By Lillian Kiarie
Kenya: Two years ago, Mr Paul Wafula, who had just then completed his KCSE, bought two turkey hens to add to his mother’s poultry brood.
The then 18-year-old from Naitiri Village in Bungoma did not imagine his decision would turn out so well that it would take care of his tuition fees at Maseno University.
“I bought the four-month-old hens at Sh1,000 each from a farmer in my village. After a while, I purchased a tom (male turkey) at Sh3,500 to mate with the two to get quality eggs for incubation,” he recalls.
A visit to his farm in Naitiri today reveals a well-organised wire mesh turkey structure accommodating around 32 chicks.
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“The recent festive season, drained my stock. The demand from villagers for turkeys was very high and I had to stop myself taking more orders lest I be left with nothing to continue my venture,” he says.
Mr Wafula aims at increasing his rafter of turkeys to meet the growing demand for the birds outside his village
He sells his turkeys according to their physical size.
“I sell a female turkey at Sh1,500 and a male one’s price starts at Sh2,000. I don’t sell the eggs, preferring to let them hatch.”
Some farmers opt to sell their turkey meat in portions, with a kilo retailing at about Sh600. A fully grown bird can weigh about 15 kilos.
A turkey egg retails at around Sh70, depending on demand.
Mr Peter Gishuga owns a profitable business that distributes turkeys in hotels in Westlands, Nairobi. He says that he buys the turkeys from particular farmers in his village in Thindigua at around Sh1,000 and sells them in portions.
“Kenyans are yet to embrace raising turkeys and consume them as regularly as they do chicken. Due to their scarce nature, they have created demand in hotels that sell indigenous poultry. I sell a kilogramme of turkey at a wholesale price of Sh650,” he says.
Mr Gishuga can make up to Sh9,750 from one turkey. He says he sells an average of 18 turkeys a week, and makes more than Sh150,000 in profit.
You can actually start raising turkeys with less than Sh10,000.
Most farmers prefer starting by rearing a female turkey to maturity and then either buying a tom, or taking it to one to mate.
Farmers advice that the least expensive way to get started with turkey rearing is to buy day-old poult. You can contact Sigona Poultry Farm or Nyonjoro Nightingale in Naivasha for these.
A poult takes five to seven days to mature.
The hen can lay six to 10 eggs the first time once it attains maturity. Once the brooding season starts, it sits on its eggs for 28 days before they hatch. A hen can lay up to a maximum of 15 eggs and sit on them all.
You can either choose to incubate the eggs naturally or artificially. Turkeys are good brooders and hatch most of their eggs.
However, for better hatchability chances and healthy poults, select clean eggs with a good eggshell and shape for artificial brooding. You can do this using infrared bulbs, a gas brooder or traditional brooding systems.
Ensure you separate the poults from the hens as they are not very concerned about them and may step on them.
Wafula says he feeds his poults a high protein diet.
“As chick mash is expensive to purchase, I give the poults ground omena mixed with maize. I also serve them fresh warm milk as it makes them healthier and hardier, boosting their immunity. For the mature ones, I add some ugali to their diet with young leafy green vegetables and grains and ensure they have a lot of clean water.”
It is important to ensure turkeys drink lukewarm water, as anything too cold can affect them.
Mr John Kihara, a farmer at Juja Farm, advises that a turkey’s cage be cleaned in the morning by sprinkling wood ash to kill lice rather than sweeping, as the dust could spread colds.
You could also spread sacks or nylon paper on the floor and clean those every day, or wipe the floors.
“Poults are very delicate, and since they aren’t enough avian vets, a farmer has to be very careful. Cleanliness is vital, especially for the sake of the young as they are at high risk of contracting diseases.
“In the evening, let the mother in so that she can shield her young from the cold during the night,” he says.
Mr Kihara learned the need to keep poults in clean conditions the hard way. Last year, the farmer lost 90 per cent of his brood to disease and has been left with 50 turkeys.
“The experience really hurt me since I could not find an avian vet. Turkey poults are prone to diseases like sleeping sickness and pneumonia. One should have the contacts of an avian vet on speed dial to avoid any losses,” he says.
The birds can also be kept for security purposes. Toms tend to be very territorial and will furiously react to strangers.
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