Starting a business and running it successfully is a challenge enough. But when you add your spouse in the mix, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Owing to the familiarity and the relationship between the two, it is easy to step onto each other’s toes triggering conflict that affects smooth running of the business.
But no so for Joseph Ashitiva and his wife Josephine who have perfected the art of working as a team as they run their poultry farm in Ebushibo village, Kakamega County.
“Yes, it is not easy running a business as man and wife because you are so used to each other. But my husband and I have been running this business for years together in peace and harmony. We know our roles and do not bring domestic issues in the business. I also allow him to be the leader in the business,” says Josephine.
Josephine, a teacher at Emulole Primary school and her husband are both passionate about poultry farming.
They started in 2015 with five layers, but bird by bird they expanded to 500 birds. Though the venture has had its highs and lows, they are just smarting from a high season.
“This festive season was good for us. We got good money selling eggs and mature birds and reinvested the money with a fresh order of more day-old chicks,” says Josephine. But how do they run the business as a couple? During school holidays, she takes full charge of the poultry farm while on other days, the husband is at the driver’s seat.
Their son, Bravingstone, a university student helps around when he is not occupied with school work.
On the day of the visit, we find the couple busy feeding the birds which are housed in a coop measuring 20 by 5 metres.
A closer look at the farm, one can see how keen they are on details like arrangement of the poultry structures for maximum production. The coop has been roofed using iron sheets with a wire mesh covering part of the structure to allow for ventilation.
It has been partitioned to create room for layers and and a chain link runs around the farm to keep away predators.
The couple tells us that in a few weeks, buyers will flock the farm to buy mature birds and eggs. The farmer sells a tray containing 30 improved kienyeji eggs at Sh600.
Most birds are sold locally and sometimes buyers are referred to his farm by other clients.
“We sell most eggs collected at the farm but also keep some for hatching. Usually, we prefer selling off the cocks because they are heavy feeders and not productive,” explains Josephine.
She says ten birds (layers) consume at least 2 kilos of layers mash and other supplements every day.
Like other farmers, the couple is feeling the pinch of high cost of feeds that eat into their profits.
“I wish we knew how to constitute our own feeds. That would lower our production costs,” she says.
To boost their income, the couple invested in an electric brooder where the young chicks are placed until they stabilise and are then taken to the coop.
To keep diseases at bay, they work closely with experts.
“Every so often, we call in an expert from Bukura Agricultural college to inspect and help us vaccinate the birds. Over the years, we have also learnt how to spot early signs of disease attacks and when to call in a vet,” says the farmer.
They also observe recommended vaccination calendar to the letter.
“There was a time we missed the vaccinations and we almost lost an entire flock to Newcastle disease.”
From the four years they have been in business, they say it is worth every coin.
“From the profits we have made, we pay fees for my son at Masinde Muliro university and our daughter who is in high school.”