How I managed to get the best from layers
Walking with calculated steps beside giant chicken cages, a tray in hand, Kasendi Mutinda carefully fills a tray after another with eggs. She collects about 12 crates in a day which are all sold out.
Here at Ngengeka village in Kitui County, Mutinda has become a model farmer and an inspiration to many.
With over 500 layers and slightly over 100 broilers, Mutinda is a farmer of no mean feat, especially in this dry region where chicken farming is threatened by high costs of feeds. However, for the mother of three, chicken farming has been a journey of hits and misses.
“The returns are good. I’m not complaining. I have a steady demand for eggs and meat,” she says.
A crate of eggs goes for Sh280 - and that would mean she makes about Sh3,300 a day from the sale of eggs alone.
At her farm, she has set up a sizable cemented structure which is well ventilated and fitted with cages. A single cage holds about 130 birds. To feed the birds, an elaborate and specially designed system with furrow-like feeders has been fitted running across the cages.
The feeding troughs are also fitted with water pipes at the top, drawing water from an erected tank outside to ensure constant supply to the birds. At intervals of 30 centimetres, the pipes are fixed with drinkers - miniature taps which are red. To access the water, the birds routinely peck on the taps, prompting a gush of droplets.
“Research shows chicken would peck on anything that is red. That is why the drinkers are red,” Mutinda explains. Each cage is also fitted with a wire mesh at the bottom to allow for collection of laid eggs. The eggs are collected every afternoon and transported to Kitui town the following day in the morning.
At the entrance is a wet mat, treated with disinfectant for people going inside to disinfect their shoes. This prevents transfer of bacteria and germs from outside.
Vaccination is key
Mrs Mutinda says there is a ready market for eggs. Besides, the venture is not labour intensive, she reveals.
“All you need is to place the birds in cages and provide them with food. Then you can attend to other activities,” she says.
She however advises that the birds have to be routinely vaccinated against diseases, especially Newcastle and Fowl pox which are highly contagious.
“Vaccination must be done after every three months. It is also good to deworm the birds to maintain good health,” she says. The farmer says if the chickens are in good health and well fed, they will keep on laying eggs daily until they are two years old, when they start to slow down.
“After two years, they will start skipping some days without laying, so it is advisable to dispose the old layers at this stage and get new breed,” she says. And for those who want to venture into rearing layers, Mutinda advises that keeping a large number is always economically sound.
One challenge is the skyrocketing cost of feeds. She notes that 50 birds can consume 20 kilos of layers’ mash in a day.
To address this challenge, she does feed formulation at home. For this, she mixes the layers’ mash with homemade maize, wheat and cowpeas jam to make it last longer.
It has however not been an easy journey for the farmer who started with only 50 chicks of kuroilers breed in 2015. Being green in the field and having no knowledge on chicken husbandry, the chicks died one after the other, leaving only three.
The setback did not dampen her spirit. Second time round, she was wiser.
“About half of these survived. The challenge however cropped up when it was time to sell them. I would sell a live chicken of 4 -5 kg at between Sh400 – Sh600 or anything brokers offered,” says Mutinda.
Early in 2017, she went full swing into keeping layers, procuring mature ones of improved kienyeji breed at Sh750. She started collecting eggs soon after.
Other breeds that she rears are Kenbro, which is bigger in size and Rainbow rooster which she keeps on free range.
A fertilised egg of Kenbro retails at between Sh15 – Sh20 and this is popular with local farmers who want to improve their breed.
The farmer says through chicken rearing; she has educated her three children effortlessly up to university level.
Indeed, Mutinda has been an inspiration to other women in the village who have come together to form Mumo Self Help Group, drawing invaluable lessons from her. She is the group patron.
Through the group, Mutinda and other farmers have access to markets for broilers.
Recently, the group signed a contract with Gregos Food Company based in Ruiru which offers them Sh500 per kilo - live bird weight.
This is a remarkable increase from Sh470 previously offered by another firm per kilo – carcass weight. The group is expected to supply 500 kgs per week.
For them, there is no limit.
“We have toured Makueni, Thika and Tharaka Nthi and acquired a lot of knowledge on chicken rearing. We are now able to pay school fees and take care of other needs without much struggle,” Rose Munyika, group chairlady, says.
The farmers are however worried by importation of cheap eggs, mainly from Uganda.
To ensure they are equipped with knowledge on chicken husbandry, Fredrick Mutie, a project officer with a local NGO, is at their beck and call.
It is through their project dubbed enhancing opportunities for women enterprises which is handling 60 farmers’ groups that the women have acquired skills on how to identify quality one-day-old chicks, how to vaccinate against diseases and how to slaughter and handle meat in hygienic manner.