Two years ago, Rodgers Khaemba, attended a poultry farming workshop organised by the Agricultural Sector Development Support Program – Bungoma County. He learnt vital lessons on poultry keeping.
“I was taught all things chicken rearing - feeding, administering vaccines and market research. I was armed to the tooth. This is the knowledge I used to venture out,” says Khaemba.
After the training, he went into business full throttle and established a poultry farm in Malakisi town, Sirisia Constituency. He bought 150 fertilised eggs from a friend at Sh20. After three weeks, 143 chicks had hatched.
Through ups and downs, the farmer has grown his stock and now he has 3,500 birds.
The festive season is just around the corner and he intends to increase his stock to 6,000 birds to capitalise on the moment when demand for quality chicken is at an all time high.
“During the festivities, we sell a cock between Sh1,300 to Sh1,500 but on low seasons it goes for Sh800. A hen is sold at Sh1,000,” says Khaemba.
To meet his ambitious target, he has his work cut out.
“To fatten the chicken, I need to feed them more and towards that end, I have invested in the feeds,” he says.
He has also invested in technology to boost efficiency.
“I have bought an incubator at a cost of Sh85,000 with a capacity of 1,028 eggs and by the end of this month, I will hopefully be hatching 2,800 chicks which I want to rear in readiness for the holidays,” he says.
The farmer also plans to increase his stock. Already, he has ordered for another 4,000 day-old chicks from Kampala Uganda, the rainbow rooster breed which he hopes will be mature by mid December.
“To mature faster, I will put them on a special diet. I am investing heavily in these birds so that come January next year, I will have sold all of them and made enough money to pay school fees for my children,” he says. But beyond the festivities, he says the business is slowly picking up following the setback they faced a while back when egg imports from Uganda flooded the market. Now things have stabilised.
He has a ready market for his eggs and chicken in Bungoma, Kitale, Busia, Eldoret and Kakamega.
From the sale of chicken and eggs he has hit the million shilling mark more than once and has used the money to pay fees for his children in secondary and university.
So what has been his secret to success?
Like any responsible farmer, he is keen on vaccines.
When he was starting, he administered Marek’s vaccine when the chicks were day-one and at day seven, he vaccinated them against Newcastle disease.
“At week three, I re-administered the Newcastle vaccine and at day 28, I again administered gumboro vaccine then every month I used to administer the fowl typhoid vaccine,” says Khaemba.
Feeding is also key.
According to Khaemba, for the first seven days, he feeds his chicks on chick starter since it’s rich in proteins and vitamins. He introduces chick mash on day eight until they turn two months.
He switches to growers mash until five months then when they start laying eggs he feeds the birds on layers’ mash.
The lows and highs
The 47-year-old poultry farmer says he also gives Amaranth, Sukuma wiki, pumpkin leaves and seeds or ripe paw paws. In addition, he says chicks should be given warm water to reduce deaths caused by pneumonia. Water the farmer explains, helps to control the birds body temperature, how food is digested and the amount of body waste released.
“For better health, I give my mature birds at least 0.5 litres a day. I have noticed that if birds are not given sufficient clean water, they will stop laying eggs for several days leading to losses even deaths,” Khaemba observes adding that lack of enough water also affects appetite and growth. Although poultry business is not a walk in the park, Khaemba says he would not trade it for anything.
“If I was to choose between getting employed on a salary of Sh100,000 a month and poultry farming business, I would choose the latter. Nothing compares to being ones own boss,” says Khaemba.