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Hobby turns into thriving turkey business for Njeru

Ben Njeru with his turkeys. The business started as a hobby.

What started as a hobby has turned out to be a thriving business for a banker. Ben Njeru, who lives in Mavoko, has turned his love for turkeys into a tremendous venture, that has enabled him earn extra coins.

 “I developed the passion when I was a young boy in primary school. My parents kept a few turkeys and I was always fascinated by them. I liked their imposing looks and how they would spread their wings. They were different, very beautiful and I knew I would keep them one day. But I remember they all died and my parents never kept them again,’’ reveals Njeru.

 In 2015, he visited a farm in Limuru, together with his two daughters and they loved the birds.

“They said they wanted to have them, and together with my passion, the deal was done. There was no looking back. I bought them as pets and as a hobby for ornamental purposes,’’ says the farmer who, who bought the birds from a farm in Ndeiya, Limuru.

Njeru started by constructing a simple poultry house, which cost about Sh5,000 and purchased feeding trays and drinkers. However, he later enlarged it as the turkeys multiplied. The initial birds cost him Sh.24,000.

He started with 6 birds (3 pure white and 3 royal palm), which he sourced.

 The farmer lives in an acre plot and has reserved a corner for this purpose. It can hold over 100 birds.

 “I have cubicles for brooding, ‘baby class’, ‘kindergarten’, ‘academy’; after which, they can join the rest. Currently, I’ve about 50,’’ says Njeru.

The farmer feeds them using chick mash when they are young, growers mash up to 4 months and mixture of Unga/Pembe and Kienyenji mash from Economy Farm products.

 “I also give maize seeds, though very expensive now, kitchen waste and greens, which I regularly source from local vegetable suppliers. I also allow them to free range and play within the compound which they really enjoy,’’ he says, adding that he deworms the birds regularly.

 The farmer reveals that turkeys consume more than chickens and grow at a faster rate. Turkeys are also delicate and require tender care.

 “They are beautiful to watch and are very sensitive to strangers so they guard the compound. I only keep a few chicken for domestic consumption,’’ Njeru reveals.

The farmer says that at the age of 4 months, turkeys are bigger than the average cock, and it’s very hard to distinguish the young females (called Jenny) from the mothers. “They begin laying when they are about 6 or 7 months old. The young males (called Jake) continue to grow to huge males (called Tom) and can weigh over 12kgs,’’ he adds.

 The farmer says that before embarking on this kind of farming, he did a lot of research and still does and made the internet his friend. He also visited as many expos and exhibitions as possible.

“Through this research, I have specialized in pure white and royal palm breeds as the white turkeys have whiter and leaner meat, which is less fatty and has a greater delicious ?avour. I consult experts a lot,’’ adds the farmer.

He doesn’t sell the eggs and prefer to hatch them instead.

“We also love eating them. I sell the birds after they are 3 months old when they are strong and stable. This is to avoid them getting sickly with the new owners,’’ the farmer says.

The average range is between Sh2,500 to Sh4,000, depending on age, type and whether male or female. A ready to lay female one costs around Sh3,500 and a mature male sells at a price of Sh5,500, whereas a laying female turkey costs Sh5,000.

He doesn’t have employees since “this is a family hobby and we enjoy doing the work ourselves after school or work.’’

According to Njeru, the biggest challenge is the cost of feeds. Maize prices have gone up and so is the cost of feeds. During dry spells, the cost of greens skyrocket. He is making arrangements to attend courses in feeds formulation, so that they can formulate their own feeds.

The other hurdle is the modalities of importing young chicks from other countries as he would like to improve on the breeds.

 So far, he hasn’t experienced any diseases affecting the birds.

 “I pay very close attention and vaccinate them. I have only lost one bird in two years due to fowl pox, but I quickly controlled it before spreading,” he adds.

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