How chicken farmer is coping with lean times
When Smart Harvest visits, Justus Suchi is busy feeding his chicken on fresh sukuma wiki at the farm in Emakale village, Kakamega County.
“The green leaves have vital ingredients key in the bird’s diet,” says Suchi.
Since he started in March 2008, Suchi has been practising cage system because it helps keep poultry diseases at bay.
“This structure measures about 16 by 22 metres and can hold at least 250 birds at a time,” explains Suchi.
Inside the structure, there are raised coops, where the birds are kept.
“I keep the layers and cocks in one coop to help with cross breeding.”
“With this model, there is no movement of the birds and we observe high standards of hygiene,” says Suchi.
For safety of the chicken, he has erected a wire link to keep away mongoose, marauding cats, dogs, snakes and even human beings.
Suchi cross breeds Kenbro, Rainbow and indigenous birds an arrangement that has given him a hardy breed resistant to common poultry diseases and is highly productive.
“The resultant breed is heavier and produces more eggs,” he says.
The farmer collects on average 300 eggs every week from the layers and thereafter takes them to the incubator to hatch.
He has manual and automatic improvised incubators which he says are cheap and easy to maintain.
“Improvised incubators use less power and can easily run on a solar battery which makes them unique and popular with upcoming poultry farmers and organisations working with farmers in rural areas,” says Suchi.
For maximum production, the farmer constructed improvised brooders which can hold at least 6,000 chicks.
“I sell chicks aged between one day to a week–old at between Sh80 and Sh150 respectively. I sell two-week-old chicks at Sh250,” says Suchi.
To help with work, he has employed two farm hands.
“I pay them Sh15,000 each per month. Occasionally, I host interns from colleges around who come to learn best husbandry.”
The biggest challenge has been the high cost of feeds.
“In a day I spend Sh4,500 on feeds for the 1,000 chicks,” he reveals.
But to get over the hurdle of expensive feeds, the farmer is learning how to formulate his own.
But this too is a challenge because he is yet to perfect the right feed ration.
For his feeds mixture, he uses soy bean, maize, omena and sunflower to come up with feed component.
“But sometimes, there is scarcity of the raw materials and prices rise leaving forcing us to buy commercial feeds from Agrovets,” says Suchi.
He is saddened that they have to compete with cheap imports from Uganda yet production costs in Kenya are high.
While on a tour in Uganda, Suchi saw how farmers have an easy time because farm inputs are significantly cheaper.
“There farmers have a lot of raw materials at their disposal and can formulate their own feeds at affordable costs. This explains why our market has been flooded with cheap eggs and chicks from Uganda,” he says.
To stay in business, Suchi decided to practise integrated poultry farming.
“I try to diversity to stay in business. I do not rely on a single product. Other than eggs, I sell chicks, mature birds, geese, ducks, guinea fowl, improvised incubators and brooders as well as chicken droppings.”
He sells an incubator with capacity of 3,500 eggs at Sh300,000.
“I sell the smaller incubators holding up to 80,000 eggs at Sh10,000.”
He sells an incubator that use kerosene at Sh10,000.
“Although the kerosene operated incubator is labour intensive, it is cheap to manage and maintain. It works the same way as the automatic ones with almost 70 per cent probability of hatching chicks,” says Suchi.
Suchi plans to increase his flock so that he can tap into economies of scale.
“To make profit, I have discovered that I need to keep 1,000 and above chicken. Otherwise I will be running at a loss,” says Suchi.