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Couple's egg hatching venture pays off

By John Shilitsa
Christine Wamalwa at her Eshanini Bulanda Village hatchery on March 26, 2019 [Chrispen Sechere].

Hatching eggs is turning into a money maker for Antony Wamalwa and wife, Christine.

The young couple has installed an incubator in their one-bedroom house in Eshanini village, Butere where they hatch eggs bought from neighbours.

What follows is a 21-day period of patience as the couple waits for the eggs to hatch and any sign of a chick peeping through the incubator’s transparent window as they emerge from the egg shells, is a source of joy.

They have been in the venture for three years. 

“We began with less than 10 hens but increased our poultry size gradually after training from the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project,” said Wamalwa.

They were among 2,000 farmers trained on proper poultry management skills and knowledge in Kakamega five years ago and have used the skills to grow their venture.

Currently, they own an incubator with capacity to hatch over 1,000 eggs which they bought at Sh95,000. To ensure seamless hatching, they also acquired a generator which comes in handy during power outages.

“The demand for chicks in Kakamega and in neighbouring counties encouraged us to invest in the two machines and we are glad we did. We sometimes get advance orders and we hope to invest in more incubators in future to meet rising demand,” they added.

Initially, the couple raised the chicks until around three to five months but realised selling them at a younger age was more profitable and not labour intensive. They sell wek-old chicks at Sh100 each.

“After raising the chicks for several months, we realised it was a costly affair compared to selling them immediately they hatch. Feeding the chicks isn’t cheap, we had to spend a lot on feeds as the chicks could consume over 70kgs of feeds per week,” she added.

Apart from isolated incidents of being sold spoiled eggs, the couple has surmounted some of the challenges that come with hatching eggs.

Transporting the eggs has been their greatest challenge as motocycles are the cheapest means. 

The couple received training on how to inspect and identify quality eggs, however, there was a case where one egg burst inside the incubator causing all others not to hatch. There was also a time when a power outage after a transformer that supplies power was stolen, caused the chicks about to hatch to die. 

The couple is forced to visit poultry farms in person to assess the cocks and hens before paying for eggs to minimise on losses.

“A farmer must adhere to the ratio of one cock to 10 hens for us to buy their eggs. Visiting farms has worked to our assess the conditions from which our eggs come from,” she added.

Currently, Wamalwa and Christine have agreed to practice semi-free range poultry rearing system to minimise on costs.

“It can be very costly to confine the birds, however, keeping them on semi-free range gives the farmer breathing space,” said Wamalwa.

They are focused on expanding the enterprise despite the challenges.

“We belong to a group of poultry farmers which is chaired by my husband, in future, we would like to expand our home into a poultry exhibition farm where even students from colleges can come to learn,” said Christine.

With the county of Kakamega having launched a major poultry project, the couple believes they will benefit from it especially in terms of getting access to quality eggs.

Kakamega County Government launched a Sh10 million poultry project that targets women, youth groups and Persons Living with Disabilities across the 12 sub counties. Already 4,000 one-month old Kienyeji improved chicks have been distributed to poultry farmers.

As a long term strategy, the county has contacted private firms who will help in hatching chicks and brood them before being given out to the farmers.

Chickens do not take long before they begin laying, broilers only take about three months to mature. A farmer, therefore, does not have to wait long to start earning.

There are no legal formalities required for this business (in most cases) unlike other businesses. Also, there are not much expenses apart from feed and drugs.

In Kenya, broiler and layer poultry are used for commercial meat and egg production.    

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