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Get on the quail gravy train with under Sh100,000

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By BY LILLIAN KIARIE | October 29th 2013

POULTRY: The small birds are proving more lucrative than chicken as they take up less space, eat smaller quantities of feed and their meat and eggs fetch higher prices

BY LILLIAN KIARIE

Every weekday, Chris Namanga and his workmates converge at Ranalo Foods along Nairobi’s Kimathi Street at 12:30 prompt for lunch.

They have to be there early to make an order, owing to the fact that their favourite dish of quail, dubbed aluru in Luo and isindu in Luhya, is a delicacy that is in high demand. Despite its Sh500 price tag, the dish runs out early.

Ready market

Namanga is just one of many consumers in Kenya who are warming up to the delicacy and providing a ready market for quail farmers.

To become a quail farmer and get on board the gravy train requires surprisingly little capital.

The first selling point for quail farming is that the small birds require minimal floor space. For instance, one square foot is enough for five quail. This is the space taken up by one chicken.

In addition, quail are fast maturing and are ready for the market in just five-weeks.

Their reproduction cycle is also very prolific — they lay eggs from the time they are six to eight-weeks. An average quail can lay up to 280 eggs a year.

Many farmers say that the birds usually lay their eggs after 4pm and up to 8pm. As the birds need light, it would be necessary to provide light up to10pm for efficiency and high egg output.

Quail meat is classified under white meat and preferred by many for its low cholesterol levels.

Quail eggs also have a high concentration of nutrients, including proteins, vitamin D and B12, selenium and choline. The eggs are rich in antioxidants, provide natural treatment for many ailments and are said to improve the CD4 count for HIV-positive patients.

For optimum production of quail meat and eggs, it is essential to have a robust housing system with  proper feeding and watering units, egg laying support and waste disposal.

Some structures can be bought ready made from brooder manufacturers, saving the farmer time and energy.

Sigona Rabbit Farm sells three-storey metallic units that can house 30 chicks at Sh15,000. They also have wooden ones for Sh9,000. A two-week chick costs Sh300.

Quail eat the same feed as chicken, but in much smaller quantities. One chicken will eat about 120 grammes of feed a day, while a quail eats just 20 grammes.

A kilo of feed costs Sh50.

Quail require a clean and tidy environment. As the birds drink large quantities of water, a farmer should ensure it is always available.

At the same time, their small size exposes quail to predators like rats, snakes, cats and dogs, making it essential to have housing that precludes pest access.

Sigona buys quail eggs at Sh30-Sh120 each, and mature birds (eight-weeks) at Sh500-Sh1,000. The price depends on the availability of the products. The company also provides training for farmers interested in keeping quail.

You may also decide to hatch your own birds. In this case, a company like Ecochicks Kenya could provide you with information on automatic egg incubators.

The Ecochicks Poultry page on Facebook also provides information on the market for quail meat and eggs.

Permits

In Kenya, quail are classified as wild animals, thus a farmer is required to apply for a permit from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) before starting this enterprise.

KWS will inspect the proposed site of the farm to ensure it meets requirements for raising quail before it issues a licence.

A licence costs up to Sh2,000 and can be renewed annually, subject to the farmer meeting certain conditions.

Once you have your permit, you can obtain a comprehensive list of quail farmers or breeders from KWS.

The agency will conduct periodic monitoring and inspection of farms, and will withdraw licences from farmers who violate its terms.

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