It is feeding time at Elisha Wekoya’s poultry farm when Smart Harvest visits. Excited hens make cluck sounds as they fight for the rich chicken meal Wekoya is methodically throwing at them.
“If you notice, the birds are making a lot of noise because they are about to lay eggs,” Wekoya says of his indigenous breed, commonly referred to as Kienyeji.
Though now he has a solid 2,000 birds at various stages of development on his one acre farm at Kibabii village in Bungoma County, he started the brood with just three layers. Step by step, his stock grew to 50, 100, 200 and now 2,000 kienyeji birds not counting those he already sold and slaughtered.
“I started very small. But now these birds have flooded this compound, there hardly any space to play,” says Wekoya whose love for poultry keeping started in high school.
Looking at how far he has come and what he has been able to do, it is evident this venture pays.
“From the money I get from selling the chicken and eggs, I have managed to educate my children and pay for my fees to undertake a Bachelors degree in Education,” says Wekoya, a graduate from Kibabii University.
For him, it has been a journey of hits and misses, but worthwhile nonetheless.
“Before I enrolled for my undergraduate class, I could hatch chicks through natural incubation. At first I managed to get 117 chicks out of 177 eggs and improved with time, getting more and more chicks which I took care of to maturity.”
That time, being a novice, he would invite a livestock officer, one Mr Martin Makokha to train him how to go about the venture professionally. With time, he mastered the art. The beauty of poultry keeping —especially the improved kienyeji breed —is that there is ready demand. For instance, last December, Wekoye pocketed Sh350, 000 from sale of birds and eggs.
Like all festive seasons, demand for kienyeji hit the roof.
“People were calling from allover asking whether I had some birds to sell, I took advantage of the demand to sell several of them. The eggs also fetched good money,” he says.
During high season, he sells a mature cock at Sh1,500 while a hen at Sh900 depending on size and weight.
He sells a tray of eggs containing 30 pieces at Sh650 almost double the price of exotic eggs which are mostly sourced from Uganda.
I took a risk
So why did he decide to focus on poultry farming instead of looking for a safe and stable teaching job with Teachers Service Commission?
“After obtaining my degree, I decided to focus on poultry farming to aquire wealth. Teaching is stable but it keeps you in a comfort zone. You can never make wealth from holding such a job. That is why I decided to take a risk and rear chicken,” he says.
The secret of a successful poultry venture, he says, is getting it right with the poultry rearing system. Subsequently, Wekoye confines his birds at night and early in the morning in a cage built for them. He allows them to roam freely around the farm during the day. As a cost-cutting measure, Wekoye uses chicken droppings to enrich his traditional vegetable farm where he grows night shade, saga and amaranth. Wekoye sells his birds and eggs at nearby Chwele and Mayanja markets.
When he has surplus, he exports the products to Bungoma town, Busia and Kakamega. Though his business has broken even, he admits rearing chicken is not a walk in the park. The project is wrought with challenges, he says. The biggest is feed.
“Feeds can eat into your profit margins. To avoid that, I supplement commercial feed and kitchen waste.”
Another key thing in poultry management is following a strict vaccination schedule.