In August 2013, five years shy of her retirement, Bernadette Wambayi chanced upon an advert inviting people for a two-day workshop in Kisumu on poultry farming. The advert whetted her appetite for farming and the following day, she attended it. By the time it was over, she had made up her mind that she’d keep poultry.
She shared the idea with her husband, Norman Owate Wambayi, who supported her in the venture.
They spent that weekend making a poultry house which cost them Sh40,000. “We bought 100 day-old improved Kienyeji chicks at Sh100 each and stocked the poultry house,” said Bernadette.
However, two weeks later, all the chicks died after being infected with a strange disease that caused their eyes to swell.
“I cried when I went to feed my chicks and found all of them dead. It was the lowest moment in my life as all the money I had invested in the venture had gone to waste. My husband encouraged me and told me not to give up,” said Ms Bernadette.
A month later, she attended another workshop organised by the Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organisation (Kalro), Kakamega Non Ruminant Centre where her journey to being a poultry farmer began to take shape.
Remaining true to lessons given at Kalro, Bernadette ordered another 100 chicks from KenChic, administered Marek’s vaccine when the chicks were a day old followed by Newcastle vaccine after seven days then gumboro vaccine after two weeks. At day 21, she re-administered the Newcastle vaccine and day 28 she gave them gumboro vaccine and after two months she administered fowl typhoid vaccine.
On feeding, for the first 14 days, she fed the chicks on chick starter since it is rich in proteins and vitamins, saying chick starter also helps them grow faster.
“They fed on chick mash until they were two months old and changed to growers’ mash for three months when she started seeing the first eggs. Now that I was not interested in eggs, I sold them for meat at Sh700,” she said.
Fredrick Ekesa, 38, said they also give their birds sukuma wiki, amaranth, pumpkin leaves and seeds or ripe paw paws, for the different vitamins and minerals they offer. “Paw paw is a remedy for coccidiosis (loss of appetite) among the birds. We also give the aloevera solution which helps in controlling frequent outbreak of diseases,” he said.
When the chicks were between 1 and 7 days, she gave them liquid paraffin (not kerosene) as it helps in clearing and softening the digestive system in preparation for feed ingestion.
“Liquid paraffin prevents constipation which can lead to deaths in small chicks since they are not used to digesting solids. The paraffin is mixed with water and then spread to form a thin film, and the chicks consume it together with water,” said Bernadette.
Normani told Smart Harvest that after realising that by following the guidelines they were given at Kalro they recorded zero deaths, they restocked their farm with 600 day chicks.
“Only 10 chicks of the 600 died. We sold the remaining 590 at maturity in early 2014 and made Sh413,000.”
“This is where we got the capital we used to buy three dairy cows that have multiplied to 15 in the last five years,” said Normani.
Bernadette said they purchased more birds and in December 2016, they had 3,000 birds at their farm, adding that they used the proceeds from poultry to expand their house and constructed rental houses.
They now have 6,000 birds which are sold to leading hotels in Kakamega, Bungoma and Kisumu and during ceremonies like funerals and weddings as meat.
“We normally mix the waste from birds with cow dung to generate biogas which we use for cooking. Since 2010, we have never refilled the gas cylinders because we have free biogas at our farm,” said Wambayi.
The slurry from the biogas is used as manure for planting crops at their farm.