Young Tito Kiptoo ventured into ornamental birds keeping as a hobby. Nevertheless, it has turned out to be a great and profitable venture for him.
“I’ve been keeping turkeys for a while. I first developed an interest in turkeys after visiting a friend in Elgon View in Eldoret. She told me about their advantages, and I quickly fell in love with them. I bought two females at Sh3,000 each, and borrowed a male from her, which I later bought,’’ says Kiptoo, a young farmer, who holds a degree in Wildlife Management from the University of Eldoret, and is currently pursuing a postgraduate diploma in Customs Revenue from Kenya School of Revenue Administration.
He reveals that when he arrived in Nairobi to pursue his studies in 2018, he stayed with a cousin whose neighbour kept a wide range of birds ornamental birds, including turkeys, geese and guinea fowls.
“I immediately fell in love with the guinea fowls, and in December 2018, she gave me four keets that were one week old,’’ adds the farmer, who graduated with a degree in Wildlife Management in 2016.
Coincidentally, one of his turkeys had just hatched, and he gave her the keets.
“She readily accepted them and raised them with her own poults. Geese farming is a venture that I only began two weeks ago, so far, I’ve 3 geese and one gander. I’m expecting eggs and goslings soon,’’ adds the farmer, who carries out ornamental birds keeping in a place known as Merewet, some 20 kilometres away from Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.
He started keeping turkeys as a hobby, but later on, when demand increased, his younger brother, and he decided it was an area they could exploit from. They decided to increase the stock and soon they had over 30 adult turkeys. Currently, they have 20 female turkeys and 3 toms, 4 adult guinea fowls and 34 keets.
Tito reveals that an adult turkey fetches prices that range from Sh3,000 to Sh4,500, depending on the sex, breed, and size.
“But mostly we sell day-old poults, each going for Sh300. Guinea fowl keets also go for Sh300, each, for one-day olds,’’ he says.
The farmer says that due to the high cost of feeds, they are compelled to mix their own feeds.
“We mainly use maize germ, wheat bran and fish meal. We feed them in the morning, then allow them to free-range the rest of the day,’’ says Tito.
He adds that both guinea fowls and turkeys like to roost, therefore, their house needs to have roosters. Geese, on the other hand, he reveals, sleep on the ground.
While guinea fowls and geese are relatively resistant to most diseases that affect poultry, turkeys are more prone to fowl pox and blackhead diseases.
On average turkeys lay between 10 to 20 eggs before they go broody.
“They are good at incubating eggs and I use them to hatch guinea fowl eggs. On the other hand, guinea fowls can lay quite a number of eggs before going broody. Mine started laying in June when they were around 6 months old, and they have not stopped laying till now.’’
He says that his customers come from various places including Narok, Kisumu, and Nairobi.
One of the biggest challenges he has ever come across is stray dogs that pose a threat, especially when no one is around.
“Turkeys and guinea fowls like to free-range and stray dogs can be a real menace. I once lost 10 turkeys in a day to stray dogs,’’ reveals the farmer.
His piece of advice to those who would like to venture into this kind of farming is that, like any other business, there is a learning curve and one might need to be a bit patient in order to achieve success.
“My future plan is to go large scale and rear other types of birds as well,’’ he says, adding that the venture is profitable.
According to Dennis Kigiri, an expert from the Department of Animal Science, Egerton University, a farmer who would like to venture into turkey farming ought to ensure that he or she has adequate feeds and gives the birds fresh clean water.
“Water should be about body temperature to prevent turkeys from cold,’’ says the expert.
He adds that for the best quality meat, grains given to the birds should be at least 70 percent maize by the 20th week.
“Also allow the birds to be on fresh pasture,’’ adds the expert.