Michael Opumbi, a poultry Technician feeds improved chicken at KALRO, Kakamega. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Agribusiness is still the most promising venture for Kenya’s youthful population, with poultry farming globally remaining the major source of cheap protein to feed the ever-growing population.

Amidst an uncertain macroeconomic situation in the country with high input costs, weather challenges and dwindling margins, farmers must find ways of surviving these hard times and stay profitable. Egg production will be a major economic activity in 2024. Here are a few pointers to running a profitable farming business.

  1. Why egg production is the better option 

Farming is one of the oldest occupations known to sustain small and large economies around the world. No matter how badly a country is managed, people will still need to stay healthy and go about their other businesses. Eggs are still versatile and are consumed widely.

  1. Funding requirement 

You will need seed capital to start a layer poultry farm. Assuming you want to start with 1,000 birds, you will need approximately Sh450,000 to raise these birds to the point of laying. What is important to note is that once you embark on layers farming, the birds will require a steady supply of feed and water throughout their lives. That is why you need this seed capital.

  1. Skilled workforce or knowledge

You should scout for a good stockman or spend time and money to train a workforce on good poultry husbandry practices and equip them with necessary skills in stockmanship, healthcare, and general flock management.

A good poultry attendant doesn’t necessarily need to have a high level of education but must be attentive to details and be able to spot simple signs of production losses or illnesses. Please note that poultry farming needs your presence. If you travel a lot, you may need to wait much longer until you have time for closer engagement.

  1. Housing structure

There are two common systems - deep litter, and cage or battery system. More farmers are now adopting battery cage systems during egg production. Battery cages are housing systems used for egg-laying hens. The name arises from the arrangement of rows and columns of identical cages connected as units of 4-8 tiers as in an artillery battery.

The deep litter system is the traditional rearing of birds on the floor where they have more freedom to move around, scratch, stretch, flap and ruffle. Animal welfare organisations advocate for the floor system, which allows birds more space to express their natural behaviour. Whichever system you select, ensure that it is built professionally with the biosecurity of the flocks in mind.

  1. Flock nutrition

Provide clean, fresh potable water all the time. Have one bell drinker to 50 chicks and ensure the drinker’s height is at the same level as the back of the chick - it is adjusted as the birds grow. Water level should be maintained at thumbnail depth all the time. To ensure water quality is maintained, always treat with chlorine tablets to attain a 3-4ppm (parts per million) concentration.

Flush your water lines once per month using hydrogen peroxide to remove any biofilms. Choose the best feed in the market in terms of quality and physical structure, and follow the laid-down feeding programme for your layer type of bird. If you are using tube feeders, ensure access by all chicks by placing one feeder to 80 chicks. Always carry out weekly sample weighing of the birds to calculate feed conversion rates, and feed birds based on body requirements.

  1. Marketing

There are numerous ways of selling the eggs including to friends, relatives, workmates, local shops and supermarkets through networking and advertising.

The writer is the head vet at Kenchic and can be reached at watsonmesso@yahoo.com