A flock of turkeys and geese walk around freely on the lush lawn at former Roads Minister Franklin Bett’s Kericho farm.
“These are my pet project. These birds keep me busy on most days. I am living my best life,” says the jovial Bett.
The former State House Comptroller rears the birds in a modest poultry structure measuring 4ft x 8ft.
To make the structure, he used waste timber and iron sheets from his other construction sites.
When we caught up with him, Bett, who is also the Kenya Farmers Association (KFA) chairman is playing with the exotic birds in his well kept homestead .
For now, he has 24 turkeys though he started with four which he bought at Sh9, 000 from a seller along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.
“I am naturally an entrepreneur that is why besides my hospital venture and timber business, I started rearing turkeys and geese as a hobby,” he tells Smart Harvest.
When he was starting, Bett vaccinated the turkeys against Fowl pox, Fowl cholera, Fowltyphoid, Mycoplasmosis, Blue comb and round worm infections.
“A good turkey farmer should ensure that the birds are vaccinated periodically to prevent them from contracting diseases,” he says.
Bett says he chose to rear the exotic birds instead of the other poultry because of rapid multiplication.
For instance, a female turkey can comfortably sit on 12 eggs which take around 29 days to hatch.
He has plenty of tips on how to enhance survival of the young birds.
“To ensure the survival of the chicks, it is good to separate them from the brooding female at least a month after being hatched. The purpose is for proper feeding and to protect them from predators such as eagles and stray cats,” he says.
Beef up security
The separation is necessary since there is a tendency of mature male turkeys to identify and attack male chicks.
“I am yet to establish how the senior males manage to distinguish the chicks and trample male ones to death,” says Bett.
Another reason he chose to keep exotic birds is their unique security enhancing abilities.
Interestingly, he says, the male turkeys assist his German Shepherds and house dogs to beef up security at his homestead.
“The male turkeys are very good guard animals, and they alert us whoever there is unaccompanied visitor at the gate. They also tend to attack suspicious looking people (even those involved in witchcraft)!,” Bett says jokingly.
For the geese, which are ten, Bett says they would have been more but he was duped into buying two males instead of two females.
“I intend to take back one of the males to the seller and exchange it with a female and at the same time buy an additional female,” he says.
Feeding the birds is simple, Bett says.
“I have a small vegetable garden of sukuma wiki and other vegetables. We consume some at home and feed the birds with the surplus. The turkeys and geese also feed on kitchen waste,” he says.
The feeding regimen
Every evening at 5pm, the birds are released from their enclosure to enjoy the fresh grass.
But to ensure the birds don’t get malnourished, he feeds them chick mash.
When they are younger, growers mash up to four months and a mixture of commercial and kienyeji mash.
“There is literally no difference between the turkeys, geese and chicken, they are just the same and all eat ordinary chicken feeds.”
Water is everything.
The former Bureti MP says geese and turkeys love water.
“They love drinking a lot of water. For the geese, they like to swim and my plan is to construct a swimming pool for them,” Bett jokes.
About the market, Bett says there’s a growing interest in turkey and geese meat and he intends to milk this.
A mature turkey costs almost Sh5, 000.
They attain market weight within 12 to 20 weeks.
As part of his expansion plans, Bett,intends to relocate the exotic birds from his Chepkolon home to his 80 acre farm near Kipsitet Trading Centre in Soin/Sigowet constituency.
“My plan is to set aside at least two acres for the turkey and geese free-range rearing business. This way they have more space to grow and thrive,” he says.
In addition to the ornamental birds, Bett also rears 100 improved Kienyeji chicken at the farm.
Bett, keeps the chicken as a way to encourage youths to venture into agri-business.
“I want to encourage jobless youths not to resign to hopelessness when there is hope in agri-business,” he says.