasty encounters drove couple into incubators trade

By Joseph Muchiri

Tabitha Wangu handles the chicks. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

When you walk into Mr David Mwaniki’s farm, you bump into a beehive of activity besides noise from poultry and pigs and the serenity of the evergreen banana and fruits orchards.

Mwaniki and his wife Tabitha Wangui, a lay leader at ACK Gatuto Parish, have been farmers all their lives in their three-acre farm in Mitoini near Kutus-Kagio road in Kirinyaga County.

The hallmark of Mwaniki’s poultry venture is that after many trials and errors, he has emerged a seasoned egg incubator builder.

In 2010 after researching, the couple bought 500 day-old layers chicks to kick off poultry keeping.

“We had a not so good experience. By the time the hens started laying, the price of layers feed kept on shooting up while that of eggs was dropping. After a lot of toil in the poultry house, we realised we were making losses,” says Wangui.

Trials and errors

When they disposed off those layers, they decided to give poultry farming another chance but using a different approach.

The couple bought 150 Kenbro chicks and incubator so that they would not only be suppliers of eggs but also chicks.

Wangui recalls the incubator became a disaster after a broker took advantage of their naivety and sold them a substandard machine at Sh40,000.

“I went to buy the incubator in Nairobi where I believed I would get a good deal. A broker took me to a seller who sold me a faulty machine. In its first use, there was a power surge and all the eggs got spoiled,” says Mwaniki.

The machine gave them headache with constant breakdowns and spoiling eggs. It had a 50 per cent hatch rate. By the time they were giving up on this poultry business, Mwaniki had learnt so much from the repair technicians that he resolved he could manufacture his own incubators.

He decided to give it a try.

For a start, he enrolled for a short-term training in incubator making from another farmer-cum-technician. Using materials such as wooden boards, gauges, metals bars, a controller and a motor, Mwaniki made his first 1,320-eggs capacity incubator which was a success to date.

Ideal temparatures

Its first hatch rate was 80 per cent and this improved with some modifications. He has since earned a reputation of making reliable and long lasting incubators getting buyers from Kirinyaga and neighbouring counties.

He sells incubators deepening on their capacity. One that has a capacity of 1,320 eggs sells at Sh120,000 while for 1,000 eggs costs Sh100,000. Smaller ones like for 700 eggs costs Sh85,000 while for 528 eggs goes for Sh65,000. Mwaniki recently experimented making a 5,000-eggs capacity incubator which he has kept at his poultry house and whose first eggs is expected to hatch this month.

For those interested in incubator business, he has some take homes. For starters, an incubator is a poultry machine made to imitate the hatching of eggs by hens and maintains warm temperatures and moisture for around 21 days. The only way to get a good incubator is by scrutinising it thoroughly using certain parameters or having a professional check it on your behalf. Mwaniki says a farmer should check if the incubator’s thermometer runs properly. It should read 37.8 degree Celsius.

The farmer should also check the humidity and ensure it is between 60-65 degrees.

“When connected to the power, the trays should turn. If they don’t the incubator is faulty,” says Mwaniki.

Mwaniki says the manufacturer should connect the incubator to electricity for 24 hours and during that time any faults, such the egg trays not turning, would be identified. During that time, the thermometer and humidity gauges should be checked.

He says once a farmer has ascertained that the incubator is working properly, once they reach at home, they should add water in the water section and then place clean, fertile eggs for hatching. The farmer should check for the quality of the eggs using a candling light or a torch.

He says the farmer should add water everyday so that the eggs do not burn due to lack of moisture. He advises buyers to source incubators from manufacturers who offer warranties so that they can repair the gadget in case some faults arise.

Mwaniki emphasises on the basic training by an experienced farmer is all that is required. If one is to leave the machine in the hands of a farm hand, they should ensure the workers are acquainted to how the gadget works.

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